I am sitting in the frustrating irony of simultaneous speechlessness and the deep compulsion to write. Every single time the world loses someone, famous or not, to suicide, a leaden blanket of sorrow envelopes us all at once. We are heartbroken, we are lost, we are in agony, we are shocked. Every single time, we are shocked. This collective shock is poignant with celebrities: how could someone so loved, someone who had such an impact on this world and its people, be so miserable they would believe that ceasing to exist is their best option?
Today, Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park committed suicide. This was the first time I have truly felt the weight of a celebrity death. I feel heartbroken, I feel lost, I feel shocked. When I was younger, just starting to find the music that really appealed to me, I turned to Linkin Park. I found a band with an energy that I connected to, even at a young age. While I didn’t remain an engaged fan as I grew up, I still feel akin to this band and their music, and indebted to them for how they played a part in shaping my music taste – a deeply important component of who I am.
Scrolling through Twitter I see a storm of <140 character statuses ranging from #RIPChesterBennington to people paying homage to Chester, the band and what they meant to fans across the globe. Then, of course, are the brief (but important) sentiments urging us to take care of one another, to seek help when we need it and to be receptive to our fellow human beings who need help.
Chester Bennington’s death has brought on acute sadness, but it has also sparked in me the passionate urge to continue advocating for mental illness awareness and suicide prevention. These are monumentally complex things that afflict people in innumerable ways. There may be boxes that must be checked off for diagnostic purposes, but because all of our lives are so intricately nuanced, so are the ways that people experience mental illness and suicidality. It is imperative that we listen to people, that we tell our loved ones that we love them, that we never take a moment for granted. It is imperative to practice understanding and to consider other perspectives (maybe he’s not blowing you off because he doesn’t want to be your friend, maybe he’s cancelling plans because he can’t get a firm handle on reality).
I urge you to actively educate yourself on mental illness and suicide. Understand the statistics, know the signs, act compassionately, fight against stigma and listen. Be there. I imagine a near-perfect world and I see people who know they are worthy of life and I see people loving each other. I operate under no false hope that suicide will ever be completely gone, but even as a generally pessimistic person I maintain the unwavering hope that it can be largely prevented.
Let us celebrate the legacy left by Chester Bennington. Find joy in how he changed things for the world and for individuals who loved him and his music. Most of all, though, let us continue to care about the circumstances surrounding his passing long after the shock wears away. There is always hope. There is always reason to keep going, and we cannot care just today. We cannot care just the next time a celebrity takes their own life.
We must always care.
Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273 8255
Donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/take-action/give-a-gift/
Donate to To Write Love On Her Arms: https://twloha.com/donate/