Chester Bennington, 1976-2017

I was at a concert with my friend last night. Korn was headlining, but bands like Skillet and Stone Sour opened. It’s not really my type of music, but it was fun, and he really wanted to go. Remembering countless concerts to which I have dragged less-than- enthusiastic friends, I was glad to finally repay the favor to someone else.

Earlier that day, I found out that Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, had committed suicide. He was only 41 years old, and Linkin Park had just released a new album. I was never a huge Linkin Park fan, but a few of their hit songs, including “Numb” and “In the End” definitely frequented my playlists as a teenager. One of my good friends was looking forward to seeing Chester front the band only a week later at the very same venue that Korn was playing.

Stone Sour opened their song “Looking Through the Glass” with an introduction. “We lost a friend today,” he said. “This was one of Chester’s favorite songs, so I’d like to dedicate it to him.” The audience applauded passionately. After the song ended, people chanted his name over and over again. Chester… Chester… Chester.

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Mental illness is difficult. It twists the truth and makes it seem something completely different. No one knows what Chester, or Robin, or Kurt, thought in those last dark minutes.

I am a person diagnosed with such an illness, and I commend Chester for speaking and writing openly about his struggles in his music. I know it helped many of my friends through tough times. I, like Chester, have had suicidal thoughts before. It’s a scary, scary thing. It’s not something you can fully control. Sometimes it is an impulse, or a thought that somehow doesn’t even feel like your own. Sometimes it’s a feeling in your gut that overcomes any logical thinking about your living situation. Something that tells you that you are alone, and always have been, or that you are not good enough, and never will be.

The point is, that this successful musician, who was beloved by so many, still felt such overwhelming pain that he took his own life. He did not only think about suicide, but he made a concrete plan and executed it. I wondered if things would be different if he could’ve heard that arena tonight. How his music has impacted so many people.

Wherever he is, I hope that he is free of the pain that burdened him in his life. We cannot judge people’s lives, much less their minds, from the outside. Suicide is a tough subject that is still heavily stigmatized, but we need to talk about it. It’s the only way to prevent it. We need to encourage openness about the subject. Encourage, not only those who are haunted by such thoughts to share them with others they trust, but also for us to be on the lookout for signs of suicidal thoughts in others.

***If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

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