A year ago, hearts broke worldwide when it was announced that Chester Bennington, the former lead singer of genre-bending rock band Linkin Park, died by suicide.
Bennington’s death took many fans by surprise. Pain and heartbreak seemed to spread as more information regarding his suicide was released. Supporters of the alternative scene were at a loss. How could someone so influential and successful take his own life?
The conversation proceeding Bennington’s demise was not an easy one. If anything, destigmatizing mental illness and talking about suicide is still an ongoing battle.
In fact, the mental health dialogue should never end; it should get louder instead. Bennington’s unfortunate passing should never be forgotten or disregarded. But in the past year, his struggle with mental illness catapulted a continued conversation of checking in on those around you and seeking professional help.
Mental illness doesn’t care.
An important aspect of Bennington’s life that drifted into people’s minds was his fame. Bennington was the lead singer of a widely successful rock band with a solid and supportive fan base. He was a father and a husband. Linkin Park had released its latest album, “One More Light,” just two months prior to his death.
As a result, internet trolls and observers alike criticized Bennington for going through with his suicide. A similar question seemed to drift among the comment sections of memorial posts online: How could he possibly be depressed?
The answer is simple: Mental illness doesn’t care who you are, what you do or what you have to lose. This conclusion continues to ring true as more unfortunate celebrity suicides occur, even after Bennington’s hit headlines a year ago.
Bennington was not one to shy away from expressing his emotions through his music. Some of Linkin Park’s most famous songs detail the characteristics of severe depression. “Crawling,” a song with nearly 12 million plays on Spotify, was borderline impossible for Bennington to perform because of its intensely upsetting subject matter.
Besides the fact that condemning Bennington’s cause of death is, well, generally distasteful, it is also unfair. Fans can try to predict what his life was like and onlookers can claim he had it easy, but that’s just the thing about depression.
It’s unreasonable to think that just because Bennington was famous, he didn’t have reasons to be depressed. A person’s salary, career or social status are all mute factors when it comes to mental illnesses.
Although Bennington’s death shouldn’t have had to be the catapult feature to begin that very dialogue, it certainly brightened the minds of people that failed to understand it. Of all things in the world, mental illness fails to discriminate against anyone.
It’s easy to assume that everything is okay.
After Bennington’s death, his wife, Talinda, shared a video of him just one day before taking his own life. Captioned “This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hrs b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him,” the video showed Bennington happily eating mystery-flavored jelly beans alongside his kids.
My next tweet is the most personal tweet I have ever done. I'm showing this so that you know that depression doesn't have a face or a mood.
— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017
— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017
Talinda explained that the purpose behind posting that video was to show that depression doesn’t always mean being glued to the couch or spells of unproductivity. Sometimes it’s more than that.
When hanging out with friends or family who seem happy, it’s easy to assume that everything’s okay — even despite one’s mental illness. Although fans will never know the exact details of Bennington’s inner workings, his death shows how important it is to check in on those around you.
The strongest of people can sometimes fall victim to poor mental health. Instead of presuming that they’re just going through a tough time and that they’ll be fine, making the extra effort to check in can make a world of difference.
On the same note, Talinda expressed that there are times where depression doesn’t always look the same. Mental health associations and anti-depressant commercials alike portray depression as a deeply upsetting time filled with unproductivity and laziness.
Bennington’s unfortunate death proved that people with severe depression can also be high-functioning. They can spend time with their loved ones. They can smile and laugh. They can put a mask on for the people around them, falsely assuring that everything is okay.
Things aren’t always what they seem to be, as Bennington so sadly demonstrated. The gloomy takeaway here is the importance of loosening mental illness stereotypes; assumptions can sometimes be dangerous.
It’s okay to not be okay.
Bennington was vocal about his mental health, but that very openness availed to a certain extent. A rather crucial thing to bear from his story is how deeply important it is to seek professional help when necessary.
The gritty details of Bennington’s struggle might never surface, and that’s perfectly okay. Instead of focusing on what he could have done, using his death as a chance to emphasize your own mental health is quite productive.
Regardless of your mental state, seeking professional help and talking to someone is never a bad idea. From dealing to daily anxieties and stresses to more severe personal issues, there is absolutely no shame in receiving some help from a professional.
There are also other healthy coping mechanisms that can aid in improving your mental health. Seeking out those very tools are incredibly important to ensure you’re dealing positively with any form of mental illness, no matter its severity.
Above anything, it’s a true shame that Bennington was in so much pain that he felt the only way to escape was suicide. His death shouldn’t have had to be the launching point for a conversation about mental illness, but it was.
In an effort to memorialize Bennington’s impact, take it upon yourself to check in with your own mental health, as well as those around you. Mental illness is a deeply fickle factor in many people’s lives.
Among the many takeaways from Bennington’s death, there is one in particular that will forever ring true: Suicide is never, ever the answer.
Check out these warning signs from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to check on the people around you. And here are some resources if you or someone you know is struggling:
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255
The Trevor Project (specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals): 1-866-488-7386
It Gets Better (specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals)