It's time to speak up about suicide. We owe it to Chester Bennington—and millions of others.
Photo: Getty Images/Burak Cingi
Like many of you, I was shocked and heartbroken to learn of Chester Bennington's death, especially after just losing Chris Cornell a couple months ago. Linkin Park was an influential part of my adolescence. I remember purchasing the Hybrid Theory album in my early years of high school and listening to it over and over, both with friends and by myself. It was a new sound, and it was raw. You could feel the passion and pain in Chester's words, and they helped a lot of us deal with our teenage angst. We loved that he created this music for us, but we never stopped to think about what he was truly going through while making it.
As I got older, my teenage angst turned into adult angst: I'm one of the unfortunate 43.8 million people in America who suffer from mental health issues. I struggle with OCD (focus on the O), depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. I've abused alcohol in times of pain. I've cut myself—both to numb my emotional pain and to make sure I could feel anything at all—and I still see those scars every single day.
My lowest point occurred in March of 2016, when I checked myself into the hospital for suicide. Lying in a hospital bed in the dark, watching the nurses tape up cabinets and secure every possible instrument that could be used as a weapon, I just started crying. I wondered how I had gotten here, how it had gotten this bad. I had hit rock bottom in my mind. Fortunately, that was my wake-up call to turn my life around. I started writing a blog about my journey, and I couldn't believe the support I got out of it. People started reaching out with their own stories, and I realized there are a lot more of us silently dealing with this than I originally thought. I stopped feeling so alone.
Our culture generally ignores mental health issues (we still refer to suicide as "passing away" to avoid discussing an even harder reality), but I'm done ignoring the topic of suicide. I'm not ashamed to discuss my struggles, and nobody else who is dealing with mental illness should be ashamed either. When I first started my blog, I felt empowered knowing I could help people with something that hit home for them.
My life did a 180 when I started accepting that I'm worth being on this planet. I started going to therapy, taking medication and vitamins, practicing yoga, meditating, eating healthy, volunteering, and actually reaching out to people when I felt myself going down a dark hole again. That last one is probably the hardest habit to implement, but it's one of the most important. We are not meant to be alone in this world.
Song lyrics have a way of reminding us of that. They can explain what we're feeling or thinking, and become a form of therapy during difficult times. There's no doubt that Chester helped countless people get through tough moments in their lives through his music and made them feel less alone in their issues. As a fan, I felt like I struggled with him, and it saddens me deeply that I'll never be able to celebrate with him too—celebrate finding the light in the darkness, celebrate finding solace after the struggle. I guess that's a song for the rest of us to write.
Are we sick? Yes. Are we permanently damaged? No. Are we beyond help? Definitely not. Just as someone with a heart condition or diabetes wants (and deserves) treatment, so do we. The problem is, those who don't have mental illness or empathy for it find it uncomfortable to talk about. We're expected to pull ourselves together and snap out of it, because everyone gets depressed sometimes, right? They act like there's nothing that a funny show on Netflix or walk in the park can't fix, and it's not the end of the world! But sometimes it does feel like the end of the world. That's why it pains me to hear people call Chester "selfish" or "a coward" for what he did. He's not either of those things; he's a human who lost control and didn't have the help he needed to survive.
I'm not a mental health professional, but as someone who has been there, I can only say that support and community are crucial if we want to see mental health change for the better. If you think someone you know is suffering (here are some risk factors to look out for), please, please please have those "uncomfortable" conversations. I don't know where I'd be without my mother, who made a point of frequently checking in to see how I was doing. More than half of mentally ill adults in this country don't get the help they need. It's time we change that statistic.
If you're suffering from suicidal thoughts yourself, know that you're not a bad or unworthy person for feeling that way. And you're certainly not alone. It's incredibly hard to navigate life with a mental illness, and the fact that you are still here is a testament to your strength. If you feel like you could use some extra help or even someone to just talk to for a little while, you can call 1-800-273-8255, text 741741, or chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.