On July 20th, 2017, Chester Bennington, the lead singer of alternative rock band Linkin Park, was discovered dead in his Palos Verdes Estates home after an apparent suicide. Suspected contributing factors include ongoing struggles with depression, substance abuse, and the recent death by suicide of Chris Cornell, his close friend. Chester is survived by his six children, family members, friends, and millions of fans worldwide.
The first time I heard Chester Bennington sing, I was in 7th grade, sitting outside of my middle school cafeteria. I was listening to Linkin Park’s Meteora album on a friend’s CD player; he raved about how amazing the band was and from that very first time listening to them, I had to agree. I became enthralled by the raw emotive power of Chester’s voice over intense driving drums and electric guitars. At the time, I was subconsciously searching for music I could identify with: I’d grown up on Hip-hop and R&B, turned to country for a while, but Linkin Park and Chester Bennington were my first foray into the world of rock music.
I fell in love. Their sound released the knot of pre-teen and teenage angst and anger in a way I hadn’t realized music could. They gave voice to the things I didn’t even realize were affecting me so deeply: my crumbling family, fear for my mother, and feelings of alienation from the community around me for being atypical. For years after that first taste of Linkin Park, I blasted their music as an anthem- a cleansing of my spirit.
Chester’s sudden and unexpected death hit the world hard: fans young and old were understandably upset and blindsided- myself included. Unfortunately for Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, and thousands of others each year, mental health disorders like depression don’t just go away because we don’t talk about them. They don’t disappear because you’re rich, famous, or adored for your craft.
The raw truth is this: Chester Bennington struggled with his mental health for decades- since his childhood. He turned to illicit substances as an attempt to cope, to self-medicate, but instead found addiction. For years thereafter Chester fought for his sobriety- he fought for his family, his friends, his career and those whose hearts he touched. His death was not selfish or ‘stupid’ as so many have ignorantly tried to claim. It was caused by one punch too hard at the end of a long and exhausting fight. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
To the fans of Chester and Linkin Park who are mourning his loss, please take from this tragedy a lesson: help is out there, you are stronger than your demons. You don’t have to fight alone.
If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255 or visit them online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. It’s free, confidential, and you are absolutely worth it.