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COLUMN: Bennington’s Suicide Brings Attention To Suicide Prevention

Sounding OFF is Salute Magazine’s weekly music column, authored by Music Editor Daniel Offner. The column is a weekly analysis of all things music. This week’s column focuses on the recent death of Chester Bennington and the increased need for suicide prevention services in rock music. 

As quickly as news of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s apparent suicide hit the web, a sudden sense of confusion, sadness, and utter disbelief coursed through the veins of Linkin Park fans all over the world, to hear that the 41-year-old father of six had hanged himself on Chris Cornell’s birthday.

While it does appear to be more than circumstantial, fans are struggling to believe that the artist who so furiously sang the lyrics “no matter how far we’ve come, I can’t wait to see tomorrow,” would even contemplate suicide, let alone go through with it. That is why it’s important to remember that in life you don’t always get an answer as to “how” or “why.” You’re not owed any explanation and to expect one is just insensitive and wrong.

Bennington and Cornell built a bond of friendship in the late 2000s, while on tour with Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution. The two played to each other’s strengths and weaknesses; they even did a joint interview with Rolling Stone Magazine in 2008 about some of their favorite musicians.

Back in May, when it first broke that Cornell had died in a similar attempt at taking his own life, it prompted Bennington to speak out online about his dearly departed friend. His cryptic message, an ode to The Beatles classic, “Rocky Raccoon” appeared to be no more than a letter to a lost friend, but beneath the surface, this might have been a “red flag” that Bennington was headed on his own downward path.

Dear Chris,

I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with Rocky Raccoon playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept. I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that. I just watched a video of you singing ‘ A day in the life ‘ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. I send my love to your wife and children, friends and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.

With all of my love.

Your friend,

Chester Bennington

In memory of his departed friend, Bennington also performed a touching cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” along with Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson at Cornell’s private funeral in L.A.

Linkin Park’s most recent album, One More Light, was very different from the mix of alternative rock and Hip-Hop that fans came to know and love and was generally panned by both critics and fans, despite making it to the top of the Billboard 200 charts.

Bennington had a difficult time dealing with the negative feedback, even going as far as to say “if you call us sellouts, I’ll punch you in your fucking mouth. You’re a fucking pussy,” in an explosive interview with Kerrang! earlier this year. It even seems as though it took the people who knew him best by surprise.

Speaking candidly, Bennington said that while it was not the opinion of the entire band, “I think my response was ‘cool fuck them, we don’t want them as fans anyways.’ By now, if people don’t know that we can throw a curveball then fuck them!”

While fans are left wondering whether or not this was premeditated… the bottom line is that it really should not matter. We will always remember Bennington as the charismatic vocalist he was. 

However, Bennington and Cornell were not the only two celebrity suicides to happen this year.

In January, Butch Trucks, one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to The Miami Herald, the police dispatcher mentioned that Trucks’ wife, Melinda, had witnessed the 69-year-old drummer pulling the trigger.

By this point in the story, you might be saying to yourself, “Dan, we already know the signs. None of us personally knew Bennington, so why are you regurgitating all this middle school health class mumbo jumbo?” Well, suicide is often preventable, which is why it is important to acknowledge signs when you see them.

For instance, say your friend is depressed and one day he or she turns to you and says, “I just want to die.” It’s never funny and should immediately prompt you to ask “what is wrong” if you are any sort of friend. If they seem coy or unwilling to say more, then don’t even ask, take them to get help or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline below.

According to the National Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the most effective method of prevention is comprehensive, requiring a combination of nine different strategies, step one, of course, being to identify and assist any person at immediate risk.

Some warning signs to help indicate if a person is at immediate or serious risk include increased feelings of hopelessness, anxious or erratic behavior, sleeping too much or too little, displaying extreme mood swings and isolation.

“There is never a single cause for suicide,” said the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in a statement. “Suicide is the result of many factors that come together such as an underlying mental health condition and access to lethal means. We must do more to prevent such tragic deaths through greater awareness of mental health issues, common risks and warning signs, and effective interventions and treatments.”

If you or someone you know is in distress, do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is the only national 24-hour toll-free phone service serving people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. There is also a Crisis Text Line which can be reached by texting “TALK” to 741-741. 

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