By Peyton Rhodes
Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, was found hanging from a door last Thursday, July 20th by his housekeeper. His death has since been ruled a suicide.
Bennington’s life, at a glance, seemed a dream come true. Original band members Mike Shinoda, Rob Bourdon, and Brad Delson asked Bennington to join the band, then called Xero, to replace their current lead singer. Soon after, the newly dubbed Linkin Park released their breakthrough album, Hybrid Theory. The raw, angry power of singles “One Step Closer” and “Crawling” struck a chord with the new millennium’s generation, quickly becoming some of the most iconic tracks of the early 2000’s alternative scene. Bennington’s more delicate voice balanced out the harsh guitar and rap elements, giving a new edge to the nu-metal rap genre. From the release of Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park shot to almost meteoric success, becoming a household name and receiving such accolades as a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, charting second on the Billboard 200, MTV awards for Best Rock Video, and an AMA for Favorite Alternative Artist. Most recently, the band released the album One More Light, only two months before Bennington’s suicide.
However successful Bennington’s musical endeavors were, his life remained plagued by the demons which inspired his creations. As early as seven, Bennington was sexually abused by an older male, but the boy was too frightened of being accused of lying or homosexuality to come forward about the abuse until later in life. His parents divorced when he was eleven. The combined trauma of the separation and the earlier sexual abuse led to Bennington’s struggle with drug addiction. He became involved with multiple illegal substances, including marijuana, LSD, cocaine, and methamphetamines. He also experienced bullying at school. Later in life, he spoke about the many sorrows of his childhood and adolescence, acknowledging them as the source of his inspiration for much of his work. In a live q&a with New Musical Express, he said, “It’s great to get that shit out. I recommend that everyone goes and writes their problems down on a piece of paper, takes it outside and fucking burns that shit.”
His struggle with depression and substance abuse carried on throughout his later life, and while he announced he had kicked the alcohol and drug addictions in 2011, his mental demons continued to plague him. The album One More Light especially showcases the frantic and desperate state he often found experienced. The song “Heavy” opens with the line, “I don’t like my mind right now / Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary / Wish that I could slow things down…” In his last interview with The Mirror, he revealed that his work on One More Light had been “very therapeutic” and had helped him to escape one of the “darkest times of his life.”
The heartbreaking chorus of the song “One More Light” runs, “Who cares when someone’s time runs out? If a moment is all we are…” When Chester Bennington’s light went out, however, the world displayed the opposite sentiment. Musicians and artists took to the Internet to proclaim their own personal connection to Linkin Park, to Chester Bennington, and to his struggle with mental illness. On Monday, the band themselves released a statement in the form of a letter to Bennington himself. The letter sums up the response of every other person who was inspired by Bennington, reading, “You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized… It was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place.”
Depression these days is nothing short of an epidemic. Many people you interact with daily, and maybe even you yourself, struggle with the disease. Yet, the stigma surrounding mental illness continues. Until depression is widely recognized as a medical sickness with as much capability to disable as any other disease, we will continue to lose such lights as Chester Bennington, Robin Williams, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and countless others. Bennington’s outspokenness about his own struggle with mental illness sent a clear message to a generation: it’s okay to not be okay.
If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, visit http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html.