Chester Bennington, lead singer of globally successful US alternative metal band Linkin Park, was discovered dead by the housekeeper of his Californian home on 20 July 2017. The official verdict was a self-inflicted injury caused by hanging.
As well as fronting Linkin Park, Bennington was the lead singer for Dead by Sunrise and also Stone Temple Pilots for a spell between 2013 and 2015. But it was Linkin Park that brought him fame in the genres of nu-metal and grunge; their first album, Hybrid Theory, released at the start of the millennium, was the bestselling debut of the 2000s.
On the surface Benningston appeared to have it all. Married to ex-Playboy model Talinda Ann Bentley, they had three children together. He was also father to one child with his first wife Samantha Marie Olit, and had two adopted children following a relationship with Elka Brand.
In a controversial twist to the breaking news, Korn guitarist Brian Welch criticized the singer’s demise on Facebook, posting the comment: “giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out.” Naturally this sentiment was scarcely winging its way across the information superhighway before it incurred stinging criticism. Welch swiftly retracted the remarks, deleting them from social media. Nevertheless, the evil genie was already out of the bottle.
Welch was condemned for his appalling lack of tact during such a sensitive period for Bennington’s close-knit family and friends. Such a knee-jerk reaction is hardly unique. Rock music is too often plagued by the premature deaths of exceptionally talented artists and entertainers, individuals whose personal demons became too much to bear. But however we choose to react to hearing the news, anything other than sympathy is woefully misguided. To lash out at the person and use loaded terms like ‘cowardly’ simply demonstrates a lack of empathy and unwillingness to engage with the deeply complex subject of mental ill health.
Bennington appeared to be living the lifestyle dreamt of by budding grunge singers pestering their neighbors by barking ‘Papercut’ into garage microphones across the country. He bought a new family home in L.A.’s Palos Verdes Estates for $2.5 million dollars just over a week prior to the tragedy. His music was downloaded constantly. Despite battles with alcoholism there were no hints to his family of darker demons, with Bennington claiming his young family taught him to “love life.” Two months ago, he described attending his daughter’s graduation as “one of the greatest moments” of his life.
Suicide is such a difficult subject to rationalize because it is surely the most irrational act the majority of us can imagine. But this extreme facet of mental ill health must be confronted. No doubt Bennington’s family or bandmates will wonder if there were warning signs? Unfortunately another classic symptom of people harboring suicidal thoughts is denial. This makes these events all the more tragic when they strike, seemingly out of the blue, always defying logic.
Whatever demons are lurking, even for multi-million album-selling artists, they are obviously real. It is always so important to reach out to friends and family who might be undergoing mental traumas. Try to reassure them that there is so much positivity to be grasped. If they claim to be lonely, perhaps following a relationship break-up, refer them to sites where they can meet people online. Or they could take up a hobby, anything from nu-metal songwriting to winemaking! Life has so much to offer. But casually dismissing those who give up on it as ‘cowards’ is not constructive. Not one bit.