On July 20th, Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington, took his own life. While this tragedy will undoubtedly loom over the modern rock scene for years to come, those with deep emotional ties to Linkin Park have been left vulnerable and gutted. Over the last twenty years, millions have flocked to the aggressive yet brutally introspective brand of rock Linkin Park offered—and for many of these listeners, the music gave them just enough strength to make it through the day. Now, their beacon of hope has extinguished itself.
How do we proceed when our biggest influences choose to end their own lives?
It’s an important question. Many scoff at the idea that a musician or any kind of public figure could truly “save their fans lives” with their art, but studies have shown that celebrity suicides are associated with a rise in overall suicides. Linkin Park fans may feel confused, shocked, or even betrayed, contemplating the contradiction between Chester’s decision to take his own life and the message of hope often purveyed through the band’s lyrics.
We may never know the definite reasons that gave way to Chester’s suicide—many think pieces have speculated that his abusive past, drug use or well-documented struggle with anxiety and depression may have played a role. But perhaps Chester’s passing is a symptom of a greater cultural problem. American musicians have a suicide rate 3.4 times higher than the general population. This morbid statistic is astonishing. It lends credence to the idea that as a society, we have placed an insurmountable burden on the backs of our entertainers. The environment musicians habituate calls for financial stress, relentless travel and sleepless nights. Furthermore, Chester’s bouts in recent headlines clearly show the harsh criticisms directed to his band’s new album had enveloped the vocalist with fatigue. The media has romanticized rock stars as long as they have existed, but that long-held view may need an update. Truthfully, even the most successful musicians have been subjected to an unsustainable lifestyle, wrought with pressure building from all ends.
Moving forward, those who have been deeply affected by Chester’s death can cope by being constructive and fostering a positive environment for musicians. While much of the adversity musicians face is out of our control, there are some measures we can take to help. We need to consider the humanity of musicians when we speak about them, favourably or unfavourably. In the era of mass communication, you never know who might be reading your savage youtube comment. Appreciating the sacrifices entertainers make is critical if we wish to support them; whether that appreciation is expressed financially through buying tickets, or even by being cognisant of their challenges during interactions.
Finally, it’s okay to be sad over this catastrophe. For a lot of us twenty-somethings, Chester’s music is deeply embedded into our angst formative years. Saying goodbye to Chester is saying goodbye to a part of our childhood. However, if there is anything to be gained from it—such as a safer community for musicians in general, then devoted Linkin Park fans should pursue it in Chester’s memory, and take solace in the change they influence.
When life leaves us blind, love keeps us kind ~ Linkin Park, The Messenger
If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to call The National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
By Monica Rose Dahl and Riley Witiw with Megan Langely
Photo Cred: Blue Gorilla Pictures