I’m not going to pretend to be a huge fan of Linkin Park. I’m familiar with their music and style, and I like quite a few of their songs, but I am not a fan in the way that my wife is a fan. Their music has proven inspiration to her.
Much of what they (and any band or artist does) is in the writing. It’s in the pouring of the heart and soul into the music and lyrics. Truly great artists give something of themselves in every line, every word, every brushstroke or scene or song lyric. Whether you like Linkin Park, love Linkin Park, or hate them, you cannot deny that Chester gave something of himself when he wrote songs and performed them. I’ve seen Linkin Park live – I know how much energy and passion went into his performances.
His death, aged just 41, is both a huge shock and also a damning indictment of the way society views mental health and masculinity. I’ve written about this before – expression of feelings, in any way, acknowledgement of pain, especially for men (but it affects everyone) is seen as shameful. Progress has been made to remove these stigmas but make no mistake, they are still there.
Chester was a tortured soul. You need only listen to the lyrics of his songs to know that. This man was a victim of abuse as a child and the scars of this have, sadly, remained with him. He had his battles with alcohol and drugs, and with the death of his friend Chris Cornell (also by suicide), he reached a tipping point.
This isn’t an isolated issue. The suicide rate in the USA is at its highest for three decades. It’s fuelled by comments like this, from Korn guitarist Brian Welch:
Welch wrote: “Honestly, Chester’s an old friend who we’ve hung with many times, and I have friends who are extremely close to him, but this is truly pissing me off! How can these guys send this message to their kids and fans?! I’m sick of this suicide shit! I’ve battled depression/mental illness, and I’m trying to be sempethetic, but it’s hard when you’re pissed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!! [sic]”
Did Chester have the support he needed? Did Chris Cornell? And what of the thousands of people who feel the same way? When there is still an expectation that admitting to problems is a weakness, something to be condemned, then the problem won’t go away. If we bottle up our trauma, if we are afraid to talk about it, it will only get worse. What happens when we take away any recourse for someone to get help with their problems? They become desperate. Let’s end that.