I wrote about depression just a few days ago and this morning, I woke up to the news on the death of Linkin Park’s frontman, Chester Bennington. It broke my heart. One because he died from suicide and two because I am a huge fan of Linkin Park.
I still remember the time back in secondary school, I begged my parents for weeks to allow me to travel to Kuala Lumpur to watch their concert. I would save up my pocket money to buy their CDs. I would listen to their songs on full blast on my earphones. No one can sing like Chester Bennington.
According to the news, Chester had been suffering from depression and struggled with drugs and alcohol for years. He had said in the past he had considered committing suicide because he had been abused as a child by an older male.
A close friend of Chester, Chris Cornell (lead vocalist for the rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave) committed suicide just two months ago. Chester committed suicide on Chris’ birthday and the same way as Chris did, by hanging.
I cannot imagine the pain he was going through. How he ended his life just made his songs come to life even more than it already did. It was him singing his heart out.
When we read stories about suicides, we think we know the whole story but we don’t.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide. ONE MILLION! To those not in the grips of suicidal depression and despair, it’s impossible to understand what drives so many people to take their own lives.
Depression can hit anyone. ANYONE. The society must start to understand this. It doesn’t matter if you are a child or an elderly, rich or poor, sick or healthy. Even the person with a positive outlook on life can be affected by it. Just as everyone is unique, depression affects everyone DIFFERENTLY. No one is the same.
People don’t want to kill themselves. It was only part of themselves they wanted to kill. It is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, they can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can’t see one.
People are sympathetic and understanding towards people with outward illnesses. We don’t tell cancer patients to “Just suck it up” or “You’ll be cured if you think positive”. We tell our friends and family to see the doctor when they are down with a fever or are in physical pain, but we don’t encourage them to get counselling when they have emotional/ mental health issues. We look up on symptoms of cancer and different illnesses but we don’t really know much of the symptoms of depression. We don’t judge people that came out of chemotherapy but we do look at people differently if they came out of psychotherapy.
When someone dies after a long illness, people would say things like “He fought till the end” or “He’s the bravest person I’ve ever met”. But people are inclined to think that a suicide is cowardly. That there was no fight involved, that someone simply gave up. This is wrong. Nobody wants to kill themselves. They did not give up without a fight. They are sadly defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive.
Until the day we understand that those who committed suicide did fought to live, and suicide isn’t some stupid spur of the moment decision; we will not reach out to help them in their fight until it is too late.
Let us get proactive in preventing suicides. All of us can do our part. Reaching out means first paying attention and noticing when people are showing signs that they could be at risk, and second, taking the time to let people know we care.
Sometimes, all it takes is for us to be a kinder person.
We’ll never know the smile we gave a stranger gave them strength to go through another day or how our insensitive comment on Facebook can cause someone a lot of pain.
And because we won’t know, choose to be kind always.