Written by Chris Tuttle

As fans come to terms with the untimely deaths of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Chris Cornell of Soundgarten by suicide in 2017, the world is reminded that depression does not discriminate. It does not only mar the poor or the unfortunate. It casts its shadows over the privileged and adored as well as the lonely, and no money and fame in the world can buy a ticket out of its fangs.

On July 20, 2017, the music world lost the charismatic Linkin Park front man vocalist, Chester Bennington, who died from suicide by hanging at the age of forty-one. Only three months earlier, Bennington had sung a moving tribute to his friend Chris Cornell of the rock band Soundgarten, at Cornell’s funeral. Cornell had also taken his life by hanging himself following a show in Detroit after years of battling drug addiction. Bennington wrote a loving letter to his friend, saying, …”I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray that you find peace in the next life…”

Bennington himself was no stranger to battles with drug and alcohol addiction. As a young child, he experienced extreme bullying and sexual abuse from the age of seven by an older male and was deeply impacted by his parents’ divorce at age 11. The scars of the abuse and the feeling of loneliness in his family life most likely led to drug abuse as an escape and he was addicted to meth, LSD and Opium before the age of seventeen.

Despite his problematic life, Bennington discovered his passion for music early on and after moving to Los Angeles in the 1990s, living in poverty out of his car, he found himself relying on hard work to realize his dreams of living as a musician. In 1996, Chester Bennington joined the band Linkin Park and the band reached international acclaim and fame with their first album Hybrid Theory in 2000. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Linkin Park became a band known for intense and somewhat dark lyrics and themes, ranging from songs like nu-metal songs such as “In the End” and “Crawling” as well as more recent, pop-like songs such as “Heavy” and “One More Light.” These songs often embodied emotional struggles and abuse that Bennington had faced as a child. Bennington explained that the song “Crawling” off the best-selling album, Hybrid Theory, was a song written as a cry for help.

“That album’s about feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol,” says Bennington.

On the surface and to the world, Bennington seemed to have what most people dream of; fame, fortune, multiple friends, a supportive wife and six children. Underneath the facade, Bennington struggled with depression for years and his demons ran deeper than even his family realized. His wife of 12 years, Talinda Bentley Bennington, remembers how her husband would try to hide his symptoms from people around him;

“Suicidal thoughts were there, but you’d never know,” she wrote in a tweet under the picture of her late husband with a beach in the background taken days before his suicide.

Bennington’s death shattered the hearts of friends, family, band members and fans alike, and the news that he had chosen to end his life was an even more devastating pill to swallow. Woodgrove High School junior Orlando Cano, who was a Linkin Park fan for years, had hoped to watch the band play live and experience Chester Bennington with all his raw emotions one day. Orlando was in complete disbelief and shock about the news of Bennington’s passing.

“I just couldn’t believe that he was really gone,” he said. “Linkin Park will never be the same without him.”

But while Bennington’s tragic death is a great loss, it has given millions of fans a revelation that depression can show its ugly face among even the most successful. Orlando Cano believes that his view on depression and the stigma surrounding it has changed with Bennington’s suicide. The last album, One More Light, to be released by Linkin Park in May 2017, has had an impact on his fans as they find clues to Bennington’s despair and torment in his final lyrics.

“It really spoke to me,” Orlando Cano explains. “It puts depression in simpler terms.”

It has been three months since Chester Bennington hanged himself, on the birthday of his friend Chris Cornell.  Bennington’s fifteen-year-old son, Draven, recently published videos, raising awareness for National Suicide Prevention Week, making a commitment to reach out to someone about personal struggles before hurting himself.

“I want to challenge you to do the same – to help yourself, not hurt yourself, ” Draven Bennington urges his father’s fans.

The increasing awareness of the struggle with suicidal thoughts and the need to remove the stigma of depression is a topic that has found a platform in many high schools in recent years as teens find themselves facing personal demons, high expectations, and general hardships in life and some making the ultimate decision to end their lives.

Woodgrove High School hosted its “We’re All Human” fundraiser race on October 1 to raise awareness for suicide and depression among teens. The race was organized by the Ryan Bartel Foundation, which was founded by the Bartel family after they lost their 17 year old son Ryan to suicide in 2014. Just like the Bennington family, they knew that Ryan was struggling with depression, but they did not realize how badly tormented he was. The Bartel Family is hoping that the foundation can help save other young people from making the choice to end their lives and give emotional tools to teens to reach out to troubled peers.

Like countless more anonymous people, Bennington had reached a point where depression was overshadowing his life and chose to end it. At the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2017, a tribute was made in his honor, and Jared Leto, lead singer of “Thirty Seconds to Mars”, remembered the kindness of Bennington and how he had poured pieces of his soul into his music for two decades.

“I remember his voice. At once ferocious and delicate, that voice will live forever.”

At the VMA show, the rapper Logic fittingly played the song, “1-800-273-8255,” with the title being the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After the show, calls to the lifeline increased 50%, demonstrating that with increased awareness, people struggling with depression will find it easier to reach out for help when the depths of despair seem bottomless.

Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell were not able to receive that help despite their status and bank accounts. But their deaths have increased the focus on the battle of depression that many people face daily and have contributed to a rising awareness of the overpowering darkness that depression brings along. Even among those who seem to have it all.

RIP Chester Bennington