Chester Bennington has died at the age of 41. The cause of death is currently being reported as a suicide. This news comes just over two months after news broke that Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell had committed suicide.
Chester was the lead singer of Linkin Park and Dead by Sunrise (and released an EP with Stone Temple Pilots).
I’ve been a Linkin Park fan for a decade. I, like many people my age, started listening to them in middle and high school. By the time I was a freshman in high school my three favorite albums by Linkin Park had already been released. The summer after my sophomore year of high school I listened to “We Made It” incessantly.
Unlike with some other bands and musicians I like and listen to, I don’t know anything about the personal life of Chester or any of the members of Linkin Park, save for what I’ve learned listening to their music. What I do know is that despite the people who mocked me for liking Linkin Park’s music, it helped me at some of the toughest and angstiest moments of my life. First introduced to the band via a mix CD my cousin had, I eventually went out and bought Meteora, Hybrid Theory and Minutes to Midnight.
When I was 14, 15, 16 years old and the world felt like shit, and my life felt like shit, and I lived in the middle of nowhere and it didn’t often feel like I had much more than the hand-me-down 5-CD changer on my dresser, I could put on an album like Hybrid Theory and either turn it up to speaker-busting volumes and just thrash as hard as I could, or turn it down and lay in bed and let Chester’s voice wash over me.
The music that Chester made with Linkin Park was music that made a difference for my mental health. That still does make a difference for my mental health. Listening to songs like “One Step Closer,” “Crawling,” and “A Place For My Head” showed me that it’s okay to struggle, that it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to be unsure of yourself, it’s okay to stumble. I would listen to “A Place For My Head” and wait for Chester to start, real low and quiet, to sing, “You try to take the best of me // Go away” and I would think about the people who had outed me in middle school, I thought about the people who called me a faggot, I thought about the kids who would ask me on the bus if I was a boy or a girl, and through Chester, I would yell at them to go away, without ever opening my mouth.
There’s always been a lot of fun to be had at the expense of Linkin Park fans, as if the band appealed to some kind of lowest common denominator. The truth is that there is an ignorance around mental health. There is an ignorance around the depression and anxiety that Linkin Park fans attempted to treat with their copies of their favorite Linkin Park albums. There is an ignorance of the depression that Chester tried to treat with every word he sang or screamed.
Hybrid Theory sold 30 million copies. 30 million people related to the struggles that Chester and co. were expressing on that album and in 17 years our conversations about mental health have been regrettably sparse. Unless someone kills themselves or someone else, we seem content to not talk about mental health. As long as the people around us seem fine when they’re around us, we seem content to not talk about mental health. As long as it doesn’t affect us, we seem content to not not talk about mental health.
As someone who has lived with a diagnosis of depression for ten years and who also has anxiety and gender dysphoria, I have always tried to speak openly and honestly about my mental health, and I’ve always waited for the communities around me to talk about it.
For us here at Metal Riot, our thoughts are with Chester’s family and friends today. Chester’s impact will not be forgotten, and hopefully we can honor his memory by striving to always be as open and candid as he was in his music.
If you or a loved one is considering suicide, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)