Today we mourn an artist who gave everything they had to their music. Who fought an admirable battle, and left in their wake a message about love, passion, and mental health.
By now, even people who had no connection to Linkin Park have seen the headlines; Chester Bennington took his own life after a long battle with depression. I hardly had any words. Two weeks ago, to the day, to the time that the headline flashed up on our screens, Kirsty and I had been watching Linkin Park perform live. We were reliving our youth, bathing in the nostalgia of a band that defined our teenage years. Around us, I was taken aback by the sheer range of age groups; the late 20 somethings, early 30 somethings like Kirsty and I, the older crowd, carefree and rocking out, and even a ton of younger faces, from single digits up to early teens. Up until that point I hadn’t really known their music was still touching the youth of today, but I was glad for it. To me, they were a band like a time capsule, they represented a period of my life, a big period of my life, and I have a lot of memories set to their music. It was good to see they were connecting with others too.
When the news struck, my Facebook descended in disbelief. I saw heartfelt posts from friends, I saw people shaken by a celebrity death that had never been shaken before, I saw people who had just felt a connection severed. One of my old university friends shared her artwork, images painted and drawn of Chester, and a motivational post about how Linkin Park had inspired her to pursue creative dreams. I saw many more friends sharing how Linkin Park had got them through trying teenage times. Even Kirsty, who isn’t one to post wordy status’, moved me with her words about this now-lost smile and the impact its owner had had on her life.
So what about me? Well, I wanted to share this Instagram post of Chester performing, and I wanted to talk a little bit about mental health. This small snippet, to me, is bittersweet. Here is a man performing, putting his life, heart, and soul into his songs. He is surrounded by adoring fans, people who are touched by his message, people who actively love him and his music. In this captured moment he literally couldn’t have any more love. His message is reaching people, his passion is moving people, his art is helping people. As a writer/photographer, I’d strive for nothing more than that kind of reaction; to do that much good with the little time we have here. Yet, even with that much love it’s clear Chester felt alone, or unworthy, or any other negative and irrational emotion that depression can conjure. This video shows a man suffering from loneliness within a crowd; someone feeling unworthy despite the love of his fans. He is struggling despite his own message to the crowds, perhaps wishing he could hear his own advice.
When we saw Linkin Park those two weeks ago, we had no idea it was to be their last gig. When we saw them, Chester campaigned for love. He told us to join hands, to share a moment with our neighbour, to love each other in the face of the terror and hate being shown the world today. Again, this memory and this message is now bittersweet.
I’m writing this post, not to cash-in on a celebrity death, but to make a special mention of Mental Health Awareness. From the outside, Chester had it all. He had fame, he had money, he had his gorgeous children, and he had adoring fans. The image above, the looks in his fans eyes, would be enough for me to say, with no other evidence, that he had a good life. That’s not how he felt, and this isn’t a true reflection of his suffering. If anything, it serves as testament that we can seemingly have everything in the world, from the most material of possessions, to the most love anyone can be given, yet depression is a nasty affliction that can take an immense and immeasurable toll. We never know what someone else is going through, which is all the more reason to show each other kindness, patience, and most of all love. The phrase “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” couldn’t be truer and more poignant in this moment.
Anyone that has suffered with depression, long term or short term, will know what it can do to your mind. Will know the thoughts it can tangle you in, how trapping it can be and the options it may make you consider. Many people fight against depression and mental health of everyday of their lives. Many people do so without recognition, without witness. We never know exactly what others are thinking and feeling, and we never know when a day might be someones last. Lets take Chester’s message, proclaimed loudly at his last gig, and show each other love. Lets mourn, but lets learn. Life is far, far too short to not be kind to those we meet, to hold grudges and anger, to not offer a helping hand to those we see struggling. Lets be better, more approachable people, so we can fully tear down this stigma surrounding mental health, so we might save someone going through a hard battle.