Perhaps it seems wrong, as the cheerful memories of Strawberry Festival are fresh and the sun is gracing us with its glorious presence daily, to focus on a subject like suicide. But last week’s news of the death by suicide of Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington, just two months after local rocker, Soundgarden lead singer and Bennington’s good friend Chris Cornell also reportedly took his own life, has put the subject tragically front and center in recent news cycles, and as a result, likely as well in the minds of those who may already be in pain.
Music is powerful and can affect people on many levels. Social media is currently awash with posts from those who say that the music of Bennington and Cornell got them through their own dark times, so it’s not hard to imagine how it might feel to see someone who helped you lose their own fight — anyone who felt a connection to the music of these men is feeling the loss.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) telling us that the suicide rate in the U.S. is currently at 13 per 100,000 people — up nearly 25 percent since 1999 — and that a staggering 43,000 people died by suicide in this country last year, it’s more important than ever to recognize that suicide is a serious, preventable public health issue that deserves as much attention, and work toward prevention, as anything else that would take the lives of so many every year.
The University of Washington’s suicide prevention organization, Forefront, has stated that “in their grief, suicide loss survivors can be vulnerable to suicidal ideation themselves” and emphasized the importance of bereavement support. So let’s do our part to end the stigma of mental health issues and depression. Let’s make sure that we’re listening and paying attention to the unspoken signs those around us may be showing. Let’s let those we love and care for know that it’s safe to express themselves, that they won’t be judged or made to feel as though there is something wrong with them. And let’s be an example to others by not describing suicide as “cowardly,” “irresponsible” or “selfish.” While it might be hard to understand how someone could end their own life, especially someone with a family, those who are in the kind of pain that can lead to suicide often truly believe their loved ones will be better off without them. Or they are simply in so much emotional or psychological pain that all they want is for it to stop. And there but for the grace of whatever you believe go the rest of us.
For information on warning signs and how to help someone you’re concerned about, see intheforefront.org/help/concerned. For immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.