Discussing mental health and music is never simple, but it is important

Megan Armstrong /
Jul 22, 2017 / Music

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Maybe it seems like a cop out to begin a piece about the tragic death of Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington by quoting someone else’s tweet.

But when that tweet is from Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams, and when she tweets this:

“artists are people compelled to bring beauty into a world that can be so dark. Makes sense then that artists are always conscious of darkness… & maybe at times made more vulnerable by it? I don’t know. life can be relentless. heart hurts for Chester’s family/band/friends/fans.”

Yeah, when something is articulated like that? Then it’s not a cop out at all—it’s necessary.

Bennington, 41, died by suicide in the morning on July 20, 2017, which would have been maybe not-so-coincidentally his late-friend Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. Cornell died by suicide on May 18, and Bennington wrote then shared a beautiful tribute to him. We will probably never know all of the intricate details of the circumstances surrounding Bennington’s suicide, even as more details are emerging, but we do know all too well the relationship with a life in music and a life in chaos.

Tortured lyrics don’t come from nowhere. Passion in performance can’t be choreographed. Artists aren’t manufacturers. They are human beings with experiences—they draw on those experiences to help themselves and to help you.

On July 19, Jada Pinkett Smith told Sway Calloway on his radio show that “relationships are really about two people coming together to heal their traumas and grow up.”

She was talking about her marriage to Will Smith, but her sentiment is applicable in artist-fan relationships, too.

Take Linkin Park’s “Leave Out All the Rest,” released on July 15, 2008, for example:

“Forgetting, all the hurt inside you’ve learned to hide so well / Pretending, someone else can come and save me from myself. I can’t be who you are. So, if you’re asking me, I want you to know / When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done. Help me leave behind some, reasons to be missed,”

Listening to that song today, as well as many other Linkin Park songs layered with Bennington’s raw vocals, we don’t just hear Bennington’s voice—we hear him crying out. Shouldn’t we have known? How could we have known without knowing him personally, and how could we possibly judge those closest to him for what they did or did not know

That is not fair because it is never that simple. More often than not, people in pain hardly even understands what is going on inside of them. Desperation strikes, and there is no going back.

There are glimpses into somebody’s pain—like through their songs, in this particular case—but then you look through that person’s social media feed and see him smiling, wearing a Pikachu outfit, adoring his wife and children, giving thanks for his life.

Taking care of ourselves is a full-time job—the most complicated job any of us will have while we walk this planet. We, as a whole, people who personally know these artists and people who only know them abstractly alike, need to make sure our dialogue is as attentive as the lyrics we love. And not just during desperation time.

Image: Rich Fury, Getty Images

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Words by Megan Armstrong

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