By: Erik De’Viking Photos: Robert Sutton Photography
July 20th was the first anniversary of the tragic loss of Chester Bennington, it would also have been the 54th birthday of his good friend Chris Cornell. I never knew Chester personally, but having listened to him in one form or another for 22 years, in many ways it feels like I do. However, Chester did know Chris. They were the best of friends. Chester was godfather to Cornell’s son Chris. They had both beaten addiction, both battled depression and when Chris took his own life, it meant a seismic shift in everything that Chester held dear. Less than two months later, Chester sadly took his own life, on the birthday of his friend and mentor. It is likely no coincidence that he died by hanging.
If Chester’s millions of fans are still waiting to wake up and find out it was simply a dream, or a fake news story, imagine what it must be like for his family and friends. We have our memories and he lives on through his music, but as with so many people we have lost in the industry over the past few years, it’s like another piece of Rock’s soul has gone with him. Among countless dedications from family, friends, and fans alike, the surviving members of the band took to Twitter to write:
“To our brother Chester,
It has been a year since your passing – a surreal rotation of grief, heartbreak, refusal and recognition. And yet it still feels like you are close by, surrounding us with your memory and your light. Your one-of-a-kind spirit has authored an indelible imprint on our hearts – our jokes, our joy and our tenderness.
Eternally grateful for the love, life and creative passion you shared with us and the world. We miss you more than words can express.
M, J, D, R, B”
— LINKIN PARK (@linkinpark) July 20, 2018
Bassist Dave ‘Phoenix’ Farrell, made his own emotional tribute stating:
In the past year, there hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought of you. I miss you, and it still hurts to not have you here. I chose not to speak at your memorial because I couldn’t formulate the words to adequately express how I felt… I chose not to speak at the Celebration of Life Concert honouring you because I knew I’d struggle to even be able to speak at all. And today, a year after your passing, I still struggle to try and eloquently express what you mean to your family, your friends, your fans… and to me. There is so much that I feel, and that I could say, and that I would want to say, and that I don’t know how to say… but one thing I know for certain, is that you are loved, and you are missed.
Be Well My Friend,
Chester, In the past year, there hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought of you. I miss you, and it still hurts to not have you here. I chose not to speak at your memorial because I couldn’t formulate the words to adequately express how I felt… I chose not to speak at the Celebration of Life Concert honoring you because I knew I’d struggle to even be able to speak at all. And today, a year after your passing, I still struggle to try and eloquently express what you mean to your family, your friends, your fans… and to me. There is so much that I feel, and that I could say, and that I would want to say, and that I don’t know how to say… but one thing I know for certain, is that you are loved, and you are missed. Be Well My Friend, Dave
While we may never fully understand what drove him to take his own life, when you’ve been close to it (or even tried to do it), you know how seductive it can be to simply let go. As someone who has had to repeatedly fight their own demons, I can attest to the fact that it is never easy to ignore the persuasive voice of the dark passenger, as Chester called it, and its attempts to derail your life. However, every time you do, it’s a huge victory and a step in the right direction.
Depression is a terrible thing. It confirms all of your fears, your insecurities, and everything you do not like about yourself. Every negative comment is an affirmation of what you perceive is wrong with you, and it crushes you until you have nothing left to give. It wears you down mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, ultimately leaving you feeling as though the world would be a better place without you. It is an argument that is easy to believe when you no longer believe in yourself. These are the thoughts that many who suffer from long-term depression have to fight against every day, and that battle takes its toll. Sadly in the case of Chester, he found it was no longer possible to keep up the fight. The pain was too deep. His soul too tired. He was numb from it all and simply wanted it to end. I have stood on that precipice. It is a frightening place to be, and only through the intervention of others am I here today.
Every bit of awareness that is raised can only help to further normalise what has largely been a stigmatised condition. To that end, Chester’s widow Talinda has made it her mission to fight for a greater understanding of the plight faced by millions around the world. Founding the 320 Changes Direction mental health programme, Talinda has campaigned tirelessly since her husband’s passing. In a recent interview with Kerrang magazine for a special feature dedicated to the anniversary of Chester’s passing, she stated that Chester was “the best father, friend, and husband anyone could have.” Speaking about her mental health activism, she made it clear that she wanted to ensure “others know they are not alone,” and that the “positive effects of this campaign are multifaceted, from opening up dialogue to sharing resource information with those in need.”
— Kerrang! Magazine (@KerrangMagazine) July 17, 2018
Hopefully, we are finally getting to the stage where it will be looked at with no more contempt, and a true understanding that it is, in fact, a disease, and should be treated as such, with no shame and no reproach. We must get mental health normalised. No one should ever have to die, lost and alone, full of regret and remorse, but unable to stop themselves. We need to get serious about both mental health education and suicide prevention. Yes, things have gotten better, but as a society, we still have a long way to go.
For more information about the 320 Changes Direction campaign, please visit http://changedirection.org
If you or anyone you know is affected by the issues raised in this article, please seek advice and assistance at:
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Erik De’Viking is a freelance music journalist based in the South of England. His musical interests include rock and metal in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.
Photos courtesy of Robert Sutton Photography
K!1731: Chester Bennington – One Year Gone. Kerrang 2018. http://www.kerrang.com/features/chester-was-the-best-father-friend-and-husband-anyone-could-have/ accessed 20/07/2018