Yesterday, the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, died. Had his cause of death been a car wreck, a heart attack, an aneurysm, or even some freakish accident, the tone of the public voice would be filled with sympathy and well wishes for his family. His cause of death, however, was suicide.
I made the mistake of glancing at the comments section of the article. I honestly should have known better. The internet is an open landscape where there is no sense of accountability for anything that is said, because you’re looking at a computer screen, and not into a person’s eyes. So the detachment that is created by our screens is a natural breeding ground for hate and venom. Knowing this, I still couldn’t help myself; I read through the comments. A good portion was what you would expect, sympathy and heartache. A very large portion, however, was filled with hate and judgement. Here’s a sampling:
Reading these triggered me. I sat there, shaking and suddenly filled with anger, such hot and turbulent anger. How dare these people? This massive response is precisely why those of us who lost a loved one to suicide stay quietly in the shadows and feel the need to hide it. It’s why we feel ashamed, dirty, and filled to the brim with guilt. It’s why for the last 4 years I’ve been avoiding the words “my husband committed suicide”. Because early on in my journey through grief, I told someone that my husband killed himself, and I immediately saw it – that judgmental intake of breath, the slight step back, the pursed lips. It was here that I saw compassion leave and be replaced by judgement. Had I not said that ugly “suicide” word to this person, she would have continued to be sympathetic and caring, offering help and condolences. But as soon as I said the word, it was like watching a light go off. There was no longer any sympathy, that sympathy was replaced by condemnation. “You know he’s in hell now, don’t you?” She said to me. Just like that the loss of my husband was somehow reduced and belittled; not as important or as sad if he had died another way, ANY other way.
Suicide has such a heavy stigma in our society. I will never understand why. No one gets angry at someone when they die from a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, or cancer. Why? Because those are diseases and thus the person can’t help the fact that they’re sick, so it’s not anyone’s fault they died. Why is mental illness in a different bracket? Why is mental illness overlooked and scoffed at? Why is it somehow less important or serious than cancer or diabetes? Mental illness is just what it sounds line, an illness. It’s something a person can’t help, it’s something they can’t fix. I don’t know all there is to know about suicide, but I do know it is caused by mental illness. People with healthy brains don’t kill themselves. People with sick brains kill themselves. So why does society continue to belittle and look down on this serious disease? Society has turned this into a vicious cycle, because people who are suffering with mental illness are often too ashamed to talk about it or get help, because society has somehow made it taboo and a weakness, so they feel trapped and many eventually end their lives. Just think of how different the world might be if everyone would treat those with a mental illness with compassion and support, instead of belittling and shaming them.
I was first introduced to Linkin Park when I was 12. I was a moody kid, so I instantly fell in love with their songs. That love continued through today. Their music got me through some hard periods in my life and for that, I am forever thankful. I can’t tell you how many times after my husband’s suicide I drove his car with the windows down, blaring Linkin Park and singing my broken heart out to their songs. So the overwhelmingly negative and hateful response to Chester Bennington’s death hits me on a very personal level, not only as a long-time fan, but also as a suicide widow.
So I will say this: if you are one of those unsympathetic, angry people currently trolling the internet and spitting hateful, ignorant, and venomous things about this tragedy, FUCK YOU. You are part of the problem. Your attitude and limited understanding of mental illness and suicide is worsening the problem. How about instead of dismissing suicide as the epidemic it truly is, you actually take the time to educate yourself and I don’t know, maybe try, just try, to feel just a bit of compassion for other humans who are suffering quietly, because assholes like you make them feel less than human and less deserving of help.
So please, shut up. SHUT UP. Keep your poisonous words to yourself and acknowledge that Chester Bennington still has a wife, children, family, and friends who are still alive, who I hope to God don’t read any of the hateful comments, who are truly suffering right now. Trust me, their pain is big enough. They don’t need you adding to it.