I was about eleven, at a friend’s house and her brother had left Kerrang on the television which was playing In The End by Linkin Park. I remember it vividly. I watched, entranced. By the end of the music video, Linkin Park had taken a hold of me. That was the day everything changed.
Before this point, music wasn’t a big part of my life. Like every child of the nineties, I liked Spice Girls, but mostly because everybody else did. I co-existed with the pop music that filled my living room and school discos, but I didn’t feel any kind of affinity.
It’s hard being eleven what with starting secondary school, making new friends and entering puberty. There was a turning point some time just before that day in which something deep inside me woke up. I had anguish and unanswered questions. Hybrid Theory shared my anguish and answered those questions. Even as I grew up, branched out to other bands and yes, moved away from Linkin Park, they were thought of fondly as old friends. Chester helped me when no one else did.
I would be devastated no matter how Chester had died, but it’s such a crying shame that he died how he did. It’s such a waste of life, such a waste of a talented man. But the thing is, it’s not Chester’s fault. Depression and other mental illnesses have as much validity as physical illnesses, and it’s about time we acknowledged this. If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t keep it to yourself, ashamed and worried if it would change how people perceived you. It isn’t weak to get an x-ray and it isn’t attention seeking to wear a cast. Family wouldn’t look uncomfortable, and trip over their words, not knowing what to say.
We need to find the words to allow those struggling with mental health to come forward, ask for help and know that they won’t meet reactions of shame, disappointment and discomfort. And not just when a rockstar dies, but every single day. We need to bring mental health awareness in to every day conversation. We need to know how to point someone suffering in the right direction.
But it’s also important to remember that, like other illnesses, mental health problems can’t always be fixed. Not with a can-do attitude and not even with medicine or therapy. We can support, guide and keep an eye on people but we can’t always fix them. It isn’t helpful to remind someone with depression how great their life is. If anything, it could make things worse. Imagine if you have everything you’ve ever wanted, but you still felt empty? It could bring on the kind of thinking that, well if you have everything but you’re still depressed, you’ve missed the point of this whole ‘living’ business and you might as well give up. Don’t. It’s okay to not be okay.
This website wasn’t supposed to be about mental health. But with the heartache of Chester fresh on my mind, I had to speak up. We need to all speak up.