Suicide and Paying Attention

When a celebrity commits suicide, the world seems to split into two factions: those pleading, “Why did they have to go?” and those stating, “They took the cowardly way out.”

The suicide of Chester Bennington has hit me harder than I expected. It may sound callous, but celebrity suicides don’t usually have a big impact on me. Suicides are deeply personal, and I don’t personally know any celebrities. Not that I’m not saddened, or don’t feel a sense of loss, but it’s hard to really miss someone you don’t actually know. I have known suicidal people, and lived through the terrifying hours following a family member’s suicide attempt. I know what it feels like to lose someone. I know what it’s like to miss someone you’ll never get back.

I grew up listening to Linkin Park, like most people my age. But I never really thought of them as a group of living, breathing people until I few months ago, when I got back into their music. I started learning more and more about the band mates, and liked them all the more for it. I liked Chester most of all – he seemed good-natured, down to earth, and funny. He also seemed like a kindred spirit, someone I might have enjoyed being around if he wasn’t famous. He cared about the people around him.

But, for reasons unknown to me, and to paraphrase Chester himself, there was another Chester in his head, who had it out for him. I don’t know how long Chester battled that other person in his head, or exactly what his inner demon whispered to him. But what I do know, what I have come to understand about suicide, is that it’s not cowardly, or selfish, or any of those cruel things people say about suicidal people. Suicide isn’t brave, either, it’s only deeply painful for everyone involved.

If people with anxiety feel like they’re always on the brink of slipping over a cliff, people with suicidal thoughts feel like they’re not only about to fall off a cliff, but that a pack of rabid and hungry wolves are chasing them to the edge. They fight off the wolves as long as they can, but eventually, they’re pushed to the edge. They’re going to die either way – they can chose the wolves, and die painfully, or they can chose the fall, and die in an instant. It’s the same choice people made when they jumped from the burning towers on 9/11 – to burn alive or fall to their deaths. Suicide is what happens when a person has been made to feel there is no other way out. That no one is coming for them.

People joke about killing themselves all the time, I even do it sometimes. And when they do, I make it a point to ask, “are you okay?” I’ll even ask myself the same question, just to check in, to make sure I’m not trying to tell myself something. Because jokes aren’t always jokes. Sometimes they are genuinely the only way a person can think of to tell someone they’re struggling. Chester Bennington did cry out for help, but no one heard him in time. People demand to know why no one stopped him, but those same people could very well be ignoring the people around them who need the same help Chester never got.

Celebrity suicides, like all others, are sad, and painful. It’s heartbreaking to think that someone in the public eye could be so overlooked. Chester’s suicide is an important reminder (or wake up call) to pay attention to the people in our lives. To listen, and really hear what our loved ones are telling us. There is nothing we can do for Chester now, but there is so much work to be done for the living.

Suicide Hotline Information (taken from suicide.org)

Need Help Now?
Call 911
or
1-800-SUICIDE
(1-800-784-2433)
or
1-800-273-TALK
(1-800-273-8255)
or
Text Telephone:
1-800-799-4TTY
(1-800-799-4889)

Military Veterans
Suicide Hotline:
1-800-273-TALK
(Press 1)

Suicide Hotline
in Spanish:
1-800-273-TALK
(Press 2)
LGBT Youth
Suicide Hotline:
1-866-4-U-TREVOR

Other useful resources:

suicide.org
bethe1to.com
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
twloha.com

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