I was saddened to hear about the recent suicide of Chester Bennington, lead singer of the rock band Linkin Park. He left behind a wife and six children who are, no doubt, reeling in the devastating loss of their husband and daddy. He had so many fans and people that loved him and his music. He had fame and riches. It seemed he had it all…from the outside. It breaks my heart whenever I hear of a recent suicide. But I am not shocked.
I was shocked when my mom died by suicide twenty-six years ago. She was a high school teacher who worked with at-risk youth. She was the favorite teacher on campus and the last person on Earth anyone would expect to take their own life. I pinched myself every day for the first year after her death because I felt I was in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. Our community was in shock.
I was shocked when my cousin took his life shortly after returning from his military deployment to Iraq. He was the life of the party, a jokester at all times, and a master at karaoke. He was handsome, engaged, and a great guy. His death was shocking to his military brothers.
When news of Robin Williams’ suicide broke, I was in shock. He was the funny man, successful, and well loved. How could someone who had it all kill themselves? The world was in shock!
The more I learn about suicide, the less I am shocked when someone completes one. You see, suicide has never discriminated against a certain type of person. Suicide affects all of us. The celebrity who has riches and fame the rest of us can only dream of, the brand new mom, the elderly man, the teen with such a bright future, our favorite teacher or pastor, the sweet lady next door, the strong and brave police officer, all of us. Every single person is susceptible to suicide.
There is no equation for suicide. A + B does not always = C. There are warning signs and help lines for those thinking about it or those concerned for another person, but those don’t always prevent suicide. If they did, the suicide rate would be close to zero. Don’t get me wrong, we need those help lines in place and each of us needs to pay attention to the warning signs for our friends and family, but it does not save everyone.
At the root of suicide is a profound level of hopelessness. Hopeless that things will ever get better or improve. Hopeless that their physical or mental pain will ever subside. Hopeless that life will ever be worth living again. Suicide has never been about being selfish or cowardly, but more about ending the pain they face on a daily basis, sometimes in secret.
I am not shocked by the suicide of Chester Bennington. To say that I am shocked reveals a belief that he was somehow immune because he was a celebrity. To be that naive does not progress the conversation of suicide, it only delays it. We need to stop being shocked by suicide and, instead, look at it as the tragedy that it is. A tragedy that kills approximately 121 Americans every day. We cannot be shocked by this any longer. We need to educate ourselves. We need to reduce the stigma about suicide. Suicide does not make people “freaks” or “cowards” or even “selfish.” Suicide is the manifestation of a very real emotional, physical, and mental pain/illness that we cannot always see. Let’s stop being shocked and do more to help those around us who are fighting this battle daily, usually in secret.
If you have been impacted by the suicide of a loved one, check out the book, The Gift of Second: Healing from the Impact of Suicide. You can watch a video trailer for it here.