Proud2Bme | A Tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington

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A Tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington

By River Ceballos--On July 20, 2017 the music world took a devastating blow as news leaked that Chester Bennington, lead singer of the popular rock band Linkin Park had completed suicide. Two weeks later, I'm still numb to the fact that someone who has helped millions of people get through tough times succumbed to his inner demons. But that mentality isn't rare for men today! 

Our society has always shied away from the fact that mental illness in men is real and it's growing. For some reason, we don't talk about it. Men feel the pressure to uphold this alpha male facade, this macho persona where it is taboo to talk about our feelings or cry. I, too, felt that pressure for many years as a teenager and it led me down a very dark path. 

Many fans have agreed that Bennington had a way of capturing anger, sorrow, and young adolescent angst in his voice like very few musicians before him could. He was often compared to that of the late, great grunge musician Kurt Cobain who had tragically committed suicide only a few years before. Chester often went on record saying that he wrote about his own struggles with depression and addiction issues. His bandmates were always aware of his demons, and even credited his personal issues for the band’s success. With lyrics such as “And I know/I may end up failing too/But I know/You were just like me with someone disappointed in you,” many people felt like Chester was reading a paragraph out of their very own diary. Their music had its way of touching a soft people in people, it had a healing effect. 

I myself am a manic depressive with very harsh bouts of anxiety. This is an extremely heartbreaking time for me as Linkin Park’s music has gotten me through some of my darkest, most trying times. I vividly remember days where I'd lock myself in my room and hear Chester’s voice blaring through my headphones. As an artist myself, I've found that we feel things very intensely. Being alone with our thoughts can be toxic at times. I've had the pleasure of seeing Linkin Park twice in concert, and had purchased tickets to see them once again in Hollywood with my favorite rapper, Machine Gun Kelly, who is also very vocal and expressive in his music about his past hardships and overcoming them. This was going to be their "One More Light" tour, set to kick off last week. 

The Linkin Park frontman openly talked about his sexual abuse as a kid, as well as his drug abuse issues including alcohol, acid, meth, and crack. I had the pleasure of interviewing a friend of mine, Matt Campbell, who is a recovering addict and a fan of Linkin Park. When news broke of Chester’s death, he wrote to me saying, "River it's up to us, it's our time to share the truth about the drug and mental illness epidemic." He elaborates what living with an addiction is like, so we the audience can get an inside look to what people like himself and Bennington lived with every day and how heavy that burden is to carry. As a warning, Matt’s quote below may be hard to read for some people, but it is his truth and a very real representation on the subject: 

"I started using heroin at the age of 16. It instantly relieved me of all my fears and hurt I was feeling back home. I can honestly say it was the first love of my life. I found myself needing it every second of the day; I couldn't get enough of it. I ate, slept, and breathed the drug. When I didn't have it, I was sick physically and mentally; it truly was a never-ending cycle, it was like I was stuck in a prison in my mind that I couldn't get out of. I realized I had no control over it. I've tried to commit suicide twice, and I've overdosed three times. I wanted to quit but I just didn't know how. It controlled every aspect of my life. Now, being 18 months sober, it still follows me like a black cloud over my head, I always think about it. What if I did it one more time? What if I can control it this time? But those what-ifs are my disease trying to kill me. Now, I have a girlfriend and little girl to look after and seeing the smiles I put on their faces every day that I'm sober is enough to silence those thoughts in my head. Now, I'm motivated and determined to help as many addicts as I can! To show them there's a better way of living. To think of addicts like Chester, where, if someone just opened up their hand and reach out...maybe it would have been enough to save him."

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), almost 8 million American adults battled both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorders. As you see, these two diseases often go hand in hand, making it very hard to get your head above water. I have a large presence both on social media and as an activist, so it came as no surprise when fans of both mine and of Linkin Parks reached out to me expressing how triggering this all has been for them, understandably. Addiction and mental illness are hard to get in check. I've made a career out of being an activist for that specific reason. I hope my story and my knowledge can help people. 

According to the American Psychological Association, 9% of men in the United States experience daily feelings of depression or anxiety; 1 in 3 men take medication because of those feelings. About 1 in 4 men speak to a mental health professional and the suicide rate among American men is four times higher than the rate among women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; women are more likely to attempt suicide but men are more likely to succeed. 

To many people, Chester was just another guy in another band who passed away. Not to me. He was an idol to me. I'll forever cherish the music, as well as the impact it's had on my life. I'll always hold the memories of seeing them live in concert close to my heart. Chester was an extraordinary performer! Albums didn't do Linkin Park any justice. That raw, in-the-moment emotion that came with a live performance was something that had to be witnessed firsthand. 

This is a very hard time for many people around the world for various reasons. Despite my social status and career accomplishments, I go through my phases when depression kicks in and it's hard to get over the hump. I never want anyone to think that they're alone or that no one is there to listen or understand, which is why I'll always be vocal about how I'm feeling. I thank God for my platform, and for the opportunity to write like I am now. Proud2Bme has played a major role in my recovery process over the years! Speaking out holds me accountable to practice what I preach and to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. This is a hub for everyone to gain skills, get tips, and come together to heal together without judgment. 

If anyone reading is having a tough time, please speak up. People care; I care. Your life has value and the colors of your spirit contribute to this world, I'm always available to talk if you reach out on social media, and there are so many resources out there. In closing, remember to keep an open mind, never judge anyone for their shortcomings because you never know the battles someone is fighting. If you notice a change in someone's attitude or personality, hear someone talk about depression or suicide, please don't turn away. Even if you don't know what to do or say, somebody else will. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
 

This article is dedicated to Chester Bennington. Thank you for the music and for being brave enough to share your talents, and shedding light on your demons with the world. We'll love you forever! 

"You can't be afraid of people willing to hurt you, ‘cause if you fear life, then you will never live." -Chester Bennington 

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