Chester Bennington
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M. Usama Khawar |

Last night Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park was the latest victim of the ongoing celebrity suicide epidemic. He is part of a multitude of similar cases in which famous celebrities, usually from the performance industry, take their own lives. It’s high time that these cases be recognized as part of a wider trend of suicides so that more help can be provided to these artists.

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The band, while certainly out of the spotlight in recent years, was one of the most influential ones a decade ago. Bennington was responsible for the distinctive voice that set Linkin Park above the others of the time in the eyes of millions of teenagers across the world. Their most commercially successful album, Hybrid Theory, managed to sell over 11 million copies in the United States alone. The album was also nominated in 2002 for the Grammy Awards for the Best Rock Album category.

Bennington’s lyrics often spoke of emotional troubles people may be facing and always hinted towards a rather strong and angry tonal response towards said issues.

“It’s like a whirlwind inside of my head
It’s like I can’t stop what I’m hearing within” Lyrics of Linkin Park’s hit single Papercut

At the age of 41, Chester Bennington took his own life yesterday. His body was found in a private home in Los Angeles.

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Recent similar cases

In May of this very year, acclaimed vocalist Chris Cornell of Audioslave and Soundgarden committed suicide after performing at a concert. It was found that his death was caused by hanging. Cornell had been prescribed with the antidepressant Ativan which is used by recovering alcohol and drug addicts. Coincidentally, Cornell had been a long-time friend of Chester Bennington, who had written a heartwarming open letter following Cornell’s death.

“Dear Chris,

I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with Rocky Raccoon playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept. I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that. I just watched a video of you singing ‘A day in the life‘ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. I send my love to your wife and children, friends and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.
With all of my love.

Your friend,
Chester Bennington” 

The open letter addressed to Chris Cornell after his death

 

Another very high profile celebrity suicide was that of the Academy Award winning actor Robin Williams. Following the months up to his death, he was diagnosed with a form of dementia and finally took his life in August 2014. He had also committed suicide by hanging.

I could get into the details of many more celebrities that had committed suicide in recent years but there are too many. Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith, Alexander McQueen, David Foster Wallace are just some of the many names of celebrities that had committed suicide in recent years.

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The suicide epidemic

Past celebrity suicides instigate future ones because human beings tend to follow precedents. Chester Bennington was a good friend of Chris Cornell, but that friendship may have had an impact on Chester’s subsequent actions. Chester took his life yesterday, which was also supposed to be Cornell’s birthday.

Sociologists, unlike other types of scientists, do not look at these cases as independent actions committed by independent people. Rather, they look at how certain ways in which individuals tend to follow larger trends and social movements. The case of suicide is no different. Past celebrity suicides instigate future ones because human beings tend to follow precedents. Chester Bennington was a good friend of Chris Cornell, but that friendship may have had an impact on Chester’s subsequent actions. Chester took his life yesterday, which was also supposed to be Cornell’s birthday. There is no way for me to say that this date was chosen for this reason, but I can only speculate.

Not only can celebrities inspire their peers with their actions, but they can even inspire their fans even more strongly, with empirical data to prove it. It has been found that following a high-profile suicide, there is a spike in the general suicide rate throughout. After the death of Robin Williams, this very increase in suicide rates was observed. The same pattern is true for many others, most prominently the 10% increase after Marlyn Monroe’s death in the 60s.

The reason for this correlation may be that news of suicide and occasional glorification of death can trigger depressed and suicidal individuals to commit similar actions. Even more simply, fans of celebrities are obviously inspired by the performers because they look up to them and can thus follow suit, in extreme cases, even commit suicide if the celebrity does so too.

Responsibility of media

News portals must provide proper information for helping suicidal people in reports about suicides. No form of glorification must be allowed and intricate details of the way of suicide should not be exposed so as not to give anyone ideas for it.

There’s a certain journalistic responsibility required when it comes to reporting cases of suicides. News portals must provide proper information for helping suicidal people in reports about suicides. No form of glorification must be allowed and intricate details of the way of suicide should not be exposed so as not to give anyone ideas for it. Following Kurt Cobain’s death, this was exactly what was done. In fact, after his death, the number of suicides in the United States decreased while the number of calls to prevention hotlines increased which indicates that the efforts did bear fruit.

For those reading this article

If you ever feel suicidal or have the need to talk to someone about depression please call 042-35761999. There are loads of suicide help lines on the internet which you can use to talk about mental health problems. https://www.7cups.com/ is an example of such a mechanism to allow you to get help by chatting with a mental health professional.

M. Usama Khawar is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a degree in the Social Sciences from The Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. His writing interests are vast, ranging from culture to philosophy to psychology.

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