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Woke up last morning to the news of Chester Bennington’s suicide. Not a huge hard metal fan, I cannot lay a claim to following his work closely, but the news sure left me (and millions of his fans), numb! Even though suicides of so many celebrities have proved beyond doubt that depression has nothing to do with fame or wealth, each time something like this happens, one is left a wee bit disconcerted to note that people who others are in awe of, can also lose their very reason to exist!
Like all suicides, celebrity or otherwise, Chester’s suicide too stuck to a pattern. That of people calling him out to be a coward and selfish for giving up on his children and in this case, millions of fans! First things first- suicide is about a lot of things- being selfish, however, is not one of them! After all would you ever think of calling someone who died of a heart attack or a liver failure, a coward or plain selfish for not having lived for his family? Why then does this not apply to a mental disease like depression? Besides, unless you have faced the demon right in the eye, unless you have felt engulfed in its strong current, unless you have felt that crushing weight on your soul, what gives you the prerogative to be judgmental? Let us face it- suicide is not a romantic idea of meeting death. No one could have explained it better than David Foster Wallace who likened a person with depression with being in a high rise that is up in flames. While “ Don’t jump” seems to be the perfect advice of an onlooker who cannot see the flames, jumping may seem as the only viable option for someone who is certain of being singed by the flames, if he does not take the leap.
I am not saying anything that hasn’t been said before. Of all places why then am I saying it on a parenting forum? That is because a friend messaged yesterday with a picture of her 13 year old son wearing a Linkin Park T- shirt to say that he is a huge fan of the band and that all discussions in school that day are bound to be around the singer’s suicide. Sure enough when the child got back, he spent the better part of the day crying and his facebook post said he was feeling “ numb” because of the loss. Of course the parents sat him down to explain some facts about depression and help him make sense of his loss.
Come to think of it, in a world that is obsessed with the idea of success, where failure is a bad word, where social media “ likes” perpetrate a world that doesn’t even exist, how many times have we sat our children down and as much as mentioned the D word?
The way to arrest incidences of suicide among other things, is to watch out for its signs, to be available for friends, to be present in the moment, to listen to them and of course get them medical help. While as parents we need to keep an eye on these symptoms, the fact is, friends with whom children spend the better part of the day are well placed to identify early signs. Yet are we equipping them with any information? On the other hand if we are leaving them with half- baked ideas about depression and suicide being the domain of the weak, can we even expect the child to open up about his feelings to anyone? As parents what are we doing to tackle this stereotype, other than wishing it away, of course? As schools are we doing regular workshops that the child can relate with? Wouldn’t we be better off paying even half the attention to life skills training that we give to career counselling, for example? Questions and more questions!
Chester couldn’t have offered better advice, even though his own life couldn’t benefit from it:
“ I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter”
RIP Chester! While saying RIP depression!, may be some distance away, let us do our bit in this battle!