My heart is simply broken today. My beautiful city of Seattle is mourning yet another local legend gone too soon. The loss of musical icon Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog) last night was earth shattering to his family, friends, the music community and the many fans who were inspired by his music. He was the voice of a generation, a voice of my city and his loss will be felt for a very long time.
Now that the details of his death have been released, the public is learning that his death was his own choice by hanging in what police and the coroner are now saying was an apparent suicide. Fans are divided in their opinions from grief, sadness, anger and disgust over Chris Cornell‘s decision to end his own life. Fans have taken to social media to share their stories of how his music touched their lives, their feelings over his death and the deep sadness they now feel. All the while, the usual social media trolls have reared their ugly heads and have started chiming in on his death as being a selfish decision.
TMZ has also reported that Chris Cornell‘s wife claims that he was not depressed or in a suicidal state the evening he died. Sources who talked with Vicky Karayiannis Thursday morning tell TMZ that she spoke with her husband during soundcheck before he took the stage with Soundgarden in Detroit and after Wednesday night’s show at the Fox Theatre. Vicky is reportedly adamant that Chris was “not in any way, shape or form in a suicidal state. She doubled down and said there were no signs he was at all depressed,” according to TMZ.
So let’s not allow the fact that Chris Cornell‘s death was ruled a suicide to overshadow the amazing voice of a generation and what a great loss this is to so many people. He was a pioneer, an amazing musician, a son, a husband, a father and a flawed human being just as we all are.
Instead, for people like Chris Cornell who live with depression, we need to open the conversation and be talking about depression, mental health and suicide. His legacy will always remain with his contributions to the music world, but his now very public death by suicide should also be a place where we continue to open up about mental illness and break down the stupid stigma that surrounds it all. Did we not learn anything after Kurt Cobain and Robin Williams took their own lives by suicide? Suicide keeps happening and now with Chris Cornell being another well-known public figure who has committed suicide, it furthers my belief that we have a lot more work to do to help each other so that we can stop these life shattering events from continuing all around us.
As someone who personally knows the demons of living with depression first hand and living with others who are consumed with their own depression and mental health issues, I think it’s time we all become more compassionate and honest with the people in the world around us about mental health and break down the frustrating stigma that if you live with mental illness you are fucked up, hopeless, beyond help and should be ashamed if you have any type of depression or mental health problems. For too many years I suffered in silence and often thought of taking my own life but thankfully I was able to get the right help from a trauma therapist to help guide me back from the brink. I will never be “healed” or “cured” of depression, but now I have learned how to live my life with it and navigate it. I still have dark days and weeks, but I eventually come back to the center balance because I was able to get help. So many others do not and we need to change that!
Mental health issues are chemical imbalances inside of our bodies, it’s not something you can simply choose to just “get over”, it’s not “fake” or just “all in your head”. Each person battling depression has their own triggers, their own level of depression and different ways that it affects them emotionally and physically. Yes, I said physically, it affects both aspects of each person living with it. Depression can make every single piece of your body ache and hurt, it zaps your energy and your will live, makes you anti-social for weeks on end, it makes you have to fake your way through life so that to others around you, you appear normal so you don’t make them uncomfortable. In the worst cases, suicide. It’s so much more than that too. When you least expect it and life is at it’s best and happiest place, everything is going great and you’d have no reason to depressed, the dark beast of depression will slap you square between the eyes and send you in to a dark hole that you feel you can’t escape from and that no one around you could possibly ever understand what you are going through. It also makes you anxious and hypersensitive that everyone around you can see your flaws and are making judgments about you, when in reality they are not and most often are completely clueless that you are suffering alone in silence.
Depression does not care who you are, famous or unknown, rich or poor, black or white, fat or skinny, or man or woman. Depression will find you no matter who you are and it will overwhelm you when it wants to. It’s not something you wake you one morning and say, “I don’t feel like being part of life right now so I think I will just be depressed”, if only you could turn it on or off but you can’t.
Mental health is such a hot topic today in our country and world today. Depression and suicide are constantly in our news. Whether a sole suicide or murder suicide, we see it often. If you never look at the news you probably don’t know the staggering statistics about our US Veterans of war who are taking their lives in shocking numbers everyday in our country too, last reported it is said 20 veterans a day are committing suicide (Source Military.com). As humans, we are all flawed, all walking around with our own flaws and our own demons. We fight our battles whether we choose to share them with trusted family and friends, publicly or not at all because of our own internal battles of appearing weak, messed up, a loser, insane or too needy to others.
What needs to shift, is all of us. We need to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. We don’t judge people who get cancer or are born with visible birth defects, so why do we judge people who are pre-dispositioned to mental illness? It’s not like they caused it or have any control of if they have or get mental illness. What they can do is get help, but even then it takes a lot of work to get the right care and right life plan in place to make sure you are able to manage your mental illness and even then, you can still have problems.
We as a society need to break down this social disconnect and open ourselves up and have compassion and empathy for each other. We need to accept that mental illness is a normal part of life and that getting care for it is normal, without stigma. We also need to be there for each other. Put down our devices and truly be there to talk to someone or be there to listen when they need help, not just when the time is right for you. Not just a text or post on social media either, but be there in person to help support people. Maybe then and only then will we stop seeing people we admire, people we love and even perfect strangers feeling there was no other way out but by suicide.
What can you do today to help someone? Start by really listening to the people around you, engage with them more than just social media, more than texting, ask them if they are doing ok and be ready to listen to them. Give them the freedom to be honest with you, even if it’s ugly and heavy. Then be there for them. Encourage them to get help, but don’t give them an ultimatum, sometimes it takes people time to understand they really need that help, but they also need to feel safe to get that help. Again, be there for them and keep giving them a safe space to talk to you.
To those of you reading this that are the one suffering mental illness, it is ok to reach out to people and tell them the ugly and dark feelings and it’s ok to ask them for help. Give yourself permission to reach out and connect. TRUST ME, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So many people suffer through mental illness just like you do. Until we talk about it with people, no one realizes that we are living through it and by talking about it we can connect and help ourselves and others. If you don’t feel you can talk to anyone you know, call a support line, they WILL NOT JUDGE YOU. They want to help you. Please reach out to someone, do not suffer alone or hide from shame. There is no shame in mental illness or in getting help.
Let’s not lose anyone else!
Resources for anyone considering suicide:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the USA):
Crisis Clinic (Seattle-King County, Washington, they provide immediate language interpretation in more than 155 languages):
1-866-427-4747, TTY 206-461-3219