Something terrible happened this week. Chris Cornell, singer from Soundgarden and then Audioslave (in addition to being a solo artist in his own right) killed himself in a hotel room, after a gig. His wife has since said that she was concerned that he had admitted taking too much of an anti-anxiety medication, and that he was sounding slurred when she had phoned him. We may never know what caused him to take his own life, and whether is was on purpose or some stupidly fatal mistake.
What cannot be disputed is that his was one of the richest and most emotionally engaging voices that came out of the grunge music scene of Seattle in the 1990s. It was a voice that could reach the appropriate screams and growls and groans that we want from our rock vocalists. However, it was also a voice that was capable of real emotional sensitivity and connection, a voice of amazing depth and quality, often giving voice to his depth of emotional turmoil.
The lyrics to “Be Yourself” were said to be inspired by events from the singer’s own life. In an interview, Chris Cornwall said: “The ‘be yourself’ part really just came from a lot of things that I’ve gone through in my life and a lot of different changes and all the different tragedies and all the horrendously stupid mistakes I’ve made in my personal life, and wanting to be able to make up for those things and wanting to be able to not be ashamed, all that stuff. You know, that’s the one thing about getting older that’s better, and this song kinda says it so simply, to a degree that 10 years ago I would’ve been embarrassed to put it in a song ’cause it is so simple. But there it is.”
Someone falls to pieces
Sleeping all alone
Someone kills the pain
Spinning in the silence
To finally drift away
Someone gets excited
In a chapel yard
Catches a bouquet
Another lays a dozen
White roses on a grave
It seems to be another one of those terrible human tragedies that nobody saw coming, yet somehow seems to make some kind of terrible sense when you look with the sad benefit of hindsight – it reminds me of the moment when Michael Hutchene, lead singer with Australian 80s funk-rockers INXS, was found also having hanged himself in a hotel room… everybody was initially surprised but then it all made some kind of tragic sense later.
Can you hear something in the song? Maybe I’m just reading too much into it knowing what has happened but I’m sure that I won’t be the only on doing this.
I hope that people use this an opportunity to talk to their sons, husbands and brothers about this issue. Sadness. Depression. Self-Harm. Suicide. You have to remember that the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is actually themselves – bigger than deaths caused by cancer, heart disease, murder or any form of accidental death, such as road traffic incidents. There is a crisis in male mental health care in particular and people need to talk about it or it will continue to happen. Every time something like this happens, it gives us a terrible but much needed opportunity to talk about the pressures that can lead men to take this ultimate course of action.
I don’t have any close friends who have taken this course of action, but I do know some people who have had brothers and even fathers take their own lives. Whenever a suicide occurs, we always ask ourselves why or what could we have done to prevent the person from taking this most final of actions? I can’t possibly answer that question but I can direct you to people who might be able to give this incredibly important and valuable insight into the male mind at its most vulnerable.
Someone finds salvation in everyone
And another only pain
Someone tries to hide himself
Down inside himself he prays
Someone swears his true love
Until the end of time
Another runs away
Separate or united?
Healthy or insane?
Firstly, let me direct you to the incredibly powerful and moving documentary that was put together by Professor Green that investigated the suicide of his father, and investigated the wider reasons why so many men seem to be taking the similar decision to kill themselves. It is a powerful and moving documentary, and has proven Professor Green’s reputation for making powerful and thought provoking documentaries, and I thoroughly recommend it.
And even when you’ve paid enough, been pulled apart or been held up
With every single memory of the good or bad faces of luck
don’t lose any sleep tonight
I’m sure everything will end up alright
One place to recommend that you visit regularly is the website for The Campaign Against Living Miserably. It is a website that is dedicated to raising awareness of male suicide, and campaigning to direct vulnerable men to reliable sources of immediate short term help and longer term guidance to help them to take care of their mental health. It has a variety of thought provoking images that can be used a banner images for Facebook if you so choose.
Another great place as a starting point is the Movember charity, who have built upon their success in raising the issues of prostrate and testicular cancer and have extended now into mental health concerns and male suicide in particular.
And is that does not get you to understand the scale of the problem, maybe this video will:
Whatever you do, don’t just play the amazing music of Chris Cornell to remember his life and talent, do something more. Talk to the men that you know. Maybe you will be able to help somebody who is taking that step closer to that most final of decisions.
UPDATE: I’ve decided to share this again, with news of what I’ve been doing since the terrible news of Chris Cornell’s suicide. I talked to a few friends and decided that we needed to do something before we found ourselves faced with one of our students taking their own life. I’m not good at sports, I have few musical skills and my drama skills have gotten very rusty since I was moved across to SMSC. So the only thing that I could think of doing was the most basic thing: walking. So we came up with the idea of the #WalkThisWay project, where we would go out into the glorious Cornish countryside and set ourselves the challenge of doing a 12 mile walk. Whilst walking, we would take the opportunity to talk (if people wanted to) about the things that were perhaps causing them to experience stress, anxiety, depression etc. We are not qualified councillors but we know enough to be able to signpost people to places of further support.
We will be going out on our fourth walk this weekend, and I’m really proud of how the idea has grown and attracted a range of people who want to come out and walk and perhaps talk too. Some people come out for the whole walk, whilst others come out and walk for a mile or two. Every person who come out is equally welcomed and we hope that everybody gets something positive out of the experience
Further information about what we do can be found at our Facebook page: