So here we find ourselves again – desperately sadly, it was announced two days ago that Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, had taken his own life at the age of 41. If only to emphasise the terrible sense of tragedy and loss, Chester Bennington took his own life on what would have been the birthday of his friend and inspiration Chris Cornell, who also died by taking his own life earlier this year. Both were musical icons: Cornell of the Seattle based Grunge movement (popularised by Nirvana, who also lost their lead singer, Kurt Cobain, to suicide) whilst Bennington was perhaps the emotional centre of the Nu-Metal movement (popularised by Limp Bizkit). Both battled with demons. Both succumbed to the darkest of moments.

Nu-metal was a musical movement that I struggled to get into. I bought a copy of Limp Bizkit’s “Significant Other” album (released in 1999) purely upon the basis of one track called “Break Stuff” which seemed to fuel my then desire for some angry music, but quickly realised that it was mostly a pile of shite. As I investigated the various other bands that made up the nu-metal lexicon, I came to the perhaps unfair conclusion that much of the nu-metal music was being made by “jocks” of the variety that I had never got on with during my school years. If you are unfamiliar with the events that took place during and after Limp Bizkit’s performance at Woodstock ’99, there was violence against property and people including a number of sexual offenses.

However, Chester Bennington particularly did not fall into this “jock” stereotype. Slight of figure, often wearing spectacles, he seemed to be much closer to the image of people like Rivers Cuomo of indie-rock wimpsters Weezer. The music created by Linkin Park was perhaps (along with Korn) the best expression of nu-metal’s mash-up (hey, check the modern lingo) of metal and hip-hop inspired turntable squeeks and squarls.

“Numb” may not have been the first song by Linkin Park that I heard on the radio but it certainly was their first that captured my attention:

 

“Numb” is a great slice of the type of self-loathing rock that America seems to be so great at producing – think of Nirvana and so many of the other grunge bands like Soundgarden who targeted their punk ire at their own perceived inadequacies. If I sound a bit superior here, I don’t mean to be. When I think of British angry, punkish music, it tends to target outward sources to vent against whereas some of the best equally angry, American punkish music tends to focus inwards. Maybe this is a consequence of  the American fascination with therapy culture? I don’t know.

I’m tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
I don’t know what you’re expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow

 

When I wrote a blog about the Audioslave song “Be Yourself” in response to the tragic death of Chris Cornell, I wrote that I hoped people would use this as an opportunity to talk about the epidemic of male suicide that certainly seems to be sweeping the UK and the USA at the moment. We live in times when, according to figures released in 2015, male suicide was the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45 – more so than cancer, violent murder (whether by knife-crime or gun-crime), or heart disease etc. The current estimation is that an average of 12 men take their own lives every day in the UK – yes, that means one man kills himself every two hours on average.

So what can be done?

Well, there are organisations that are starting to try to change the culture that make it difficult for men to seek help at those darkest of moments.

I previously mentioned an organisation called CALM: the Campaign Against Living Miserably. Here is a video they have produced:

 

The statistics are really frightening, as shown in this video produced by CALM:

 

What I find truly shocking is that CALM was founded in 2006, and the figures are still at a worryingly high level now over ten years since it first started (and that is in no way intended as an excellent criticism of the excellent work that CALM does). Why? Even though people say that mental health provision deserves equal attention and provision, the reality of living in times of austerity is that people will direct limited money and resources to the areas that are perhaps the most obvious and visible or just popular to deal with. Mental health is difficult – and difficult things are often the things that are difficult to attract funding.

However, a number of other organisations are now also starting to step up and try to find the practical solutions to help men when it comes to these troubling issues. For example, there is a collection of barber shops who recognise they have a key position to be able to provide men with a forum for being able to talk about their problems. It is called the The Lions Barber Collective. Here is the link to their website:

http://www.thelionsbarbercollective.com/about-us

Then you have the “Men’s Sheds” organisation, who encourage older men to come together in a workshop style practical setting, where they can talk to each other whilst engaged in practical tasks like renovating furniture etc. The theory is that men are more likely to be open about their worries and problems when they don’t directly face other men but are able to talk whilst focused on their practical tasks, working side by side with other men (and women) who have similar interests. Here is the link to their website:

http://menssheds.org.uk/

 

I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
By becoming this all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

 

I know people have been deeply affected by both the suicide of Chester Bennington and the previous death of Chris Cornell. I’d like to think that I won’t be posting another blog about another middle aged musician who takes his own life but I just don’t see us getting to the heart of the issues that quickly. Particularly when you get reactions like the one posted in a Twitter tweet by Brian “Head” Welch, the 46 year old guitarist of nu-metal pioneers Korn, who described Bennington’s suicide as “cowardly”. This attitude typifies the stigma that is often a central reason why so many men will not seek help when their depression or individual demons start to get the better of them. This is something that needs to be challenged with a zero tolerance attitude. Unsurprisingly, Brian Welch deleted the tweet when it became clear how upset many people were of his attitude towards Bennington’s death.

Can’t you see that you’re smothering me?
Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control
‘Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you
Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow
And every second I waste is more than I can take!

 

I’m certain that over the next few weeks people will trawl through every single Linkin Park lyric, especially from the latest album (“One More Light”) that was only released a month before Bennington’s death. It won’t be surprising of they uncover anything as the lyrics were very open in their treatment of the anxieties felt by Chester Bennington. What needs to be examined is the larger issue of why men, particularly in their 30s/40s/50s are killing themselves in such high numbers.

We need to talk about this.

So, if you have a brother… talk to him.

If you have a father… talk to him.

If you have a husband or brother… talk to him.

If you have a son… talk to him.

Maybe that will be a start…

Take care of each other.

 

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