Chester Bennington’s suicide followed a life of depression, addiction, and trauma
Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington was always upfront about his struggles with depression, substance abuse, and trauma from sexual abuse as a child. The way he channeled these demons through his voice and words helped countless fans cope with their own trials, expressing their own emotions in ways they never could.
Last Thursday, the singer was found dead from an apparent suicide at his home. Police say a bottle of alcohol was found nearby.
From childhood, Bennington has had a troubled life. From the age of 7, he was sexually and physically abused by someone close to him. This quickly led to experimentation with a range of drugs to cope with the trauma, as well as suicidal thoughts.
In 2011, he told Kerrang these early experiences still plagued his mind at times.
“If I think back to when I was really young, to when I was being molested, to when all these horrible things were going on around me, I shudder,” he said.
When he joined Linkin Park in 1999, he found an outlet for many of these experiences and emotions. Combined with the heavy rock and hip-hop infused sound of the group, they quickly exploded in popularity. A large part of the group’s fame came from how deeply his lyrics resonated with fans who had been through similar experiences.
Describing one of the band’s first hit singles, “Crawling” the singer said it was about “feeling like I had no control over myself in terms of drugs and alcohol.”
Since their first album in 2000, the band has sold an estimated 68 million records, won several Grammy awards, and performed countless sold out concerts in arenas around the world.
Despite all the success, Bennington’s issues with depression persisted. Throughout his career, the singer has continually talked about his struggles with mental health and how they affect the band. In February of this year, he said many of the emotional issues still weighed on him.
“I think for a lot of people, they think if you’re successful, all of a sudden you get some card in the mail that says you’re gonna be totally satisfied and happy for the rest of your life,” Bennington said. “It doesn’t happen like that.”
After a reported intervention from his bandmates, he did try to overcome his addictions. In the Kerrang interview, he explained, “I don’t drink. I choose to be sober now. I have drunk over the last six years, but I just don’t want to be that person anymore.”
During a conversation with Rock Sound in 2015, he described long periods where he “literally hated life.”
He continued, “I was like, ‘I don’t want to have feelings. I want to be a sociopath. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to care what other people feel like. I want to feel nothing.’”
Even the group’s most recent album, One More Light, was focused on Bennington’s depression and negative state of mind during the time it was written. When asked about the motivation for the first single, “Heavy”, Bennington said it was inspired by the battle he faces with his mind.
“I know that for me, when I’m inside myself, when I’m in my own head, it gets… This place right here [points to his head], this skull between my ears, that is a bad neighborhood, and I should not be in there alone,” he continued. “I can’t be in there by myself. It’s insane! It’s crazy in here. This is a bad place for me to be by myself. And so when I’m in that, my whole life gets thrown off. If I’m in there, I don’t say nice things to myself. There’s another Chester in there that wants to take me down. And I find that, it could be… whether it’s substances or whether it’s behavior or whether it’s depressive stuff, or whatever it is, if I’m not actively doing… getting out of myself and being with other people, like being a dad, being a husband, being a bandmate, being a friend, helping someone out… If I’m out of myself, I’m great. If I’m inside all the time, I’m horrible — I’m a mess.”
Bennington’s bandmate, Mike Shinoda, also said the singer was clearly not in a good place when he wrote the song.
“I remember Chester walked in,” he told Billboard. “It was, ‘Hey, how are you doing today?’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m fine,’ and we were hanging out for a minutes and he was, like, ‘Y’know what? I have to be honest. I’m not fine. I’m not okay. Too much stuff is just happening to me. I just feel underwater.’”
Following the news of his death, there has been an outpouring of support from fans who say they related to Bennington’s lyrics. The beautiful voice that could turn brash and guttural at a moment’s notice is already dearly missed – not just for Bennington’s talent, but his ability to speak to everyone’s darkest moments and offer the comfort of knowing that you’re not alone.
Dear Chester,Our hearts are broken. The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we…
In addition to the emotional open letter memorializing their friend and bandmate, the members of Linkin Park have created a page honoring Chester and offering suicide prevention resources. Fans can share their memories of the singer or express condolences on the page, but it also prominently urges anyone who needs support to seek assistance.
Victims of sexual abuse are likely to experience depression, substance abuse, and other serious mental health conditions in their lives. If you or anyone you know are struggling with these feelings or issues, please contact us at 888-298-4673 to get help now.