“Nobody tells you that emptiness weights the most.”
Chester Bennington’s Suicide
On Thursday, July 20th, the body of Chester Bennington was found at his home in Los Angeles. Chester was the loved lead singer of the band, Linkin Park. At the age of 41, Chester made the decision to end his life.
There is much speculation about what led up to this shocking decision. Chester recently talked about his challenges with “difficult patterns” he frequently found himself repeating. Depression, substance misuse, and a tortured past, were common themes he revisited in his music and interviews.
It is difficult to understand when someone chooses to end their life. It can be argued that everyone suffers haunting from their past. Stories of Intra-personal pain are ubiquitous. What is the difference between someone who chooses suicide and another that does not?
Chester Bennington wanted for nothing materially. His prolific music career took him to heights most never experience. However, success was not a buffering factor to the pervasive dysphoria that he struggled with.
Assets and Liabilities
Clinically, when evaluating the risk of suicide in individuals, one strategy is to build a list of “assets” and “liabilities” developed from the patient’s perspective. Assets are categorized as either material, interpersonal, and intra-personal elements, each considered a buffer against ending one’s life. For instance, getting a new job, a job you really wanted, is considered an asset.
Positive relationships are also considered assets. If someone says, “I would never kill myself because of my kids. I could never leave them behind,” is considered an interpersonal/intra-personal asset, or, a good indicator that the probability of suicide is low.
Liabilities, on the other hand, are those elements that take something away from the patient. Clinical depression, substance misuse, loss of a job, and divorce, are all considered liabilities, and therefore predictive of someone following through on ending their life.
Speculation About Chester’s Decision
Chester Bennington took his own life because the liabilities in his life were perceivably greater than what was going well for him. A pervasive sense of pain from childhood experiences weighs heavy. Depression, whether endogenous, or the consequence of substance misuse, is another anchor causing an endless dysphoric-to-euthymic cycle.
Thus, Bennington’s assets were his success. Liabilities, on the other hand, came from an apparent clinical depression, persistent emotional pain, and coping strategies that put him at greater risk.
Aetiology Of Depression
Depression is a multi-factorial problem that has endogenous – psychological – and environmental roots. Clinicians look at depression as a bio-psycho-social problem in living. Dysphoria resulting from childhood trauma gets the most press. However, it is inappropriate to assume that the bulk of depression is caused by trauma, and most patients seeking help deny a history. Essentially, it is too easy to look and mood problems through that lens (although, it is an important factor to consider).
Following are some basic stats on depression:
- Depression can develop at any age, and is more prevalent in women than men (APA).
- Nine percent of men in the United States experience daily depression or anxiety (APA).
- Suicide rates among American men is 4x higher than above women. Women are more likely to attempt. Men are more likely to complete. (APA)
- Causes range from genetics, biological factors (such as post CVA or MI), life circumstances (environment), and psychosocial factors (significant change). (MNT)
Symptoms Of Depression
There are both generalized and neurovegetative depressive symptoms. Clinical criteria include, anhedonia, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, irritability, persistent feelings of emptiness, insomnia (sometimes presenting with Early Morning Awakening syndrome), and fatigue. (DSM)
Depression In Men
Clinically speaking, men who are depressed, are at a greater risk of completing suicide. There are several factors that play into this observation:
- Men are less likely to disclose depressive symptoms.
- Men present with irritability as a primary symptom of depression, before they show outward signs of sadness.
- Men are underrepresented as a patient demographic in mental health clinics.
- Anecdotally, men see depression as something they can overcome on their own. When they can’t, a strong sense of hopelessness takes over.
The Double Edge Of Substance Misuse
There are both adaptive, and maladaptive coping strategies that people can utilize to improve mood. The problem is that many maladaptive coping strategies are quite effective in relieving symptoms quickly, but with severe consequence.
For instance, using alcohol, and various other illicit substances, are aimed at elevating mood and decreasing anxiety. It is a strategy that packs and effective punch, in the short-term. Anyone using substances to cope with dysphoric mood, carries the risk of developing an addiction.
We are all looking for an altered state, whether you are a runner, or heavy drinker. Drinking has significant life damaging consequences in achieving this goal over the course of time. However, the intention for both choices is the same – to feel different from the way you are feeling right now.
The Solution – Getting Help
There are countless resources available on the internet if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. You do not need to fight depressed mood or substance misuse on your own.
I encourage you to seek out a local professional, even if you find it difficult to disclose your depression to family members. Every community has it’s own crisis-line and mental health centre. You can even ask your family physician for local resources.
Following is a list of online recommendations:
- Depression Self-Care Resources
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- American Association of Suicidology
- Men and Depression
- Resources For Depression – Raising Awareness To Overcome Depression
His Last Interview
Below is the final interview given by Chester Bennington. He appears very well put together; there is no indication of what is to come. If anything, Chester appears insightful and forward thinking. Clearly insight and hope are not enough.