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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 21 March, 2018

Reaction to Chester Bennington's death show little change in attitudes to men's mental health

Progress has been made, but there’s a long way to go

CHESTER BENNINGTON, THE frontman of American rock band Linkin Park, died of suspected suicide yesterday.

Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The 41-year old was found at his private residence in Palos Verdes Estates in Los Angeles County at approximately 9am Thursday morning.

Bennington had struggled with drugs and alcohol, and also previously shared details of an abusive childhood.

He is survived by his wife Thalinda and his six children, Jaime, Isaiah, Draven, Tyler Lee and twins Lily and Lila.

Many of his collaborators took to social media to share their condolences and express their grief following the news.

However, another of Bennington’s friends has posted a polarising statement following his death.

Korn guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch explained he was finding it hard to be sympathetic when he was so “pissed”.

Source: Brian Head Welch/Facebook

“Honestly, Chester’s an old friend who we’ve hung with many times, and I have friends who are extremely close to him, but this is truly pissing me off!” he wrote.

How can these guys send this message to their kids and fans?! I’m sick of this suicide shit! I’ve battled depression/mental illness, and I’m trying to be sempethetic, but it’s hard when you’re pissed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!!”

Source: Daniel DeSlover

He’s since followed up the post, saying: “I didn’t mean to sound insensitive about Chester. Just dealing with a range of emotions today. Love you Chester.

I’m pissed that you did this, but I know this could have been me back in the day after getting wasted one night.”

While it’s clear that the comments were emotionally charged and probably made in haste, it reflects a long-held view that remains difficult to shake in terms of men’s mental health.

‘Toxic masculinity’ is a term used to describe certain traditional standards of behaviour among men – for example, the idea that men are are supposed to be strong and tough in all aspects of their life.

There’s a belief that there is some established correlation between being emotionally honest and open as a man threatens your own masculinity, and makes you less of a man. Mental health problems? Man up! Or another old chestnut – just get over it!

There’s also been a long held onus on men to be brave, unfearing and unflinching. It’s why men who die in these circumstances and who leave behind families are left open to these criticisms. It’s viewed as a cowardly, selfish course of action, when ultimately, it’s neither.

Bennington passed away on what would have been Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. Cornell took his own life just over two months ago on May 18th, with Bennington performing at his funeral.

Source: FromHereThere/YouTube

There’s been progress made in terms of moving the conversation of mental health forward.

But it appears that conversation has now stalled beyond the usual “please talk” social media fodder that will undoubtedly circulate for the next few days, before it’s forgotten about it.

There needs to be more active discouragement of toxic masculinity in the realm of all things mental health – that means adjusting the language we use when discussing it, and eliminating the implication that only women are affected with their mental health.

It means calling out your friends, family or social media users who people like Bennington cowards, who dismiss their problems as inferior and unimportant and tell them to “grow a pair of balls”.

It’s about reminding people that while talking is important, listening is more so. It’s less about getting on to someone constantly to spill their guts, and more about letting them know that you are actively engaged in being present for them.

In the end, it does really matter – Bennington’s death initiates yet another conversation that needs to go beyond “why did this happen?” and to “this needs to stop happening”.

Source: Linkin Park/YouTube

If you need to talk, contact:

Samaritans 116 123 or email
Aware 1800 804848 (depression, anxiety)
Pieta House 1800 247247 or email – (suicide, self-harm)
Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833634 (for ages 13 to 19)
Childline 1800 666666 (for under 18s) 

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