Just a week before American alt-rockers Linkin Park were to embark on a 29-date North American tour, the tragic news spread like wildfire: Chester Bennington – the band’s 41-year-old lead singer and whom Rolling Stone called “an honest voice of pain and anger for a generation” – was found dead of suicide by hanging in his California home on July 20. Barely two months before, Bennington sang a poignant rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah,” at the memorial service for his close friend Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, who also took his own life by hanging. Motivational speaker and author Jeff Yalden is also a suicide prevention expert. He has grieved with enough families to know that the issue is worsening. He spoke at length about Chris Cornell in a previous blog post, and sadly, in this episode of The BOOM Podcast, he spoke from the heart about Chad Bennington and suicide. He said that speaking about suicide is never easy, and he always wants to be very careful about his words. “I don’t want to add more pain, and I don’t want to sensationalize anything,” he said, adding that he wanted to send his thoughts and prayers and pay incredible respect to Bennington’s ex-wives – the mothers of his six children. He also said that he is very concerned about Bennington’s millions of fans and what the possible fallout could be. This message is about mental health, as it was in the post about Chris Cornell. Many people think they can deal with their issues by throwing themselves into their work – compartmentalizing emotions and bottling things up along the way – dealing with these issues by not dealing with them. Yalden is a huge advocate of mental health and cognitive behavioral therapy. “It’s about being honest with yourself – with the man in the mirror – talking to your doctor, getting on the right prescription and just being your own best advocate,” he said. But Yalden also believes that a struggling person’s close network of friends and family need to support and encourage them as well. In many cases, the person dealing with mental health issues is not right in their thinking enough to be able to make the appropriate decisions. It is always a better plan for a friend or family member to make sure that this person gets professional help. “If you are a spouse, coach or friend, you have an incredible responsibility to go to the mental health professionals – to call 911 – to call the police. Sometimes you need to think clearly for this person.” Bennington was an amazing talent, to be sure, and he dove into his career like many people do, but Yalden warned that not dealing with core issues and instead putting yourself out there for your audience can be a slippery slope. “All of a sudden, it’s the applause – it’s the music – it’s the putting those emotions into your work that kind of releases you from having to deal with real life. When you are a celebrity, a professional athlete, an actor, a rock star – all that fame and all of that money kind of fulfills your heart. In a way, I kind of understand. I am not a celebrity like any of these guys by all means. I have been a motivational speaker for 25 years. You get standing ovations, you get applause, you get hugs – ‘sign this, Jeff. Sign that’ – and people love you.” But the audience isn’t there when you go home. “You’ve got to put the kids to bed, mow the lawn – take out the trash. You have to feed the dogs, empty the dishwasher, vacuum the carpet – so the bottom line is this: You are getting all of this applause. You are put on a pedestal. Then you go home and you have to deal with life, and you begin to have this big void.” Yalden said many celebrities – and for that matter many other people – look to fill this void with gratuitous sex, drinking and doing drugs. The casualties from these behaviors continue to grow daily. “You can look at many of the celebrities whose lives ended because they were not taking care of what’s important – and they all have one thing in common: They weren’t taking care of themselves first,” he said. Yalden himself struggles with mental illness, and is diagnosed with major depression, bipolar II disorder and PTSD. He talked about behavioral and situational clues that were red flags long before Bennington made what Yalden calls the forever decision. The debut of Hybrid Theory in 2000 put Linkin Park on the map, and was the start that brought in millions of fans that adored Chester Bennington. “If you listen to the album and you know a little bit about them, Chester Bennington helped many young people with their struggles – with being alienated, bullied – or struggles with mental illness. In a way, he gave people permission to understand and so say to themselves, ‘it’s OK,’ because he talked about his own struggles. This resonated with his audience because ‘he gets it. He understands because he is going through it.” Yalden said he is really concerned about the aftermath. “As great of a man as Chester Bennington was to his millions of adoring fans and how he helped so many people with their struggles with mental health – I am sad that he didn’t see the responsibility that he had to the millions of people. He should have taken care of himself while taking care of those fans. From a mental health standpoint, that breaks my heart. So many people looked up to him – so many people struggling mental illness. They needed someone to go to. And millions of people are afraid to go to a mental health professional. They are afraid to go to the doctor, so they seek the answers and they seek the respect from someone that they trusted. This was Chester Bennington – but many knew that he was a man who struggled with mental illness himself, and people should have been somewhat concerned for him.” For more information about Jeff Yalden, click HERE.
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