The moment I read the news on Facebook, I immediately thought of my best friend, B3. I have always said that I owe everything I know about music to him. His knowledge and love for music are irreproachable. That’s why when I found out about the sudden and shocking death of Chris Cornell two days ago, I knew in my heart this devastated him, deeply.
He’s very fond of the seminal band, Soundgarden, he may have attempted to pass on his love by sharing a song or two with me or maybe not because I don’t remember a thing but I feel sorry for myself that I do not really know anything about Chris Cornell except for the fact that he’s Kurt Cobain’s contemporary. That and SG, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Alice in Chains are all from Seattle, WA. That’s it.
B3 shared with me that Cornell took his own life by hanging and there was no trace or sign of depression prior to his passing. I’m extra sensitive to this topic. Most of the people I admire all ended their lives by committing suicide, whether by OD, hanging, drowning or sticking their heads in the oven. I’m still skeptical whether the few artists, writers and people I know first hand, who passed away due to illnesses or accidents, would have also chosen the same path if they have lived long enough to make this tough choice.
My questions are – Is there a conscious effort on the part of the suicidal or depressed person to reveal their state of mind and intention to end their lives? Is there truly a person who wants to take his or her own life in the first place?
In 2012, Dr. Patrick J. Skerrett of Harvard Medical School wrote an article on suicide often not preceded by warnings:
“Suicide almost always raises anguished questions among family members and friends left behind: What did I miss? What could I have done?
“Many people never let on what they are feeling or planning. The paradox is that the people who are most intent on committing suicide know that they have to keep their plans to themselves if they are to carry out the act,” says Dr. Miller. “Thus, the people most in need of help may be the toughest to save.”
A suicidal person may be the life of the party or that friend of yours who makes sense out of things, all the time. It can be the dullest or the most creative human being in the room. It can be you or me.
I don’t think a person just decides one day he wants to die by hanging himself. Small children won’t want to go to school because they just don’t feel like, they don’t want to go because they do not see their value in that setting. They do not have anybody to call playmates or their teacher does not give them a single reason to attend classes.
Forum contributor, Karen Tiede said,“We try to save other people from killing themselves for exactly the same reason we treat broken bones, give drugs for infections, and keep sick babies in the hospital for a few weeks if they need more care than they can get at home.”
“The condition of being suicidal is temporary and can be repaired. Most people who survive an intervention in their suicide attempt are glad to be alive after.”
We are all involved as much as the suicidal person is. A person who dies of suicide only means a person who was not able to find help.
The questions we need to ask:
Was the person who took his life mentally ill?
Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed?
Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended?
Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act?
Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance that led to despair and a loss of self-control?
Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide.
Back to Chris Cornell, those close to the Soundgarden/Audioslave frontman say he didn’t SEEM to be depressed or anxious before his death. Even his wife, Vicky Cornell, confirmed he did not display signs of depression and did not express anything suicidal in the last few weeks. Cornell was in the middle of a tour and performed Led Zep‘s In My Time of Dying on the night of his death as his last song in Detroit.
In an NBC report, Cornell spoke in the past about suffering from depression and substance abuse, including a drinking problem that blossomed during his time with Soundgarden. He credited rehab for getting clean. But he mentioned this years ago, you say? Yes, Sylvia Plath tried to slit her throat when she was 10 years old and was saved. Twenty years later, we all know what happened to her.
Writer Corey Adwar talked about this impulsiveness when Robin Williams died, also by hanging.
“Suicidal urges are sometimes caused by immediate stressors, such as a break-up or job loss, that go away with the passage of time. 90% of people who survive suicide attempts, including the most lethal types such as shooting one’s self in the head, don’t end up killing themselves later.
“A 1978 study of 515 people who were prevented from attempting suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge between 1937 and 1971 found after more than 26 years 94% were still alive or had died of natural causes.”
“Many rare survivors of Golden Gate Bridge suicide attempts recall regretting their impulsive decisions instantly — even as they were falling.”
RELATED TOPIC: Why are artists taking their own lives?
Living through this experience helps us understand the death of the person who committed suicide. We can be more compassionate, we can learn to listen more, be more charitable, be less judgmental, be less self-righteous, be more forgiving, be more selfless.
We learn to ask the WHYs and hopefully be better individuals toward our families moving forward.
Some people — including those who are more ambivalent about suicide — consciously or unconsciously drop hints.
As somebody who once contemplated and has overcome suicidal thoughts and attempts, and from a point of view of someone who is still battling depression, I say Chris Cornell showed signs. Clearly.
It’s just heartbreaking to learn that night, his impulsiveness got the best of him and nobody or nothing was there to intervene. It may have been Led Zeppelin’s song that capped or triggered his emotions, it may have been years of fronting this brave, grungy act, it may have been the stigma that’s crippling every artist on how they have higher tendency to commit suicide, it may have been due to everything, it may have been due to nothing- nobody will ever know.
Or I guess we can ask him someday.