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“I’m not frightened of appearing vulnerable” Amy Winehouse
In the last few years we as music lovers have mourned as our idols have fallen into the realm of ageless legends, referred to as ‘the late’ or even celebrated by lavish, posthumous releases. We as a society do struggle to understand why, we try to find what reason if any there is for them to take their own lives.
After all, they had money, fame, but most of all talent, and perhaps that is where the problem lies, we never stop to think that the music that is saving our lives may be killing theirs?
The most creative in society can be the most damaged, not physically but mentally, they can also be the most fragile and vulnerable.
The smiling face of Chester Bennington shown in a video just days before he lost his inner struggles were puzzling at best, as he appeared to be a content-family man but most importantly happy.
“Who cares if one more light goes out? In a sky of a million stars”.
Reaching back as far as Joy Division’s Gothic-star Ian Curtis, on the eve of the bands first North American tour Curtis lost his battle, the result of epilepsy, deteriorating health, and a depression he sunk into from which there was no coming back.
“Don’t turn away, in silence -your -confusion my illusion-worn like a mask of self-hate”
The Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell had only come off-stage a few hours before his depression took hold for the last time, a battle he had spoken about publicly, sharing his experience with mental illness had helped others and through sobriety Cornell had found a life worth living until the sickness reared its head.
“In my eyes, indisposed
In disguises no one knows”.
There has always been a shadow of conspiracy theories over the death of Kurt Cobain, an assassination more than a suicide, a theory maybe to keep the fans crown of the ‘grunge king’ untarnished by mental illness, it is though a fact. There was an underlying bi-polar diagnosis already in place before he hit the big time with Nirvana, a collision of depression and drug addiction lead to that spark being extinguished.
“Sit and drink Pennyroyal Tea
Distill the life that’s inside of me”.
When two people both have a disorder and come together the collision is one of dangerous concoctions. Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen is the perfect example. Both became infamous for their drug addiction, Sid’s self-harm on stage, the anti-social aspects, and the ending to both their lives which is more a bipolar characterization of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ than anything less sordid.
“We’re really quite nice and friendly, but everyone has a beastly side to them, don’t they?”
This year we have mourned Prodigy frontman Keith Flint, last year Avicii who would have only turned thirty this week. It is ongoing, but they are in the public eye. What may not be known is the reality, someone loses their life every 40 seconds. Just because we can name public figures or musicians does not scrape the surface of society’s epidemic. it always comes back to the duo of alcohol and drugs, these elements are the petrol thrown on the fire of mental health. They go hand in hand with feeding it, triggering it and awakening issues sometimes to energize creativity, to deal with the pressures and anxiety, sadly, it is that very talent that suffers. Talents of incomprehensible magnitude, such as Amy Winehouse, the soulful queen of London’s Camden sunk too far into an abyss, and now the world is robbed of her voice.
To understand the drug culture and how it infects the talented is very difficult, imagine kicking a football that veers off in the wrong direction, you cannot control it nor stop it but watch, maybe taking a substance will help the unmanageable feelings, and make it easier to watch. If the unthinkable happened in the music industry where talent was force-fed and supplied substances to keep a leash on them as a form of control then, a whole aspect of health deterioration is brought to the fore and questions need to be raised on the views of creative forces as commodities and not, people.
Sometimes facts need to be examined to give a greater perspective and find the true link between the creative and the self-destructive. There are many types of mental health conditions, at the centre is depression and the symptoms come all too close to many of the aforementioned make up. Such as self-harm, feeling of emptiness, fears of abandonment, and a detachment from reality. That list certainly ticks a lot of boxes, what it does not say, however, is how good sufferers of depression are at hiding the above from even their closest loved ones, some only realize in times of crisis when a diagnosis erupts to the surface in an act of harrowing tragedy.
Losing an idol is heartbreaking and sometimes hard to understand, but it is nothing to losing a friend, a family member, or even yourself. If the wealth and fame that comes with celebrity status cannot overcome the shame surrounding the stigma what hope has anyone got, attitudes have to change which is the actual cure for mental illness. The most important aspect to take from this is that life is fragile regardless of status, and we need to communicate our feelings in our own way. One day the judgments may be dropped, perhaps the slogan “It’s Ok Not To Be Ok” will not just be a slogan but a fact of society and accepted for what it is.