Study finds suicide rate among musicians to be higher than average

Javier Morin

Entertainment Editor


Weeks past, an entire generation still grieves the loss of Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington. Throughout the years, Linkin Park’s lyrics have solidified themselves in the minds of those who grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

With instantly recognizable classics such as “Numb,” “Crawling,” and “In The End,” among many others, many listeners would agree that we’ve just lost one of the most iconic rock vocalists in modern music.

Through all the pain, however, Bennington’s direct family has found inspiration. The now widowed Talinda Bennington says in an open letter, “The only answer I know is to raise our babies with every ounce of love I have left. I want to let my community and the fans worldwide know that we feel your love.”

A message from ex-wife and close friend, Samantha Marie Olit, follows in the same vein: “I promise to continue to raise a great man who has integrity, humility, kindness and most of all compassion and love,” referring to their son, Draven.

Just two months prior, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell had suffered an eerily similar fate, and upon closer inspection, it’s not hard to see how their deaths were connected.

The two were long-time close friends, and many will point out that the day Bennington took his life would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

These, among many other unfortunate rock musician suicides over the years, begs the question: is it an isolated case, or is there an underlying tendency?

Statistically, it would appear this is the case. In an investigation by Professor Diana Theadora Kenny of the University of Sydney, suicide seems to be a significantly common cause of death among rock, punk and metal musicians, with the percentages above the average rate being 7.2 percent, 11 percent and 19.3 percent, respectively.

For comparison, the average rate of suicide in the general population in this case is 6.8 percent.

The next thing to investigate would be the common indicators of a person on the verge of suicide.

The Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention (FISP) has listed 20 of them, including things such as drastic behavioral changes, loss of sleep, withdrawal from family and friends, increase in use of substances like alcohol and drugs, among many other symptoms.

The FISP narrows the causes of depression and suicidal tendencies to three categories: biology, trauma and fear of dying. Jackie Rosen, Executive Director of the organization, explained that Bennington suffered from two of the three, being his biological predisposition to the disorder, and childhood trauma.

Though not totally obvious, Bennington and Cornell did show a few of these symptoms before their deaths.

The late Chris Cornell’s wife, Vicky, mentioned “Many of us who know Chris well noticed that he wasn’t himself during his final hours and that something was very off,” in a statement shortly after his death.

As of late, it seems the concept of suicide hasn’t been treated with the sensitivity and respect it deserves.

A recent example is the Netflix exclusive series, 13 Reasons Why, based on the 2007 novel of the same name, and the massive controversy that sparked from its inception. Its main (and rightful) critique was in the way it glamourized suicide, and how insensitive it was to do so, considering the story’s target audience.

The Netflix series went even farther, even showing the act of suicide itself, which the studio was warned against doing.

Guardian writer, Zoe Williams, puts it best: “It’s a revenge fantasy, so it portrays suicide as an act that will achieve something. It’s aimed at a young audience, who are particularly susceptible to contagion, and particularly likely to experience suicidal thoughts…The series depicts suicide as a reasonable response to a set of challenges that anybody might experience, and lays it at the feet of other people.”

It is clear that the subject of depression and suicide isn’t being taken as seriously as it should be.

However, you can spread awareness and make a difference by visiting, reading up on the symptoms and taking part in the many programs that help those who are demonstrating suicidal tendencies.

The easiest effort you can make to prevent harm, though, is simply to be compassionate and courteous to those around you, regardless of their mental state.