Don’t look away

Chester Bennington, lead singer of the band Linkin Park committed suicide earlier this week.

I cannot help but feel affected.

Not because I am a die-hard Linkin Park fan (I am not, their music does not really float my boat – but that is beside the point) or because he was famous and therefore somehow more important than others, but rather because every time something like this happens, you know that there is a story of terrible suffering behind it, a corrosive, oftentimes long and painfully drawn-out process that gradually degrades and finally ends up destroying the life of the person concerned, causing massive collateral damage to friends and family surrounding them.

Why am I writing this?

Because from a demographic point of view, percentage-wise, we, as an industry, are equally likely to be directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues and/ or substance abuse as the rest of the population. In tight-knit teams where one is relying on each other, the effects of such issues can be difficult to handle and upsetting.

Speaking from experience I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of recognising early warning signs, not to attempt to trivialise or laugh off the behaviour of the person affected, however erratic or unusual it may seem at the moment. Sometimes such symptoms may be hidden in plain sight, where in retrospect you say to yourself that if only you had realised, it would have all made so much more sense.

It is essential to be realistic in regards to what one is capable of carrying, there comes a point where the burden may become too heavy to carry as a team mate, friend or family member, where it is totally legitimate – and necessary even – to get help from outside. That makes it sound simple, which it is not, of course… these kind of situations are painful and messy, especially if they are happening to someone you are close to.

There are many ways in which one can support a person in these kinds of crises, really, the only wrong thing you can do is to look the other way and turn your back. Mental health disorders are not simply a whim, they are a serious issue that ought to concern us all.

We can and should react.