May 17, 2017 will always be remembered as a sad day by many. If you grew up in the 90’s you’d likely have heard Soundgarden’s front man Chris Cornell’s distinctive, 4 octave voice.. He was a huge part of a dark brooding grunge movement that provided the backdrop for our adolescent years. On the 17th Chris Cornell died by suicide.
Now hopefully his passing can provide a perspective on mental illness that moves us to take action.
The following is an excerpt from a 2014 interview Chris Cornell did with Rolling Stone Magazine.:
No matter how happy you are, you can wake up one day without any specific thing occurring to bring you into a darker place, and you'll just be in a darker place anyway. To me, that was always a terrifying thought, because that's something that – as far as I know – we don't necessarily have control over.
- Chris Cornell 1994
Chris understood how pervasive mental illness could be and how sudden it could change ones outlook.
Today we need to grasp that mental illness is very real; and that it can take anyone. No matter how famous, revered or respected. Anyone can be overcome by it. We need to understand the signs regardless of the cause. In Chris’ case his wife believes he may have had an adverse reaction to his anxiety medication.
Vicky Cornell noticed something. Chris was slurring his speech. A possible side affect of taking too much Ativan. She was listening and thinking about what her husband may be feeling as a result. She just couldn’t get help in time. She seemed to be on the right track. It’s too bad no one closer to him saw what she heard and felt. You can’t blame anyone. People just aren’t equipped to evaluate and act on the signs that someone may be struggling. Yet, being prepared is our best chance at making a difference for someone we care about.
One of the biggest challenges for mental illness sufferers and their peers is that it’s such an uncomfortable idea to ask someone about their emotional and mental state. To query with real curiosity and empathy. It feels invasive. It’s not something we are raised to do. Tell people how we feel when it’s not all rainbows and sunshine or genuinely ask someone how they feel and be prepared to listen.
If there is anything we need to take away from another prominent person passing by suicide it’s this: we need to create a more open environment for those closest to us to talk when they are in trouble. We need to remove the stigma that comes with that. Then we need to get the skills to identify and engage someone we feel is struggling. So we can get out ahead of it and provide the safety net that Cornell’s wife Vicky tried to provide.
We can all fall on black days. Many of us have and many will. Lets be there for each other.
For more information on how you can support someone you care about sign-up for a 1/2 hour Engage session at No Surrender Hockey Challenge or connect with your local CMHA branch.