Chris Cornell’s death came as an absolute shock to the world. The string of suicides and accidental overdoses married to the ‘90s grunge scene felt like a lifted scab that had finally healed for the last time after Scott Weiland’s passing in 2015. Although the living icons appeared to have escaped addiction and depression, tragedy struck once more.
This time, however, the silver lining lay in public reaction. It appears the romance that plagued previous rock n’ roll deaths has finally been left behind, even if only for this sad moment.
The former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman was not the poster child of recklessness other grunge musicians have often been. He was a loving husband and father, and a quiet public figure who stayed far from controversy—much like the 121 Americans who take their lives daily.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, one person commits suicide every 11.9 minutes. It is the 10th ranking cause of death in the United States and the second for young Americans. Suicide does not need any more of our help with marketing; it does us absolutely no good to look at a celebrity suicide and deem it a symptom of creative genius.
Admittedly, I have done my part in romanticizing disease. Grunge was the soundtrack to my childhood, and the genre’s members and culture have defined my existence since. As a child lacking much maturity, I obsessed over the details of Kurt Cobain’s life and death. I equated his depression to his brilliance, completely ignoring the toll it took on his loved ones.
“The death of young musicians isn’t something to romanticize,” Frances Bean Cobain, the late musician’s daughter, wrote on Twitter in 2014 to Lana Del Rey. “I’ll never know my father because he died young, and it becomes a desirable feat because people like you think it’s ‘cool.’ Well, it’s fucking not. Embrace life, because you only get one life.”
Suicide and depression are not glamorous, artistic or beautiful. They are also not rare and do not make victims abnormal or lesser in any way. Depression is a common yet brutal battle that can be won with the right resources and support, but not if it continues to be sold as desirable.
The news of Chris Cornell’s suicide gutted me, but the public response gave me hope. With so many of us struggling with our own thoughts and chemical imbalances, it is essential we have compassion and understanding toward each other. No more praise to such a terrible disease, and no more harsh lack of support for its victims. Our daily attitudes can shape a world that normalizes seeking help instead of romanticizing early death.
– May Olvera is a journalism junior
The Texas State Counseling Center offers resources for students living with depression while classes are in session. For immediate help and information for you or someone you know, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).