There Is No ‘Face’ of Depression
Linkin Park singer’s wife releases video of her husband laughing the day before his suicide. Experts say depression can be a difficult condition to spot.
The images on the video don’t give any indication of any problem.
Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, sitting with his son and laughing as they taste different Jelly Belly candies.
“This is what depression looked like to us just 36 hrs b4 his death. He loved us SO much & we loved him,” Talinda Bennington said in her caption.
The juxtaposition of Bennington enjoying a fatherly moment with ending his life 36 hours later doesn’t jibe with what most people think of when they think of a person who is depressed, said Dr. Matthew Hirschtritt of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
“It’s not our quintessential image of someone suffering internally,” he told Healthline.
But the message that Bennington’s wife is trying to convey is true, Hirschtritt added.
Depression can be difficult to see
Depression doesn’t carry one type of face.
Key symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness.
Other symptoms show up as angry outbursts, loss of interest in normal activities, sleep disturbances, tiredness, and anxiety.What people need to understand is that these common symptoms will differ in how they manifest, according to Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
“Depression isn’t just one thing, either biologically or how it presents,” he told Healthline.
Not all depressed people want to sleep all day.
Some people take to overeating to compensate for their feelings of despair. Others may have no appetite whatsoever.
The changes in behavior can be subtle, such as a person sleeping more — or less.
Other times, symptoms can appear more obvious, such as a pronounced increase in alcohol and drug consumption.
The variation in symptoms makes it challenging for family members and friends to know when it’s time to step in and intervene.
“It’s a very complicated thing,” Duckworth said.
When depression leads to suicide
It’s important to note that depression doesn’t always leads to suicide, as in Bennington’s case.
But the two are connected.
“Suicide occurs when stressors exceed your coping abilities,” Hirschtritt said.
He noted that in the singer’s case, it’s important to take a step back.
The 41-year-old singer had a history of alcohol and drug abuse.
He also talked freely about being sexual assaulted when he was a child.
He had a history of depression as well.
More recently, his friend Chris Cornell took his own life.
That incident, combined with Bennington’s mental state, could have made life so unbearable that he decided it wasn’t worth living anymore.
“I don’t want to say one caused the other,” Hirschtritt said, “but it may have been the straw the broke the camel’s back.”
Suicide rate rising
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicides have been rising since 2000.
Both Hirschtritt and Duckworth said if a person owns a gun — whether they have depression or not — they should always create barriers for people to gain access to those guns.
This includes trigger locks, safety locks, keeping the magazines separate from the gun, and keeping the gun locked in a safe.
Between 2009 and 2012, more than 1 in 20 people ages 12 and older say they’ve experienced depression, according to the CDC.
Duckworth believes the numbers of people who have depression in the U.S. is higher. But because the disease still carries stigma in some communities and within some families, it’s often underreported.
If talking about depression was easy, he added, nearly one-third of Americans would be members of NAMI.
“We should have 100 million members,” Duckworth said.
Even so, Duckworth did note that society has made strides in how we deal with depression.
In the next 20 years, he expects to see the business community really step up efforts to combat depression and other mental health issues in the workplace.
“Employee groups are going to wake up,” he said. “Depression is the number one cause of lack of productivity.”