Prescription for Chris Connell

Last week was certainly shocking. While I’m not a big fan of Soundgarden, I at least appreciate their impact on the Seattle music scene. So I was taken aback as everybody else finding out that the lead singer Chris Connell completed suicide.

It’s not like I’m jumping to conclusions and it’s a big mystery to solve. Unlike comparisons made to Kurt Cobain’s death, this one is cut and dried. I don’t see any room for conspiracy. The night before, he performed a concert in Detroit, the last song of the night being Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.” That just gives me chills up my spine.

Connell was found in a hotel room, a band around his neck. The verdict was very quick after finding the evidence that he hanged himself. I’m sure people might question how upfront I’m talking about this story, but it’s necessary. We need to see this clearly. Yes, Connell was fifty-two years old, seemingly a late time to consider taking your own life, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The thing that is bothering me the most with this, however. Is the response from his family. That they say he wasn’t suicidal, wouldn’t do such a thing. They actually claim that the anxiety medication he was taking was the reason why is “judgment was impaired.” Ironically, the medication he was on, Ativan, is one I just recently prescribed myself for anxiety. Side effects for these types of drugs are inevitable and sometimes all over the place, but it makes me uneasy how quickly they made that statement.

Here’s how I see the family’s response. They’re willing to shift the “blame” away from themselves, that he might have been depressed and they didn’t do anything to help, and instead blame outside sources. This is a typical pattern with suicides. The fact that suicide is in fact something that requires placing blame or ownership on the tragic situation, that it was one main factor at the root of the fatal decision.

Why do we have to go through the same pattern over and over again? We are unwilling to accept that mental illness is the cause of suicide, just like other diseases killing people. People die from heart disease, cancer, a multitude of diseases out there, and never would we say to them, “It’s selfish of you to die from this. Even if you are treating your illness in any way you can, you aren’t doing enough, so try harder.”

Because I agree, there’s nothing so bad, so unmanageable in life that it requires escaping life completely. However, in a suicidal state, that’s not on the forefront of your logic. Otherwise you wouldn’t be suicidal.

Many medications, even antidepressants, list suicidal thoughts as a side effect. So if that IS the reason for Connell’s death, once we get back a toxicology report back, that’s one thing. But when you come from a past of depression and agoraphobia like Connell does, the family’s statement feels like a defense mechanism. Going through the emotions and grief of losing a loved one to suicide, the last thing you want to be thinking is that you’re at fault. That if did one thing differently, he would still be alive. This isn’t even solely based on Connell’s career. More local suicides still go from similar patterns that, once you notice them, can feel like society is just running around in circles to avoid discussing this serious topic.

It’s almost shameful itself to accept suicide for what it is. That if we close everybody off and not say a word, or completely deny that the suicide resulted from an individual’s mental health, we’re responding normally. I wish we would take an opportunity like this to be open and honest, utilize the tragedy as an example and lesson for others to understand the complexities of mental illness.

Even if mental illness truly wasn’t the key player here, this update to the Connell story demonstrates how the stigma surrounding mental health is an active force in reporting and responding to suicide. I should just be glad that we didn’t leave Connell’s cause of death up in the air. But the aftermath is just as important to address and be mindful of how we can about it.

Those of know the victim, family and loved ones, are emotional. Heartbroken. You cannot deny them that. But their role is crucial in how the rest of the world perceives suicide. They have tragic experience with it. Not everybody has to be a vocal advocate, but I think simple words and actions resonate the loudest of all.

So where do we go from here? Suicide is all too common. Inevitably, a situation like this will arise again. But how are we going to react to it? What will the aftermath look like? How will the conversation surrounding the suicide sound? We’ve made bad habits with suicide. Our public relationship with it is still a hazy line to jump across. Something common, and yet so shameful and secretive.

Obviously the news is writing up stories on a 24/7 news cycle, so who knows what the next headline will be about Chris Connell and really anybody else in this situation. Regardless, these thoughts still stand. And we cannot forget them.

Sending my thoughts to Chris Connell’s family. May he rest in peace.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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