Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington died of suicide in July, leaving behind six children and his wife. On Saturday, Talinda Bennington — who was married to the singer for 12 years — shared a sweet family video that highlights the difficult truth of loving someone with depression.
The news of Bennington’s death left the world reeling. Many wondered how he could have struggled so silently. Shouldn’t his friends and family have seen something coming in the days before his death?
One of the hardest challenges of depression, however, is that it often doesn’t work that way. People who are struggling with the disease are not always stuck in bed, unable to eat or laugh, and there aren’t usually tears involved, despite what media portrayals of depression look like. As Talinda wrote on Twitter, “Depression doesn’t always have a face or a mood.”
Talinda shared a video of Chester and his children laughing and joking around as they tasted trick jelly beans, captioned with: “This is what depression looked like to us just 36 [hours before] his death.”
— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017
The reality of living with depression, for both the people who have it and those who love them, is that it’s not always visible. There are highs and lows involved, and many people suffer from dysthymia, or high-functioning depression, which experts describe as a low-level, chronic depression that can stretch out for months or years at a time, rather than showing up in isolated episodes of depression.
Though it’s just as serious as mental health issues that leave people stuck in bed for weeks at a time, high-functioning depression is often much harder for others to notice — and that can make it harder for someone to get the support that they need.
“In some ways, you’re better off as a low-functioning person,” Carol Landau, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University, told Reader’s Digest. “High-functioning people often don’t allow themselves to have all the necessary support.”
Fortunately, there are ways to help even those who aren’t exhibiting the “classic” signs of depression. You can start by being aware of a wide range of symptoms, including the kind that aren’t depicted in movies or stock photos.
A student with a 4.0 GPA or a mom with a thriving career might still be tired all the time, irritable, see little things as catastrophes or be overly critical of themselves—all of which can be signs of high-functioning depression.
As Talinda urged Chester’s fans: the first step to helping someone is simply asking if they’re okay. Ask someone how they’re doing. The reason so many people stay silent about their own struggles is often due to the societal stigma that surrounds mental health, so talking about mental health in general (including your own struggles) is often a helpful place to start.
If you’re concerned about a friend’s mental health after learning a bit more about hidden symptoms, ask them how they’ve been. Let them know that you care and that you’re there for support, and let them know about online and offline resources in their area. Try and stay in touch more often and set a standing date to see each other, as depressed people can often become isolated and planning can feel much more difficult.
As Talinda’s video of their family shows, it’s not always obvious when someone is suffering from depression, which is why it’s so important to keep discussions of mental health going. Help people know that they’re never alone and that depression is both common and manageable.
If we all keep working on it, we can help Chester Bennington leave behind a beautiful legacy in his wake.