Why Musicians Are Vulnerable to Depression and Suicide

Aris Setyawan
Aris Setyawan
Posted underethnomusicologyetnomusikologimusicmusik

After the death of the famous musician DJ Avicii in Oman, I reconsidered the musicians, their depression, and their death due to suicide. DJ Avicii is known to end his own life. The family stated that Avicii was depressed, he continued to struggle with thoughts about meaning, life and happiness. “Avicii can no longer continue living, he wants to feel peace,” said the family.

Looking back, we remember how tragic the story of Kurt Cobain’s death in the mid-1990s. Kurt Cobain fired the shotgun at his head. Not only that, later in the Cobain’s blood found heroin and benzodiazepines drug in large numbers. This benzo class of drugs is known as one of the most effective drugs to get rid of depression.

In 2017, Chris Cornell, vocalist of the band Soundgarden and Audioslave decided to end his life by hanging himself. Unexpectedly, Cornell’s decision turned out to be a kind of trigger for Chester Bennington. The vocalist of Linkin Park decided to end his life on the birthday of his rock n roll mentor, in the same way.

Depression never discriminates, anyone can get hit. Depression is like a time bomb that will explode when a trigger appears. Old, young, rich, poor, fat, thin, all can suffer from depression. However, my assumption, musicians are people who are more prone to depression. Beyond my assumptions, as reported by CNN, research concludes that there is a chain of connections between depression and people with creative brains. Scientists call this relationship between creativity and depression the dark side of creativity.

Specifically, music can also be linked as a behavior of creativity. So, musicians are prone to depression. This depression can change from acute to chronic. For example Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. They fight depression for decades. Although in the end he gave up and decided to end his life.

Why are musicians vulnerable to depression? In my opinion, this is because the workload that must be borne by musicians is fairly heavy. In the process of creating music, they must apply three things at once: (1) science, (2) journalism, and (3) occultism.

First, science. Music is a sign system, a scientific matter: about how the frequencies (from musical instruments or vocal cords) are arranged with algorithms (tempo, melody, rhythm, harmony, etc.) to form a unified and balanced sound unit. So the musician here is doing the reasoning process. Armed with reason, musicians will calculate what if this tone is processed with harmony in rhythm and tempo in such a way. Here musicians work with math calculations.

Second, journalism. Basically music is reportage, it conveys messages. The musician knows an event, then he reports, slipping a message about the event in the music he composed. Remember Marshal McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” credo? Music is a message. Even musicians sometimes compose instrumental works without poetry or lyrics, the music contains messages that can be understood without the need for lyrics.

Third, magical arts. This is somewhat contrary to science. But the musician is like a shaman. They must create music that contains something invisible in it. Something unseen and invisible that taps the head and flicked the feelings of the listener. For example, sometimes we cry when listening to certain music. Our subconscious understands the music as sad music, then we will cry.

With such huge internal demands and pressures, working on three things at once in the creation of works—not to mention when it comes to external matters such as industrial matters, the intricacies of life, to the case of capitalism which drives the course of the musician’s destiny—it is natural that musicians are vulnerable to depression.

Why did some musicians commit suicide? Maybe they reached the boiling point. They are exhausted against the black ghost.

Depression is like a black ghost. He alighted on the victim’s body, then clung to the victim’s body. The ghost sucks one’s happiness, hope, and ideals. Depression makes a person feel useless, hopeless, and his head filled with thoughts of suicide to put an end to all the misery that befalls.

Speaking of musicians and depression, it’s itching to not discuss this figure: Richey Edwards. Later Manic Street Preachers is known in the trio format. Formerly Richey was the fourth member, he played the role of rhythm guitarist and lyricist.

Richey has chronic depression, and often injures himself. His condition was mostly written into lyrics for Manic Street Preachers. For example, in the album The Holy Bible, Richey wrote about politics, depression, despair, suicide, to abortion.

There is one interesting story — or tragic — about Richey’s self-harm behavior. In an interview session, when NME journalists asked, “What is Manic Street Preachers music aesthetics like?”, Instead of answering, Richey instead wrote “4 REAL” on his left hand, with a razor blade, not a pen.

On February 1, 1995 in London, before Manic Street Preachers left for a tour of the United States, Richey disappeared. Without leaving any message. In a search by family and authorities, Richey’s car was found near the Severn bridge. The bridge is famous as a location for suicide.

No bodies were found, so Richey was declared missing, not dead. Richey’s disappearance status persisted throughout the search for decades. Until finally in 2008 the Richey family, the Manic Street Preachers, and the authorities stopped the search and changed the status of Richey, from disappearing to death.

In the world of popular music, known as the 27 Club. This club is filled with musicians — or other art artists — who die at the age of 27. Most members of this club end their own lives after a long struggle against depression. Some music celebrities included in this club are Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and many more. Richey Edwards was 27 years old when he disappeared. He automatically became a member of 27 clubs.

Then what is the conclusion? That depression and mental health cannot be taken lightly. This is a serious problem. Statistics show that the number of people with mental disorders is quite large. WHO data states that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Meanwhile specifically in Indonesia, the number of people with depression reached 3.7 percent, or 9 million people from the total 250 million population of Indonesia.

In psychology known a method called as a coping mechanism. This is a strategy that we consciously employ to deal with stress, anxiety, to depression. Coping mechanism functions as a tool to maintain balance and emotional stability. How to do coping mechanism is certainly different in each individual. Some do sports, some work in hobbies like gardening or picnics. Some decide to keep cats or other pets. Coping mechanism is a unique method that can be done according to each individual.

Let’s take care of our mental health so that life is more meaningful. Those who are still healthy, fight to stay healthy. Those who are sick, fight to get well. Specifically for musicians, coping mechanism can be done perhaps by leaving the music routine for a moment, and doing something that can distract the mind. Something outside the business of tone and rhythm.

If you need professional help like a psychiatrist, don’t hesitate and go for treatment. Because depression is just a phase that is sure to pass.

Musicians are influencers for fans. We know that in any part of the world, there will be people who idolize one or two musicians. Then imitate whatever the musician’s actions ranging from how to dress, hair style, to attitude. The matter of being an influencer is important. An example is how Chester Bennington admired Chris Cornell, then decided to follow in Cornell’s footsteps and end his life. So, it becomes an obligation for musicians to maintain their sanity, so that fans or anyone who follows the musicians lunge also participate in maintaining sanity and mental health.

May we all avoid the accursed depression.

Taggedchester benningtonchris cornelldepressionlinkin parkmental healthMusicsoundgardensuicide

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