How Chris Cornell's Death Put A Spotlight On Addiction, Suicide Prevention

By David Konow 05/22/18

Cornell's passing led to his high-profile peers and fans engaging in a global conversation about mental health, suicide and addiction.

Chris Cornell

May 18 marked the one-year anniversary of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell’s death by suicide at the age of 52. It was a tragedy that took many by surprise, and a number of people have taken Cornell’s passing as a call to arms to speak out and help save people’s lives.

The day after Cornell’s passing, a vigil was held in Detroit, where he died while on tour, and some fans wore black armbands with the message, “I will not give up.”

Cornell’s brother also spoke out on Facebook, writing, “What a devastating way to have my eyes opened to how many lives around me, and all of us, have been touched by such a tragedy. Removing the stigma that discussing suicide is like speaking about a dirty little secret…What I’d give to have had the tiniest shred of this awareness in early May.”

A year after Cornell’s death, the need to speak out continues. Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction said that the loss of the Soundgarden frontman and Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington made him want to “change the playing field,” and encourage others to get help if they felt at risk.

Navarro told Yahoo, “I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me, telling me that they felt the same way, and they felt not alone, and they were really moved, and inspired, to get help on their own, because of the stories that are shared. And so, for me, that’s the reward.”

Navarro has struggled with mental health and addiction issues throughout his life, and the deaths of both Cornell and Bennington hit especially close to home. 

“Going to Chris Cornell’s funeral and seeing Chester Bennington sing a beautiful song for his friend, and then [Chester] taking his life a month later, really had a massive impact on me,” Navarro continued. “I couldn’t help but be brought back to the times when I had felt that lonely, that desperate, that suicidal… I just want to let people know that there are options out there. [Suicide] isn’t the final answer. It’s OK to reach out for help.”

In February, Navarro and Billy Morrison (of Billy Idol) announced that they would be putting on a concert called Above Ground to raise money for MusiCares, a non-profit that supports musicians for everything from addiction recovery to rent assistance to medical bills.

“After losing too many friends to suicide and depression, and having suffered personally with a wide range of mental health issues, we want to raise awareness and funds for the treatment of mental health,” said Billy Morrison.

The April concert featured performances by Courtney Love, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Billy Idol, and Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal. 

To honor his legacy, Cornell's widow Vicky has also launched the Addiction Resource Center for Chris and the Addiction Resource Line to help people that are struggling.

Vicky Cornell said that drug use is what led to her husband ending his life, and she added that “addiction is a preventable and treatable disease. While it’s too late to bring Chris back, it’s not too late for millions of people who are struggling with addiction.”

A vigil was held on May 18 for the anniversary of Cornell’s passing at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.