Keith Flint, suicide and the need for self-care for musicians

With the recent suicide of Prodigy's Keith Flint, Qrewcial examines the need for an open mental health discussion and self-care for today's musicians.
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 On March 4, singer and Prodigy frontman Keith Flint was found dead in his North End home—another heavy loss in music in what feels like a long season of artists lost too soon. But it was band member Liam Howlett’s grim admission on Instagram that made the loss especially stinging:

Shock instantly took over as fans began to question, as they often do, what would make such a beloved artist leave everything behind. Flint was sadly in the midst of divorcing his wife, DJ Gedo Super Mega Bitch aka Mayumi Kai, as well as in the process of having to sell his home.  Singer Johnny Rotten (John Lyndon) of The Sex Pistols emotionally told TMZ that “[Flint] was a good friend of mine, don’t get it wrong.….But nobody loved him and he was left alone, and he got destroyed. Why? Why do so many people in this industry be left alone?” 

Fame doesn’t create an escape

Fans often imagine their favorite artists are constantly surrounded by adoration and love, more so than normal everyday people. Therefore, it’s easy to believe fame makes them immune to the struggles of life and depression. But this is far from the truth. As people, we all have our own individual ups and down, and artists are no different. 

“Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds,” as reported by WHO. According to the CDC “In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.” Surprisingly, many of the victims had no documented mental health diagnosis. Reasons such as family strife, relationship issues, and money were often listed as the main factors—issues ordinary people tend to see as easily dismissed in the wake of fame.

Yet in 2017 we lost Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. In 2018, chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade both committed suicide as well, and The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan drank to the point of passing out and accidentally drowned. 

People who seemingly had it all were clearly dealing with issues that we all face. Usually, if we’re struggling with life, we can reach out to family, friends, a co-worker, a therapist, or a religious community. What do you do though when everyone assumes you have it all together? Even when you don’t? How do you trust those who’s financial well-being and livelihood rely on your ability to perform, to look out for your best interests?

The struggle between self-care and showing perfection

The Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) inaugural report in June of 2018 reported that half of the musicians surveyed “reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless at least several days in the last two weeks, compared with less than a quarter of the adult population as a whole.” Overall musicians heavily reported “difficulty sleeping, low energy, trouble concentrating, and feeling bad about themselves,” more than the general population. “11.8 percent of musicians reported having ‘Thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way’ in at least several days in the last two weeks, compared with 3.4 percent for the general population.” Substance abuse was also substantially higher among musicians in comparison to the general public. Artists Mac Miller, Scott Weiland, Whitney Houston, Tom Petty, and Prince all overdosed, leaving us far too soon.

Thus the current trend of self-care is an important one. Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” As an artist or entertainer constantly expected to share themselves and their gifts with the world, how do you care for yourself when the time comes? How do you create healthy boundaries in an industry full of excess? Let’s also not forget fans that correlate a musician’s lowest points with the creation of masterpieces. 

The need for honesty

Thankfully artists like rapper Kid Cudi are breaking their silence and becoming more vocal about their bouts with depression. Kid Cudi revealed how he “really went out of my way to keep what I was going through hidden because I was ashamed,” on Jada Pinkett Smith‘s Red Table Talk. Dispelling the “perfection” myth often perpetrated in social media can go a long way. This notion that our lives are wonderful. Without nary a concern, all for maintaining the appearance of “living your best life.”

As fans, we can also offer support with our admiration. Understanding that for our favorite artists to produce more of what we love, we need them healthy and stable. Artists can engage in better boundaries. Surrounding themselves with staff and support that encourage healthier and sober interactions. There’s no easy solution. But with suicide rates rising, taking a moment to check in on someone (be it band mate or friend) can provide a light in the midst of someone’s darkest days. If anything, the current climate begs us to be good to one another, no matter how cliche it sounds.  You never know what’s going on behind-the-scenes of your favorite album.

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