FIRST POSTED 20TH MAY…
The devastating news arrived which everyone was dreading, Frightened Rabbit singer/songwriter Scott Hutchinson had sadly been found after going missing earlier this week – reports confirming that he’d sadly taken his own life, hauntingly in a place he wrote about doing so years earlier in ‘Floating in the Forth’.
‘Floating in the Forth’ was a real tough one. It’s a real thing. It’s a real thought. It’s a thought that I’ve taken to a place that I’m far less comfortable with… I’ve gone 90 percent of the way through that song in real life. But at the same time it’s gratifying. It’s heartening to know that I’ve been through that, and I’m stood there performing that song, alive and feeling good about it. It’s a tough one. My mum and dad were at the show in Glasgow. We can joke about it, but it must be really hard to hear your son sing about that.
- Scott Hutchison Noisey 3 May, 2018
I’ve heard of Frightened Rabbit but I can’t say I was a fan as I’ve not listened to them until this recent news. It’s a strange one because usually I source out bands like this, as its music thats so brutally honest and raw and that in itself helps me.
Having suffered with my mental health quite severely in my twenties a story such as this always resonates with me and I couldn’t help but feel really sad for his family, friend and fans – it has haunted me all day which led me to write this piece. I just want to state I’ve been quite lucky to have a ‘relatively’ stable few years, with anxiety being my main issue. By writing this, I just want to say please don’t worry about me personally because I am fine – but it hasn’t always been that way. I’m writing this as an insight in to why musicians like Scott, Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell and thousands of others MAY have chosen to take their own lives. I’m not an expert, I don’t know them and everyone’s personal experience is very different, all I can do is relate to this through my own experiences.
Beautiful, honest and open souls are usually very creative and often find themselves in the limelight and whilst I don’t think the music industry is an easy place to work in and I agree that we need more help and support for people who are suffering from mental health issues – I don’t feel we can solely put it all on the industry and blame it for why these people make these very tough choices. Any musician who possesses that unique gift to get across any emotional suffering of one’s own mind, has usually suffered with their mental health for a very long time. They sometimes have other complex issues including addictions, a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse and other coping mechanisms that can be really destructive. This is why when vulnerable people, bands and artists do come into the industry they need that extra support, although sadly in some cases even with that you won’t always get a different outcome. Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) was financially comfortable as was Chris Cornell (Sound Garden) and they could have afforded the best mental health doctors – they probably did over the years. It’s heartbreaking because even with the most loving support network and top professional help, it didn’t change the outcome.
A huge percent of us will have gone through a period of depression, anxiety or even a breakdown and luckily for some with the right treatment they will recover; they always risk it returning but in very lucky cases people do tend to get better. When a musician or anyone for that matter takes their own life it’s not usually in these circumstances, it’s usually something that’s been a more longstanding illness throughout their life.
People with mental health issues can be very strong people but also great actors and actresses: they feel such a high level of emotional pain and anxiety coming and going constantly but they learn how to fight it, how to keep going even though it’s hard. They wear a mask most days to cover up their inner turmoil so when I read things like ‘he was in high spirits’ and ‘he looked so happy on his last photographs’, being a sufferer myself, you know most days when you’re feeling like absolute shit to everyone else you appear fine – it’s an invisible illness and isn’t an indicator of what’s really going on. While Scott and Chester had been described as in high spirits days before this happened this again can be that mask I’ve just spoken about but can also mark that after finally making that decision they’ve had enough and made a choice, they feel a weight has lifted. This seems to be becoming noticeable more and more, so a sudden shift in mood is probably a sign we should all be aware to look out for when someone has been suffering from depression or mental health issues for a longtime.
I have seen so much on social media saying to talk to people if you are feeling low and while I don’t ever underestimate the power of talking, from personal experience I’m going to be honest here: when you’ve suffered with your mental health your whole life, its hard to keep telling someone everyday that you feel like you want to die, you feel no hope for the future and that day after day you are literally fighting just to stay alive. These things are incredibly hard to explain to others especially when your life to others seems rosy. It can be especially hard of you are a man, Suicide is sadly the biggest cause of death for men between the ages of 20 – 49 in the UK and this is why it is VERY important to keep talking about suicidal thoughts and suicide like you would any other part of mental illness to make the subject easier to talk about.
As hard as this is to take in but said in complete honesty, sadly, sometimes people don’t want to talk, they are talked out, they have a reached a point in their life where they are exhausted by their condition and consumed by their inner turmoil. This doesn’t mean to say people shouldn’t be encouraged to talk – they always should – but I’m just trying to make people understand why sometimes, individuals make these incredibly hard decisions. These thoughts can be there a hell of a lot, pecking away at your head and wearing you down. As Ian Curtis wrote ‘Day In -Day Out – Day In -Day Out’ he may not have written it to describe that, but I feel there’s no better way to sum it up. I’ve always been very open regarding my mental health and I’ve said how I’m feeling a million times to lovely, kind, understanding doctors, therapists, friends, my family, groups and do you know something, the first few times it helped but as the years passed it didn’t make me feel any better, if anything it made me feel worse when I was in that frame of mind. I felt helpless because I felt like a stuck record, I was frustrated, why am I still feeling like this six months on/a year on/three years on? I should be better by now – people with mental health illnesses are extremely hard on themselves. This needs to be addressed as well because its a fact that this is how suffering over years and years can get you.
I had endless advice, see this doctor, see this therapist (paying privately when I couldn’t afford it just to try and find an answer), take this pill (never-mind the five million side effects), do some exercise, eat right, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, drink more water, meditate, do yoga – the list is endless. Why does it keep coming back? Do these things even work? And the answer is YES, for a while, good days can turn into good weeks, good weeks into good years, but like anyone who suffers will tell you, when you are least expecting it, it always creeps its way back because that’s the nature of the beast – it’s a disease of the mind that, contrary to what people think, cannot be cured only managed. I refer to long standing mental health issues as a form of brain cancer because that’s what it is in my opinion, it’s slowly eroding away at your soul and whilst people tend to deal with the deaths of loved ones to physical illnesses more readily, when someone takes their own life they look inwards. ‘What could we have done?’ ‘Where were we?’ ‘Why didn’t we see what was coming?’ ‘Why did we miss the signs?’ Suicide is a result of a long fought battle with a disease of the mind and no one is to blame and just like we can’t save people from certain physical illnesses like certain types of cancer, MS, motor neurone disease, some people with certain mental health conditions sadly can’t be saved either.
As hard as it is for the people left behind, anyone who’s in that state of extreme pain and despair and who has continually suffered and suffered it comes as a release, a way out. Is it the wrong choice? Is the right? We can’t see into the future and things may or may not get better we just don’t know. We don’t know if all this suffering year after year is worth it for the chance to be happy down the line? Despite all these unanswerable questions that constantly ruminate around our brains – suicide is never the answer.
I get so tired of hearing that ones who choose to die by suicide are selfish usually by people who have no idea what its like to live with a mental illness day in, day out. Like I’ve just said, I don’t agree with it personally but to make that choice? I understand it. It takes more strength than anyone can ever imagine: they know who they are leaving behind, the ones that they love immeasurably and the guilt of that is what they carry around with them whenever they feel those thoughts – in fact that can be what keeps people here sometimes. Those left behind cannot ever blame themselves for someone close deciding to take their own life, if a person has made that decision no matter how many times they are saved from themselves (take Kurt Cobain for example; his attempts were thwarted twice before he passed) they will find a way and that is no one’s fault, its the illness fault. This is why it is so important that we start addressing it as a serious illness and as a killer.
So how did/do I deal with mental illness? By acceptance. I do not fear it anymore, I accept it as part of who I am and I speak out about it – just like these guys did – because without people like us, people suffering wouldn’t have anything or anyone to relate to especially in those dark moments just like when I was younger the times I sat thinking ‘I am crazy’, ‘There is something wrong with me’ (which ironically is a Frightened Rabbit lyric). I also don’t worry about what people think about me anymore by opening up. I don’t open up to everyone I meet as my first topic of conversation but if it comes up I will join in and say I suffer too. Stigma is probably at its lowest but it is still rife and some small minded individuals will still judge you – there amount of times I’ve been told ‘Keep it quiet’ think of ‘Northern Exposure’ but why should I feed into the shame that people try to tar people with mental health issues with. I am not ashamed, I am no different to your dad with diabetes or your Aunt with epilepsy, just because I have a mental health issue doesn’t mean I am any less hardworking, reliable and honest than the next person – if anything I’m probably more dedicated and genuine because my problems have made me very determined to succeed. I personally think that anyone who’s been in that dark place and finds a way out of it needs to speak out about it – no matter what you are doing in life. People need to know that this isn’t something to hide behind or feel embarrassed about: depression and mental illness are a huge part of so many people’s lives.
I have always educated myself even when I had to force myself to do so – I can’t emphasise enough to read and read some more, if you don’t understand your condition it will be harder to fight it.
I didn’t know Scott Huchinson but I already admire his soul very deeply; just by reading his lyrics I feel like I know him already and musically I have some catching up to do. I can tell that he fought his demons for as long as he physically and mentally could. People talk of how he would get low and then return with another amazing album: people with mental illness have to have an outlet and Scott’s outlet was music, like it is for so many. Music has saved me so many times. What Scott did was create a special bond between the listener and artist, he took his own painful suffering and put it out there to the world and he made people feel that they weren’t alone, even taking time out to reply to fans who were suffering. He made them feel that they weren’t the only ones who felt this way – that is a very special gift. He leaves behind a very strong legacy through his music and as absolutely heartbreaking as it must be for his family – I can’t help but feel that he is at peace now.
I haven’t got all the answers, I might have been able to word things better or tried to explain things more but I’m not a medical professional and I can only go on my own experiences. I won’t be engaging in any debates on the piece on any social media as everything I’ve got to say I’ve said here. I don’t want this to turn into a heated debate about ‘You are wrong’ and ‘Well I think this’ and ‘I think that’ because this whole piece is written because gorgeous, funny, clever, smart, talented 36 year old man lost his battle to mental illness and there are no wrongs and no rights. As Scott said in one of his final tweets ‘Hug your loved ones’ and he’s right because you know what sometimes they aren’t any words and a hug can heal more than you’ll ever know.
We send our love and sincere condolences to the Hutchinson family and the rest of Frightened Rabbit at this incredibly difficult time. Anyone suffering please reach out. The Samaritans can be contacted in the UK for free on 116 123.
A new 24/7 helpline for musicians, managers, label and tour crew has also been set up.
Free call 0808 802 8008