Life Is Beautiful

(Content Note: Mentions of suicide, self harm, and drug use.)

I was 11 or 12 years old when my brother introduced me to the song “Life is Beautiful” by Sixx: A.M. I was depressed and didn’t want to be alive anymore; I found solace in that song.

Will you swear on your life that no one will cry at my funeral?”

There was a part of me that wanted to believe that life truly was beautiful, but I couldn’t see it. Instead, my brain twisted the lyrics into a suicide note. I imagined my mother crying at my funeral, but I didn’t want that. Instead, I wanted my family and friends to be happy and live fully, knowing I was free from the burden of life.

I was too naive to understand this song was actually written about Nikki Sixx’s recovery from a heroin addiction. But I was somehow old enough to be tired of life. It felt like I was dead inside and I hadn’t even made it to high school yet. However, the music made me feel as if I was somewhere in between life and death. I was drowning in a pool of melancholy, but it was okay. I could feel something.

You can’t learn to tell the truth until you learn to lie.”

Around the same time I became enamored with “Life is Beautiful,” I wrote my first suicide note. I don’t really remember if it was originally meant as a suicide note, but it was concerning enough to my friends that it got back to my mother. She was upset, so I realized I couldn’t say anything about being depressed. And so the lies began.

I hid my self-loathing behind sarcasm and fake happiness. I began to self harm and hid that behind my sleeves. I hid inside myself for years; eventually I realized I was a shell of everything I could be. So I decided to tell the truth, thinly veiled within my own music and poetry.

“You can’t live until you die.”

Eventually, I found other music to fall in love with and “Life is Beautiful” fell out of my regular rotation. Until years later, when I noticed The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack in my recommended albums on Amazon. I bought it, and all of the feelings from when I was 12 flooded back.

Maybe I never developed a drug addiction; maybe I was never actually on the brink of death. But I lived inside of a suicidal mind for the majority of my youth. My brain felt like it was in a stare-down with death for years.

Just open your eyes and see that life is beautiful.”

Listening to this anthem of my adolescence again at 19 and hearing something other than a musical suicide note was breathtaking. For the first time, I heard what Nikki Sixx was trying to say. I haven’t experienced nearly as much as he has, but I’ve experienced enough to understand.

Life is filled with pain and disappointment. You can shut it all out and be numb to everything, or you can face the hurt and enjoy the good experiences. There’s not a lot I know for sure, but I definitely know this: it was only after I spent years living as someone who was already dead that I began to realize how beautiful life really is.

This post contributed by Sam, who blogs at Life of an Average Introvert. You can follow her writing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Songs That Saved My Life: Compilation to Bring Awareness and Hope

Big Picture Media recently announced that they are teaming up with Hopeless Records to release a compilation called Songs That Saved My Life.

According to the announcement on social media, the compilation will be available on November 9 and will feature Taking Back Sunday, Against Me, The Maine and more. These bands “come together to share pivotal songs from their lives.” In addition to the quality tracklist, purchases will “benefit charities such as Crisis Text Line, Hope For The Day, The Trevor Project and To Write Love On Her Arms,” according to the post.

The first single from the album is “Torn” by Neck Deep, and is available now.

According to the mission statement on the official Songs That Saved My Life (STSML for short) website, the brand is “centered around music that played a pivotal role in the lives of artists and fans that benefits mental health and suicide prevention charities.” The goal is to share music and stories with the world.

Hopeless Records is an independent label dedicated to making a positive impact through music. Big Picture Media is a full service entertainment public relations agency based in New York City. Learn more about them by visiting their website.

To learn more or check out the first single “Torn,” visit www.songsthatsavedmylife.com. Keep up with the STSML movement by following them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

TWLOHA: World Suicide Prevention Day and Music

The music community, and especially the rock community, has become inextricably tied to the mental health conversation in America. And it’s a time when that conversation is more urgent than ever before: the suicide rate in the United States has risen 25% in the last 20 years. That tragic number has been felt in losses of rock icons Chester Bennington, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell and Jill Janus.

As we mark 2018’s Word Suicide Prevention Day at the start of National Suicide Prevention week, TWLOHA‘s music and events coordinator Elizabeth Wilder took some time to share about this year’s campaign and the unique role music has to play.

Can you share a little bit about the idea behind this year’s World Suicide Prevention Campaign theme, “Tomorrow Needs You?”

Every year we come together and brainstorm different World Suicide Prevention Day slogans. In past years, we have pulled from books and blogs and quotes from people who have had close ties with To Write Love on Her Arms. Finding the perfect slogan or theme is all about connecting with an audience. What is going to draw people in? What is going to get people thinking? And more importantly, what will engage people?

“Tomorrow Needs You” hit us and it stuck. It’s an opportunity to allow people to look forward, to see the future and know that it’s bright. We hope that this phrase can let people know that they’re never walking alone.

A really fun moment that has set this year’s campaign apart from years past has been the raffle of the signed soccer jerseys. How did that come to be, and what impact has it had on TWLOHA’s overall aim for this year’s fundraising?

Jamie, our founder, and Ashlyn Harris actually went to the same high school, so the connection has always been there even before she became a soccer icon. Jamie reconnected with Ashlyn a few years ago, and she has always been a big supporter of To Write Love on Her Arms’ mission. We’ve been able to witness the support of the soccer community grow every year, and we’re so grateful for the friendship we’ve been able to nurture. Jamie attended the USA vs. Chile game, where Ashlyn Harris, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, and Alex Morgan all graciously donated their jerseys to raise money for our WSPD campaign.

The response has been incredible. In about a week, we have raised over $30,000 through raffle tickets. We raised our overall goal to $50,000 because of the engagement it had received. We’re so humbled by the ongoing support, and the multitude of opportunities we’ve been able to share with these women.

TWLOHA has done the difficult, valuable, complex work of enduring as a non-profit for over a decade now. What are some of the ways that TWLOHA’s approach has grown and developed over the years?

It’s really interesting to think about how our approach has grown over the past 12 years. I think it’s all about meeting people halfway, wherever that may be. Whether it’s at a music festival, in a school, or at a yoga event, we want people to feel welcome and heard. We’ve learned that mental health does not discriminate. It impacts all walks of life, and we want to be able to feel comfortable enough to share their story. Our mission is to reach as many people as we can, however we can.

The mission of TWLOHA has always been tied to the music community. What makes music a natural fit for the conversations TWLOHA wants to foster?

At To Write Love on Her Arms we always like to say, “Music is a safe place.” We go to concerts to drop the heavy at the door and get lost in our favorite bands/artists. Being able to act as a bridge of hope and help to people in the music scene feels, like you said, a natural fit. We want to connect with people the same way they connect to music. It’s a unique platform that can reach a lot of hurting people. From the beginning we have had such strong support from the music community, and we can only hope that continues over the next few years.

How can music fans specifically engage in supporting the work TWLOHA is doing?

We make it really simple for people to get involved and support TWLOHA’s mission. We encourage people to take a look at our Get Involved page to see how you can bring a message of hope and help to your community. Whether it’s purchasing info cards to hang up in venues and coffeeshops or getting educated, everything helps to start a healthy conversation about mental health. Music fans specifically can host a benefit, which a is a night of song and poetry, to raise awareness and support TWLOHA. We’ve witnessed so many stories shared, and so much vulnerability at events likes these.

What is a good shortlist of resources for those who are struggling or know someone who is struggling?

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, we encourage you to check out TWLOHA’s Find Help page. We have resources in all 50 states, and 3 different countries. If you’re in immediate crisis please don’t hesitate to text TWLOHA to 741741, Crisis Text Line, you’ll be automatically connected to a trained crisis counselor. We want you to know that you’re not alone, that your story is important, and that help and hope are real.

Lzzy Hale Launches #RaiseYourHorns Mental Health Awareness Campaign

Lzzy Hale of Halestorm has launched a social media movement to bring awareness and solidarity to those struggling with mental health. The singer invited fans and peers to share pictures of themselves with the classic metal horns hand symbol, hashtagged #RaiseYourHorns, if they’d ever struggled themselves.

The campaign comes as a response to the loss of Jill Janus, lead singer of metal band Huntress and outspoken mental health advocate. Jill Janus died by suicide at the age of 43 this past week.

“Now, more than ever, spanning across every age group, the suicide rate is extremely high. I’d like to take a moment to state again how important it is to talk about mental health, and remind all of you out there battling demons that you are not alone,” Hale shared in a heartfelt Instagram tribute.

Fellow artists have been joining in, with David Draiman of Disturbed and Ariel of Icon For Hire being a few rock artists quick to share their own selfies.

If you or someone you love is struggling and needs help, find resources local to your area at twloha.com/find-help.

Beartooth Announces ‘Disease’

Beartooth has announced the details of Disease, their third studio album. Disease will be releasing on September 28, and you can hear two songs, “Disease” and “Bad Listener,” now.

The album is available for preorder at beartoothband.com. Beartooth has announced an accompanying tour in support of the full album, and you can see the full list of dates on their Facebook.

In a feature piece with Alt Press about the upcoming album, frontman Caleb Shomo took a deeper dive into what you can expect from Disease: “What makes a Beartooth album good is that I am willing to go to these places that I don’t want to go to myself and create the inner monologue. That’s what people relate to and what they connect to… There were songs we didn’t use simply because of the subject matter. But that’s the point: capturing those dark inner moments. That was the biggest eureka moment making this thing.”

It’s an approach that follows naturally from Disgusting and Aggressive, albums that dive deep into Shomo’s own mental health struggles, spirituality and the hard path to sobriety. You can watch the video for “Disease” below.

To keep up with Beartooth as they head into this new album cycle, find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Chester Bennington: What We Do, One Year Later

This post originally published on Threads of Stars on July 20, 2018.

All afternoon on July 20, 2017, my phone was going off: “did you see the news?”

And I had; all of us in the rock community had, the news spreading through our tight knit family like a blackout, lights suddenly switched out. Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park and easily in the top 5 most influential voices in rock for the past two decades, had died by suicide. Just months after their latest record. Just months after all the interviews saying he’d been in a dark place but was in so much therapy, getting so much better.

It’s early to call it, but this might be the Kurt Cobain of my generation.

It matters because we’d identified with him for so long, processed our own emotions through his own words. I know it well; of a thousand memories, I remember being 17 and watching and re-watching the music video for “Numb,” because it was me. That was simple fact for millions: somehow, these songs were about us. And when we find ourselves echoed in someone else’s journey and then it ends in the dark– what does that say about our journey? What does that say about the possibility of hope?

And what do we do next, after and during the grieving?

First: we take from lives like Chester’s a legacy of the full sum, not the tragic mistake of a moment. His stories of rehab, of healing, of fighting to be more than an illness or addiction: those are still just as true as they were 24 hours ago. They are perhaps the truest things about his life. We will not remember the tragedies of others as their definition. We’ll be braver and paint the whole picture, light and dark.

And this does not have to be an indicator that the inevitable end is in shadow. It can instead be a reminder of how costly it is to continue to leave issues of depression, suicide, addiction, and mental health unaddressed for a single second longer. It can make us kinder to each other. It can make us fiercer in our fight against the killer that’s eating whole generations alive, leaving holes in families, in schools, in churches– on stages.

We can take to heart the reminder that fame and fortune aren’t any kind of antidote, and that sometimes the people who seem to have it best need help the most. And even if sometimes all the right methods of treatment can’t erase the choice of a moment– those methods are still worth pursuing, because if there’s a chance that they can keep one person alive for five more minutes, that’s a chance worth fighting for.

We should be sobered. We should never be without hope.

“They say that I don’t belong
Say that I should retreat
That I’m marching to the rhythm
Of a lonesome defeat
But the sound of your voice
Puts the pain in reverse
No surrender, no illusions
And for better or worse
When they turn down the lights
I hear my battle symphony
All the world in front of me
If my armor breaks
I’ll fuse it back together.
My battle symphony:
please just don’t give up on me.”
– Linkin Park

Let’s fight together, my friends. It’s what we do.

Chester Bennington’s wife Talinda Bennington has risen as an incredible voice of advocacy and life in the year since losing Chester. For more about her mental health initiatives or if you need help, please visit changedirection.org. You can also follow Talinda on Twitter to join the conversation.

You can also read Linkin Park’s reflections on one year without Chester on their Facebook here

Beneath The Skin Launches Subgroup

The non-profit organization Beneath the Skin has launched a subgroup specifically designed for men to support other men. The group is called Men Supporting Men, and you can find it by clicking here.

Beneath the Skin is a non-profit founded by Brittany Mullins, who often works closely with her husband Matty’s band Memphis May Fire to spread resources, merchandise and messages of hope to those in the broader music community. Mentorship is a key part of their structure.

In a post about the new group on Facebook, the organization shared “We our extremely excited to announce that we’ve just launched a male-inclusive subgroup of Beneath The Skin; Men Supporting Men! This group was created to provide a space for the men of Beneath The Skin to find support from other men while also supporting each other.”

You can find out more about Beneath the Skin at beneaththeskinonline.org, and find them on Facebook and Instagram for encouraging content.

The creation of the subgroup fills a crucial and timely need in the mental health community. Over 75% of deaths caused by suicide in the U.S. are men, with societal stigma making it harder to get support and help. If you or someone you love is struggling, you can find a list of resources here.

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