This article originally appeared on a now defunct website named Komorebi Post.
While suicide is a difficult topic, we need to talk about it now more than ever.
Worldwide, almost 800,000 people die by suicide each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. Mental illness, especially depression, is often cited as one of the major factors leading to suicide. But over the years, other things have been blamed for our rising suicide rates. Some believe video games play a part. Others point fingers at absent parents. Yet others suggest some TV shows aren’t helping. But perhaps the cultural phenomenon that receives the most blame for suicide deaths is heavy metal music.
Heavy metal’s long and difficult history as a scapegoat for suicide
Grieving parents, confused scholars, and shocked communities have often blamed heavy metal music for individual suicide cases. Singers and bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Slayer, and more have even been taken to court as families try to come to terms with tragedy.
In 1985, Ozzy Osbourne’s music was blamed for the suicide of a California teenager. Although the case was thrown out in 1986, there are still those who believe Osbourne’s music encourages fans to take their own lives. In 1990, two families sued the band Judas Priest after two fans took their lives. The young men had been listening to the band’s albums before committing suicide.
The arguments that heavy metal bands drive fans—especially teenage fans—to suicide continue, even when the evidence is scarce. And it’s no wonder. When tragedy occurs, laying blame is often easier than dealing with our difficult emotions, and it provides a focus outside of our conflicted thoughts about loss. But blaming music for the death of loved ones is neither productive nor well-informed. And while the scapegoating continues, some heavy metal bands are using their platforms to do the exact opposite of what they’re often blamed for: they’re working to prevent suicide deaths.
Heavy Metal Bands and Suicide Prevention
While some believe that violent lyrics can influence already confused young people, Disturbed fans would beg to differ. That’s because David Draiman, the lead singer of the band, has been personally affected by suicide. It took several years, but he finally worked through his pain with the song “Inside the Fire.”
In the song, he recounts the image he had when he was staring at the coffin of his ex-girlfriend, who took her own life. And in the video for the song, Draiman gets personal. In an introduction before the video begins, he explain his experience dealing with tragedy, and provides the number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Another band working to help prevent suicide is Five Finger Death Punch. With the song “Coming Down,” the band offers the perspective of someone struggling to stay “away from the ledge.” In the poignant video for the song, two teenager’s painful experiences are recounted, and by the end of the song, a simple act is shown that prevents their suicide. The video ends with the words “One friend can save a life,” and the suicide prevention hotline number is shown on the screen.
Some will always need a scapegoat for the tragedy of suicide, and heavy metal bands, with their often violent lyrics, provide an easy target. However, these two bands are proving that while exercising their right to creativity, they can also make positive change in the world.