The many shelter-in-place orders nationwide have impacted just about every part of society. While the circumstances are difficult for some, Talinda Bennington focuses on turning it into a positive.
“It’s actually been … fun,” said Bennington, pausing to give careful consideration to the moment. “I really enjoy my kids, and my family, and my home. I feel really blessed that we have food on our table and we have each other. I’ve just been really grateful.”
It’s that kind of resilient spirit that led to her current calling of raising the issue of mental health awareness. In July 2017 she lost her husband, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington, to his battle against addiction and depression. Through that experience, she founded 320 Changes Direction, a nonprofit, named for her husband’s birthdate, to raise the issue of mental health awareness and to connect people to the resources they need.
In the days and weeks following her husband’s death, Talinda Bennington often found herself alone with her thoughts. In those moments she found common ground communicating with the worldwide community of Linkin Park fans—through Twitter—who were feeling the same emotions.
“I realized that Chester had left behind a world full of fans that were hurting and suffering, and as I chatted with them, they became real,” Bennington said. “It wasn’t a fan of my husband anymore, it was a mom of three in Brazil or a son who couldn’t tell his parents how he was feeling.”
Bennington realized she now had a platform to connect and unite people around shared emotions and common experiences.
“I wanted to make a difference. I wanted Chester’s death to not be in vain,” Bennington said. “Nobody else should ever hurt like our family and friends have hurt.”
With the help and guidance of the other band members and their staff, Talinda Bennington reached out to mental health advocates and organizations to develop a network of available resources. She realized it wasn’t about reinventing the wheel but rather about connecting people to the bevy of mental health resources that already exist now.
She said the that current world situation only brings the issue of mental health even more to the forefront. The feeling of isolation and stress over paying rent or putting food on the table can cause even more mental anguish. Bennington said now it’s vital to reach out to friends, family and maybe even some people you don’t know too well to make sure they are staying well. She said she watched Chester Bennington struggle with these issues for years without having a roadmap to be able to provide support.
“It was terrifying, it was confusing, it caused a lot of self doubt,” Bennington said. “A lot of those feelings could have been resolved if I knew where to go or where to turn to.”
Bennington points to the isolation that comes from watching someone struggle and feeling helpless to change their actions. She said that her husband wanted to keep his clinical diagnosis private, which hindered the potential for talking about it.
“We can’t make anybody do anything; we’re only in charge of ourselves,” Bennington said. “You can’t love somebody better, and that is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.”
Bennington teamed with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman to develop the 320 Festival, originally scheduled for L.A. Live, to feature panels, speakers and musical performances for an all-inclusive event meant to be informative, fun and entertaining. It’s not an online event, but its impact might even be more needed at this moment in time than ever.
With the COVID-19 pandemic initially put the festival in doubt, it was Lyman who was the catalyst of inspiration to press forward and bring the event to the digital space. It will include 21 hours of programing.
“He was like, ‘No way, we’re not stopping, people need this more than ever,'” Bennington said.
The multi-day event features performances from Lindsey Stirling, Blue October and many more—all in support of raising awareness of mental health resources. The event will be available on the organization’s website, as well as streaming through services like AppleTV.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.