Toni Cornell comes to terms with father's death in emotional open letter

Why she hopes her father's legacy will end the stigma around mental health

October 9, 2020

Toni Cornell is putting into words how her father’s suicide created a purview to communicate pain of addiction and end the stigma around mental health.

Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell took his own life in 2017. His 16-year-old daughter worked with Good Morning America, posting an open letter about Chris' legacy ahead of World Mental Health Day, October 10.

”Not a day goes by that I don't miss my dad. He was everything to me,” she emotionally pens. Toni says her father’s abusive upbringing framed his empathetic approach to raising a family. “He shared how he overcame his own anxiety, but then also shared that alcohol had dragged him back into drugs.”

“He explained how that led to depression and using other drugs because it took away the fear associated with it. He taught us the importance of understanding addiction.”

Cornell goes on to express the pain of loss after her father’s suicide, and how that final act did not define his life’s story. “This tragic moment does not define who my father was nor should this tragedy be distorted to fit other people's stories. Speculation is irresponsible, it robs my father of who he was, and tarnishes the memories of those who truly knew him and loved him,” Toni explains.

“Worse, it perpetuates a dangerous lie that can hurt others.”

Her plea for communication and acceptance of mental health emergencies is capped off by the stark realization that Chris could have chosen a different path. His memory is a lesson in persevering through whatever fatalistic ideas inhabit your mind.

“My dad's death was completely preventable. We need to stop the stigma that does not allow us to see that this is a disease and a mental health disorder, not a moral flaw. The former perspective saves lives, the latter ends them.”

Chris’ musical legacy continues to thrive after earning a posthumous number one single with his cover of Guns N' Roses' "Patience." The Cornell estate released the "Patience" cover this past July on what would've been the musician's 56th birthday. He'd originally recorded it in 2016.

RADIO.COM’s I’m Listening initiative aims to encourage those who are dealing with mental health issues to understand they are not alone. If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, know that someone is always there. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.

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