Chris Cornell's daughter, Toni, opens up about her dad, addiction and how she's coping with his death
After Toni Cornell's father, Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell passed away in 2017, she took on a new mission: educating the public about the realities of addiction.
Toni Cornell, now 16, told Good Morning America that the circumstances of her father's death inspired her to work to "change" the conversation about addiction and end the stigma.
"As a society, we still blame those struggling with this disease, even though science proves otherwise. Addiction is a mental problem, not a character flaw, and it is so often left out of the conversation about mental health," she said. "This becomes dangerous because it prevents people from sharing and even getting the help they need. It keeps this disease in the shadows, even when it comes to doctors and health professionals."
Saturday October 10, 2020 is World Mental Health Day. In honor of the occasion, Toni Cornell, who has teamed up with the Addiction Policy Forum, launched a national educational initiative: "Stop the Stigma: Combating the Stigma of Addiction through Education" "wrote a personal letter about her father, which she said," Good Morning America "shared. While she's still grappling with her loss, Cornell, who wants to support others in similar situations, said," People think three years makes it easier, but it doesn't for me. "
"It takes a great toll of your mind and heart so you know you are not alone," she said. "And don't worry about the time. Keep sharing and talking."
"If you know someone who is struggling, please use World Mental Health Day to reach out to them and let them know that you care and that you can help them find treatment," she added.
MORE: Toni Cornell, daughter of the late singer Chris Cornell, plays 'Hunger Strike'.
Not a day goes by that I don't miss my father. He was everything to me.
So many people were deeply affected by his life and his music. It is not an exaggeration to say that he saved lives.
My father never expected life to be perfect. His childhood was full of ups and downs. He came from a family where both parents had an alcohol disorder and he was often exposed to an abusive environment. At the age of 14, he began experimenting with various drugs, including PCP, which caused panic disorder. He did not share this with his parents when it happened, and for the next two years suffered from it alone and without support. He explained to us that until that moment he felt he could do anything and that life was great and full of possibilities. Then everything changed.
He has learned from his mistakes and shared these lessons with us. He shared how he overcame his own fear, but then shared that alcohol had dragged him back into drugs. He explained how this led to depression and the use of other drugs because it eliminated the anxiety that came with it. He taught us the importance of understanding addiction.
Addiction education is so very important. However, it is something that is not taught and discussed enough.
I want to help change that.
I want to end the stigma of fighting addiction. The belief that depression and anxiety are always the cause of abuse is wrong. This perception is maintained through stigma. My father described addiction as an allergy and explained that we could also have this allergy. It helped us understand that addiction is genetic and doesn't mean something is wrong with you.
My father was a realist and he believed in tomorrow. And although his music was dark at times, it was always full of hope. He taught us that a single moment does not define who you are or what you feel, nor take away your strength. We all have difficult moments, he explained, "nobody is happy all the time" and we need to understand how fear eventually affects everyone in some way.
He also tried to help others. Those who have felt the stigma of addiction and have failed to understand that even when you "double up on depressants and your reality is not what is really going on for you", depression still comes up.
That is why it is so sad that he lost his life when, in one tragic moment, drugs changed his reality. This tragic moment does not define who my father was, nor should this tragedy be distorted to match other people's stories. Speculation is irresponsible, it robs my father of who he was and tarnishes the memories of those who really knew and loved him. Worse, it perpetuates a dangerous lie that can hurt others.
MORE: Chris Cornell's widow is suing the doctor for misconduct over the Soundgarden singer's death
I know this much: my father would never have stood for it. My father's story is important and as he would say, "We have to look to the past to control our future." We have to tell the story "because people forget". Depression and anxiety are issues my father dealt with, but those weren't the reasons he never returned from Detroit.
My family will never experience true peace as nothing can be done to bring it back. But we will continue to honor him by sharing his message of hope and trying to save others from the same pain.
Our mission is to see our father's legacy live on and continue to make a positive impact on life. Education is paramount to not only understanding the disease but also preventing it.
I believe that education has to start in our communities and at home, but also in our schools. We need doctors and health care providers who are educated about addiction. We lose over 200 people every day through overdosing alone.
The science is there, now it is up to us as a society to catch up to save lives and understand that this is a disease and not a moral mistake.
My family and I will continue to raise awareness and work toward changing laws and guidelines. If my father had been treated as a person with a substance use disorder, he would never have been prescribed the medication that was given to him. Since my father's death, my mother has had an open dialogue with medical experts in the field who sat with us explaining what happens to a person with a substance disorder who is taking a highly addictive drug. He was not prescribed this drug for anxiety but for assault.
My father's death was completely avoidable. We need to stop the stigma that does not allow us to realize that this is a disease and a mental disorder, not a moral mistake. The former perspective saves lives, the latter ends them.
I miss my dad every other day and I know that he doesn't want his death to be in vain. I hope others can learn from our pain and experiences, and I hope we can prevent the same from happening to every other family affected by this disease.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or are worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if it feels like this, you are not alone.
Chris Cornell's daughter Toni reports on goodmorningamerica.com about her father, her addiction and how she deals with his death
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