Healthy Living

How Did Chris Cornell Die?

How Did Chris Cornell Die?

Chris Cornell performing at what would be his final show in Detroit, May 17th, 2017 (YouTube user VideoGremmie)

Chris Cornell, known for his four-octave vocal range, presence in the grunge music scene, and lead vocal works with Soundgarden and Audioslave, was pronounced dead in Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office’s statement, issued Thursday, May 18th, confirms that the cause of death was suicide by hanging:

“The Medical Examiner has completed the autopsy on 52-year-old Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden musician who died last night in Detroit. The cause of death has been determined as hanging by suicide. A full autopsy report has not yet been completed. There is no additional information at this time.”


Cornell leaves behind his wife, Vicky Karayiannis-Cornell, their two children, and his daughter from his previous marriage with Susan Silver. He died after performing a sold-out show with Soundgarden at Detroit’s Fox Theatre. His death comes as a surprise to the music world.

Chris Cornell's Previous Drug Addiction

Chris Cornell was reported to suffer from addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. From his late teenage years through his thirties, Cornell admitted he struggled with alcohol as he was struggling with the end of his successful band, Soundgarden.

Cornell reportedly starting experimenting with drugs at the young age of 12, citing his bad neighborhood as an influence: “There was tons of drugs. The definitive Seattle neighborhood.” In 1994, he told Rolling Stone magazine that he “went from being a daily drug user at 13 to having bad drug experiences and quitting drugs by the time I was 14 and then not having any friends by the time I was 16.” In 2009, Cornell admitted to being a “pioneer” of the prescription drug OxyContin on his bad days.

In 2002, he admitted himself to rehab. Upon the program’s completion came Cornell’s wild success with Audioslave. He had considered his addictions defeated: “Going through rehab, honestly, did help. It got me away from just the daily drudgery of depression and either trying to not drink or do drugs or doing them … you have to want it and to not do that crap anymore or you will never stop and it will just kill you.” (Rock N Roll Experience, 2007)

Cornell has no confirmed history of struggling with mental illness and was reportedly completely sober from his rehab stint until his death. According to his wife, he did not seem depressed or suicidal on the evening leading up to his death.

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is characterized by a number of conditions involving mental health, such as noticeable changes in behavior, emotion, and thinking, or a combination of any of the three. Sometimes, mental illness goes on to affect the person’s physical self and daily routine. Illnesses such as phobias and severe anxiety may become so intertwined with daily life that hospital care may be required.

However, mental illness is never something to be embarrassed about. It is common. According to the American Psychiatric Association, in a given year:

  • Nearly 1 in 5, or almost 20%, of US adults experience some form of mental illness
  • One in 24 US adults has a serious mental illness
  • One in 12 US adults has a substance use disorder

Despite the commonness of mental illness, many of those who suffer do not want to talk about it with others.

Complete recovery from mental illness is possible. Diagnosis can sometimes be tricky, so a full evaluation of the patient might be required, sometimes including bloodwork. Any medical condition must be ruled out before diagnosing mental illness.

An accurate diagnosis must be done by a healthcare professional only. Do not attempt to self-diagnose mental illness if you are not qualified to do so.

Depression: Signs to Look Out For

Depression can affect anyone, and affects each and every person differently. Some people may show signs in a different way than others.

Feeling sad once in a while is completely normal and is just a part of being human. However, if your sadness is persistent and interferes with your daily life, think about getting help.

If you notice these changes in yourself or in a loved one, it may be time to speak with a professional:

  • Persistent differences in behavior and/or routine: If you find yourself experiencing ongoing difficulty performing tasks that were once easy (for example, taking a shower or walking the dog), you may be experiencing symptoms of depression.
  • Too much or too little sleep: There is a link between sleep and depression. Insomnia is an extremely common symptom of depression. Insomnia is also considered a risk for developing depression.
  • Loss of interest: A tell-tale characteristic of depression is the loss of interest and/or pleasure in things the person once enjoyed.
  • Impaired cognitive functioning: People suffering from depression typically are slower to complete activities and are not able to fully concentrate.

Anxiety is a separate disorder from depression, but anxiety is a common symptom of depression as well.

Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

If you or anybody you know is having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-8255. It is available 24 hours a day, every day, and it can save a life. Online chat with the hotline is available, too.

Every year in the US, almost 40,000 people commit suicide. Suicide is considered to be one of the most preventable public health issues worldwide.

Suicide causes immense suffering and loss to families. For each suicide committed, an estimated 6-8 people are affected, including family and friends.

Typically, suicidal thoughts are caused by a combination of factors. This includes genetic and environmental factors. Those who are born into a history of mental illness are proven to be more likely to develop mental illness.

Common signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts include:

  • More risky behaviors than normal
  • Lessened social contact
  • Sudden drug use or increase in drug use
  • Speaking about death and dying and/or preoccupation with death
  • Changes in eating or sleeping
  • Self-loathing
  • Sudden changes in behavior, emotion, and personality
  • Feelings of paranoia and doubt

If you feel that yourself or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide or death, get help right away.

The following mental health disorders can be contributing factors to suicidal thoughts and behaviors:

  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression

Suicide can be prevented. If you fear you have an undiagnosed mental illness, or if you have a diagnosed mental illness for which you are not receiving treatment, get help.