Dolores O'Riordan, the talented lead singer of the band The Cranberries, died today at the far-too-early age of 46. Her passing was sudden, unexpected--and as of now, "unexplained," as police are saying only that she died in a hotel room in London.
Meanwhile, TMZ is reporting that she had attempted suicide in 2013, and that "friends" said "she had been 'dreadfully depressed' in recent weeks."
O'Riordan been open about her struggles with mental illness, and her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, telling an interviewer last year:
"You can get extremely depressed and dark and lose interest in the things you love to do, then you can get super manic I was at the hypomanic side of the spectrum on-and-off for a long period, but generally you can only last at that end for around three months before you hit rock bottom and go down into depression."
An extremely accomplished musician, O'Riordan and The Cranberries sold more than 40 million records since they formed back in 1990. They're second only to U2 in terms of popularity, among Irish musicians.
Developing their sound and emerging from the small Irish town they grew up in required luck, genius, and diligence. O'Riordan's voice was the band's signature--and, on a personal note, part of the soundtrack to my life for a few years back in the early 1990s.
Without diving deeper into her personal tragedy than I have already, it's seemingly a sad and common story.
So many of the people who change the world, whether through music, the arts, political leadership and even entrepreneurship, battle the same kinds of demons. And so many great, creative artists and innovators battled depression and self-destruction--and in some cases, even suicide.
Psychology professor Michael Freeman at UCSF theorizes that at least 1 in 3 successful entrepreneurs suffers from some kind of mental illness (versus about 1 in 5 among the general population, according to other studies).
Depression and bipolar disorder seem to come up most often among highly successful entrepreneurs, leaders, and creators--either diagnosed or merely speculated about. It seems to go hand-in-hand with creative genius.
Sir Winston Churchill called his depression the "Black Dogs," and he battled it even while leading the fight against Nazi Germany. Recently, Elon Musk acknowledged that "maybe" he's bipolar, although he hasn't been diagnosed.
David Foster Wallace. Kurt Cobain. Venture capitalist and writer Brad Feld broached the subject a few years ago of how many entrepreneurs battle depression and suicidal ideation, or worse.
It's probably not a coincidence that this article from 2013--The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship--is one of the most popular articles ever published on Inc.com.
I don't know which comes first, of course: Whether people who may have periods of mania are more likely to become artists, entrepreneurs, and other leaders--or whether for some people, living an exceptional life makes them more susceptible to battling these kinds of demons.
We tend to think it's the former, but I'm not sure.
You likely know many accomplished people, and perhaps are one yourself. How many would admit, at times, that it would be easier to live a normal, or average life?
Yet for some people--again, maybe you, if you're reading this--that's not really an option.
It's all part of the price of success, for some. Or maybe it's part of the price of admission. The highs don't come without the lows.
If there's any silver lining, it's that battling depression and other forms of mental illness carries with it a lot less stigma than it did even just a few years ago. People are more willing to get help to manage it, and to admit that nobody is really equipped to try to win that kind of battle alone.
Speaking of which, the National Suicide Prevention Helpline is 1-800-273-8255.
O'Riordan's family has asked for privacy; she was divorced and the mother of three children. May she rest in peace, and her family be comforted.