Chris Cornell's Daughter Lily Shares What Her Dad Taught Her About Mental Health
By Paige Gawley
David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Lily Cornell Silver's dad, Chris Cornell, continues to inspire her three years after his death. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the 20-year-old college student opened up about the tools her dad gave her to deal with her mental health struggles, including anxiety, PTSD and grief. Cornell died by suicide in May 2017.
"We talked about our shared experiences with mental health. I’ve had anxiety since I was a little kid and he was really validating and reassuring for me in that way," Silver recalls. "When I was like 12 or something, he was like, 'When I was 12, I would be laying awake in bed at night and my heart would be pounding. It felt like I was going to have a heart attack.' He would always say, 'You come by [your anxiety] honestly, and it’s something that I’ve struggled with my whole life.' And it was just that reassurance, like 'You’re gonna be OK.'"
"Something he used to say to me that would crack me up was, 'Stupid people don’t have anxiety. The fact that you’re worrying about what the outcome is going to be and thinking what every possible option could be and worrying about all the ways that things could go wrong, it’s because you’re very smart and because your brain works really fast. And even though it sucks, and it can feel like a total burden, you’ll harness it and you’ll figure out how to use it in ways that are helpful to you and others,'" she adds. "So it was something that he provided me comfort around, for sure."
While he was alive, Cornell taught Silver, whom he shared with Susan Silver, breathing exercises and encouraged her to ask for help when she needed it, but, above all, she remembers him "talking me down."
"If I was afraid of getting on a plane, he would remind me how many hours that the Alaska Airlines pilots have to train," she says. "I think it’s so important for everybody to have a sounding board like that in their lives. You need to have someone you can be open with and not worry that they’re going to feel burdened by it or judge you for it. My mom is absolutely that person for me as well."
Around the anniversary of her dad's death, Silver was "struggling" and decided to turn to social media for support. With that goal in mind, she started an IGTV series, Mind Wide Open, on which she interviews mental health professionals.
"He was someone who really understood and shared and validated my mental health issues. I launched the series in his honor because I knew that he would be proud of my vulnerability," she says. "Helping others and pursuing my passions is something that he always instilled in me... I’ve had a lot of experience with my own mental health -- and in a public forum -- so it’s something that I feel like, if I’m able to share and give that back and help others in any way, shape or form, I want to do that."
"I’ve had so many people in my life tell me, 'I struggled so deeply with my mental health. And your dad’s music helped me so much with that. And it helped me feel seen and heard and validated in my struggle,'" she adds. "So that that part of it is really beautiful."
Just as Silver started the series in her dad's honor, she also chose its name as a nod to the late musician.
"Mind Wide Open was actually inspiration from my dad. When I was a senior in high school, I was in a poetry class -- which is, like, very Seattle. We had an assignment where we had to find a [family] archive and write a poem about it," she recalls. "[My dad shared some] lyrics from the '90s and there was this one stanza in something that [stayed with me]: 'Half alive / Heard the most brilliant lie / Sleep is eyes closed to the light / Death is the mind wide open.' And that’s something that stuck with me. It just resonated with me so intensely."
"When it comes to mental health and launching this series in honor of my dad, there are so many other ways to have your mind wide open," Silver continues. "Having these conversations with other people and destigmatizing the conversation around mental health is a way for me to have my mind be wide open. So I think losing someone very traumatically, and struggling with my own suicidal ideation, inspired me to think of what are other ways that you can allow your mind to be wide open. And this series is definitely one of them."