I think speculation is a dangerous road when it comes to something like this, and I don’t think any of us should take speculation or assumptions as something akin to truth. There are any number of factors that go into things like depression.
With that said, the OML reaction (at least the online one) is 100% the elephant in the room as said above. We cannot say that it was the “cause” or anything like that, but we also can’t ignore it. Anyone who follows the band, watches the videos, attended or watched or listened to live recordings, we all knew how Chester was, and he always very hard on himself. Sean is absolutely correct here, it wouldn’t matter that OML was a number one album, Heavy was a huge single in plenty of places, the band was playing the biggest shows of their entire careers and selling out Europe, adding shows to the UK, selling out South America, about to play stadiums in the US - you don’t see any of the positive stuff when you’re in that state of mind. You only see the negative.
Chester was pretty active on social media, and as we all know, any kind of real online criticism (or even praise!) gets drowned out by the countless and tireless trolls and, as Sean says, people who have nothing better to do. All Chester is going to see are insults toward his music and even personal attacks. We know how bad it is online. Look at how people to react to movies or other innocent entertainment that they don’t like. So you have Chester seeing all of this and ignoring all of the positive stuff. He sees a few people booing Heavy at festivals and focuses on them instead of the thousands of people singing every word of all the new songs on tour.
The OML songs were very personal, even by LP standards. Chester had just gone through one of the toughest periods in his life, 2015-2016, and all of the music has heavily influenced by that. He openly talks about this in 2017 interviews. He really really cared about the songs, maybe more than ever, and that’s saying something. So to have art that you just poured your heart and soul into, that you’re proud of and excited to share, and to have the reaction be - in your mind - people hating it and insulting you and your band mates and your entire career....that’s something that none of us can ever really understand or even comprehend.
I remember back when Dead By Sunrise didn’t end up being as commercially successful as Chester hoped it would, and how he got on Twitter and asked if he had just made a bad record. That hurt. His art was always extremely personal for him, it was his life’s work, it was his passion.
Again, we’ll never really know. There are too many things that go into things like this. He had to quit Stone Temple Pilots, had just lost close friends of his; just way too many things happened to him in way too short of a span of time. We’ll never actually know what he was thinking, and there are plenty of factors that we have no business knowing anyway.
What we can take away from this realization is this: We can all be kinder, we can all show more empathy, and we all need to be more aware of the words we use and who we say them to. Reach out to your loved ones, be there for them, check in on them. And if you’re suffering, don’t be afraid to let others know. Don’t be ashamed of what bothers you and how it makes you feel. We can choose openness and kindness every time.