Interview with Hope For The Day founder Jonny Boucher | By Michael Pementel
Many hearts weigh heavy with the news of Chester Bennington’s passing yesterday. It was confirmed on July 20 that the 41-year-old vocalist of Linkin Park had taken his own life, in many ways mirroring the loss of his close friend, Soundgarden and Audioslave vocalist Chris Cornell, on May 18. Since the announcement, fellow artists and fans have spoken out, sharing their condolences. Bennington’s work in Linkin Park reflected his life and struggles, connecting with millions of kids across the world. He had long suffered with various difficulties, including addiction, childhood abuse, and depression.
The subject of mental illness is tossed around in various arenas, but is it rarely actually discussed. Political parties, TV showrunners, filmmakers, and musicians all like to mention mental health, but few take the initiative to actively provide help for those who are struggling. That being said, we have folks like Jonny Boucher, founder of Hope For The Day, to come to the aid of those who need someone to listen. “The biggest obstacle is silence, and then stigma follows,” Boucher shares when discussing the challenges health professionals face when discussing mental illness.
Hope For The Day—or HFTD—is a Chicago nonprofit organization engaged in proactive suicide prevention by providing outreach and mental health education through self-expression platforms. “Our theory of meeting people where they are and not where we expect them to be allows us to partner with platforms like music, arts, health, [and] wellness,” Boucher says.
Founded in 2011 after Boucher’s friend and mentor, Mike Scanland, took his life, the organization works to tear down the walls of stigma surrounding mental illness. “When I was starting Hope For The Day, I felt like I could take my passion for music and art to a different level, and that was to help others know that it’s OK not to be OK,” he shares. After Scanland’s passing, he “was left wanting to do something to help people who were struggling with their own mental illnesses, using music and art as the platform. I figured it would be a huge deal to break the silence and be a bridge to connect people struggling to find proper resources.”
The organization continues to work throughout the music industry, offering a guide to those who don’t know where to start finding help. Through their blog and social media, HFTD highlight personal accounts of those suffering with mental illness. The stories capture both those who have gone through struggles in the past and those who are currently living them. They also provide news and links for those seeking therapeutic help, hold live assemblies, connect people to other charities and organizations working to combat stigma, and offer fans the chance to connect with artists about mental health. This is done via personal video interviews in which artists such as Garret Rapp of The Color Morale and Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage discuss their own trials battling mental illness and how music helped saved their lives.
“Music has always played a very important role in my life, as it does for many,” Boucher shares. “I was more accepted in small punk rock shows more often than I was at school. Music allowed us to be free, it brought us together and spoke for us when we were alone.” From his time as a teenager throwing down at hardcore shows to working on the business side of music, Boucher’s love for the art form would lead him to found HFTD and give back to a community that had given him so much. “[The music] was and will always be there for us, during the best and worst times,” he says. “As I got through high school and then on to college, it became a source of income, but I found myself very burned out on some of the music business life and really wanted to do something else with my life.”
HFTD became his way of strengthening the bonds he found through music and providing a chance to help others. Boucher states, “I have always thought that if we really focused on the things that make us happy and who we are, it would allow us to realize the things we don’t want or need in our lives and only leave room for the good stuff.” He says the organization strives to share knowledge with those who suffer as well as those close to a loved one who is suffering. “Whether it is speaking from stages at concerts around the globe, having our own coffee that features resources on the bag, or beer that has resources on the label, Michelin star dinners, we need to do everything and anything we can to get in front of people to remind them that it’s OK not to be OK.”
When he talks about coffee and beer, Boucher is referring to a deal HFTD made with Dark Matter Coffee and 3 Floyds Brewing Co., both located in Chicago. The three entities teamed up with metal headbangers Mastodon to premier a new coffee and beer on World Suicide Prevention Day, the drinks based off the band’s fourth studio LP, Crack the Skye. The record pays homage to drummer Brann Dailor’s sister Skye, who took her life at the age of 14. HFTD is set to work with Mastodon again in September for a special one-night show at The Metro in Chicago. All the proceeds will support suicide prevention and mental health education.
Boucher also has plans to continue expanding Hope For The Day, allowing it reach more people, provide new opportunities for events and other art forms, and donate even more to providing education. In the meantime, his goal is to continue spreading hope and compassion, alongside all the artists willing to speak out about their own struggles with mental illness. “I think we have been able to help a lot of musicians speak out and also get help for themselves,” Boucher says.
As far as the entire industry is concerned, he sees plenty of room for everyone to discuss these issues. “I feel that the entertainment industry as a whole needs to take a deep breath and realize that there is so much opportunity out there to partner and embrace the conversation that will ripple throughout their communities and fan base if talked about properly,” Boucher asserts. “It takes more than words, though. It takes action, and I am grateful for the bands we work with. We all hope that it will attract others to join us in the fight, because at the end of the day, if we talk about it more, we will realize that we are one in the same: humans going through a thing called life, and it’s OK to ask for help.”
Many members of our staff here at New Noise Magazine are no strangers to mental health struggles. Our hearts and support go out to Chester Bennington’s family and friends, and everyone else in the world who feels alone. There is always help, and there is always hope. We as a community must embody the strength and courage it takes to discuss and destigmatize mental health, just like Jonny Boucher and Hope For The Day.
Please reach out to someone if you are afraid or in pain. You are not alone. There is hope. Reach out to professionals and sources that can help guide you.
And if you are on the other side of things and have a loved one come to you seeking comfort or assistance, the best gift you can give that person is your time. Really listen.
And don’t ever give up.