"Kurt Cobain's cousin reaches out to depressed teens"

The Seattle Times - 8/17/98

Article about Kurt's cousin, Bev Cobain

by Ian Ith (used by permission for www.nirvanaclub.com)

Bev Cobain never met her cousin, Kurt Cobain. But as she watched his whirlwind metamorphosis into a grunge-rock idol, she looked through television screens and magazine photos into his pleading, angst-ridden eyes. And they were familiar.

She, too, has those teardrop eyes - subtly and subconsciously frowning, even when she smiles. She, too, knew what it was like to grow up in Aberdeen, the child of a dysfunctional family. And as a psychiatric nurse who herself suffers from major depression, she recognized the symptoms. She knew her cousin needed help.

"I really tried to get in touch with him," she said. "I was proud that a Cobain was doing so wonderfully, and I was sad he was in such pain. I wanted to tell him he was in trouble. I wondered if he knew."

She doesn't know if he ever got her messages. Kurt Cobain's self-inflicted shotgun blast in April 1994 ended his battle with manic depression.

Instead, the 57-year-old Bev Cobain found herself lending comfort to teenagers who idolized her cousin, who was the same age as her own eldest son. They wanted her advice as a professional and as Kurt's cousin. They wanted to know why they felt depressed, hopeless and suicidal, and why the Nirvana frontman's death crushed them.

"I wanted the kids to know that role models make bad decisions, too," Bev Cobain said. "Kurt was a wonderful role model in many respects, but he made a bad decision. I wanted people to see that there are other options."

The result is "When Nothing Matters Anymore," (Free Spirit Publishing, $14) Cobain's new book written and aimed at teens who may be clinically depressed, suffer from mental illness or are suicidal.

The book is easy reading but full of medical information, meant to help teens figure out if their normal adolescent troubles have progressed to disorders that can be medically treated and encourage them to seek help. Studies estimate that as many as 2 million teens in the U.S. suffer from some type of depression.

But perhaps more effectively, the book focuses on Puget Sound teens who have grappled with depression. Cobain hopes teens will connect better with other teens' stories.

"The whole point was to say, 'Look, there are other people like you,' " Cobain said last week at her lakefront home near Bremerton. "I hope a kid will pick it up and say, 'There I am.' If they can relate to the other teens they'll want to know how to do something to feel better."

Teens featured in the book said they were eager to contribute when they heard Cobain's approach.

"I wish someone would have handed me a book like that," said Tyler, a Seattle 17-year-old who tells in the book of his own struggle with depression.

Cobain grants that some might criticize her for using her last name to sell books. But she's comfortable with that.

"I'm not getting rich off this book, but I don't care because that's not why I wrote it," she said. "I wrote this book to help teens."

"When Nothing Matters Anymore" is due in bookstores within the next month.

Ian Ith's e-mail address is: iith@seattletimes.com