With the sudden and tragic death of Tim Bergling – otherwise known by his pseudonym Avicii – on 20th April 2018, questions about mental health in our modern society have been catapulted to the forefront. Although initially, the cause of his death was unknown, more recent news has revealed that his passing was the result of a premeditated suicide, rooted in the decline of his mental and physical health. Why did it happen? And how can we prevent it from happening again? It is important to understand that anyone – no matter how famous or iconic – can suffer from mental health issues, and anyone – regardless of status or reputation – can and should be helped to prevent these issues from manifesting any further.
Bergling’s death, for many fans and his colleagues alike, was a surprise, sending a shockwave throughout the music industry. Tributes have poured in internationally. Influential figures from within the music industry and out, such as Calvin Harris, Skrillex and even the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven have flooded social media with messages of remembrance and mourning. Calvin Harris wrote a heartfelt memorial, highlighting the ‘passionate … extremely talented’ and ‘beautiful soul’ that Bergling had and PM Lofven praised his achievements, describing him as ‘one of Sweden’s biggest musical wonders of modern time.’. The city of Stockholm has even begun to chime Oscar’s Church bells to the tune of some of his chart-topping tracks such as Wake Me Up and Hey Brother.
Bergling’s case highlights a quiet problem within the music industry, an issue of mental health that is only recently starting to be uncovered. Organisations such as ‘Help Musicians UK’ have begun acting to expose the reality of the music industry and how it can affect mental health. Their poignant and recent study called ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’, created in association with the University of Westminster and MusicTank, has revealed increasing issues of isolation and the consequences of placing a lot of pressure on musicians. In their preliminary study, out of ‘2,211 respondents’ up to ‘71.1% … believed they had experienced panic attacks and/or high levels of anxiety’ and around ‘68.5% reported they had experienced depression.’ These issues were only expanded upon further during the second phase of the study, in which ‘26′ of the original 2,211 offered a more concentrated and detailed analysis, revealing that musicians had increased problems with self-doubt, anxiety issues due to the unpredictability of work and heightened isolation from intense periods on the road.
The most worrying result of both the preliminary and secondary study was that the individuals failed to reveal these problems, fearing that increased support from friends and family would result in ‘feelings of guilt.’ Of the original 2,211 of which around 70% noted themselves as having experienced mental health issues, only around ’30% claimed they would be likely to or had already sought help.’ As a result, around 40% of musicians surveyed did not use support networks. This study, among others, is increasingly crucial as it reveals the issue at hand here, that musicians, and anyone regardless of occupation, continue to struggle without support. Like many other musicians, Bergling felt the increasing pressure which the industry placed upon him. The story of his mental condition will continue to be difficult to string together, however it is important to recognise that many others face the same struggles daily. This can be helped.
Avicii will be remembered as an incredible musician. However, if there is one thing we should take from his passing it is an awareness that issues which he, and others like him throughout the world, suffer from need to be spoken about.
If you or anyone you know is affected by issues raised in this article, then please do not hesitate to contact these organisations:
Bergling’s story is not an isolated one. A family close to my own have suffered first hand with the consequences of un-supported mental illness. Because of this, his brother started the ‘ProjectWalkToTalk’ which works to ‘Beat the Stigma’. Their mission is to help as many people as possible open up about any struggles people may be facing. Its founder, Ben West, explains “there is nothing wrong with having a mental health problem, and that is the message we need to promote”. Their cause is a noble one and you can find out more about it by clicking on the link.
The data used in this article was sourced from: https://www.musicmindsmatter.org.uk/the-study