Avicii: a musician’s struggle with mental illness

Avicii: a musician’s struggle with mental illness

David Moreno

The world of Electronic Dance Music has lost one of its most popular and successful young disc jockeys due to an apparent suicide. Swedish DJ-producer Tim Bergling, better known by his stage name Avicii, passed away on April 20, as confirmed by his family and his agent. Avicii, who was only 28, is another addition to a list of musicians lost too early in life. 

Avicii began his music career early in life, being signed to a label at only 18 years old. He quickly became one of the pioneers and biggest names in Electric Dance Music (EDM) with his cross-over blend of dance music with other genres. He blew up the EDM movement in the early 2010s with his 2011 track “Levels,” and later on with 2013’s “Wake Me Up.” He worked on a grueling and relentless work schedule, collaborating with big-name artists such as Coldplay, Madonna, and Daft Punk, while also keeping up with a touring schedule that bumped him up to Forbes’ third highest-paid DJ.

However, the tireless touring schedule would take a toll on his physical and mental health, and Bergling would retire from touring in 2016. In a documentary shot by his friend and film producer Levan Tsikurishvili titled Avicii: True Stories, Bergling opens up about the struggles he faced while on tour. “Everyone knows that I’ve been anxious and that I’ve been trying. I didn’t expect people to try to push me to do more shows,” Bergling said in the documentary. “I’ve told them it will kill me. I don’t want to even entertain the idea of doing another gig.” 

During the years he spent touring, Bergling fell deep into alcohol and drug abuse. He turned to alcohol as a way to escape the feeling of being pressured into continuing to do more gigs. At one point during his tenure on the road, Bergling developed pancreatitis and had to get his gallbladder and appendix removed due to the excess alcohol consumption. It was not until after this time that he began taking more drugs to cope with the mental and physical pain he felt. He took prescription Percocet given to him by his doctors for his pain. 

Within the past few years, Avicii had said that he was beginning the rebirth of his career, which is often something older musicians say. Unfortunately, on April 20, a statement was released which shocked fans around the world: Berling had passed away. The cause of death was not initially stated, but in a second statement released by the family, it is implied that Bergling took his own life. “He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go any longer,” the statement read. “He wanted to find peace.” 

Bergling joins a long list of untimely artist deaths, with some of the most well known being Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. Cornell, the lead singer of Audioslave and Soundgarden who eventually ran solo for a number of years, took his own life in May of 2017. Cornell, who was 52, had just finished playing a gig with his long-time band Soundgarden when he was found later that same evening after completing the act of suicide by hanging. Toxicology reports also suggest that he had a number of drugs in his system, mainly prescription drugs used to treat depression and anxiety, but it was determined that was not the main cause of his death. His wife and family stated that Cornell was not acting like himself hours before his death, and the drugs he had taken clouded his judgment and ruined his sobriety that he kept since 2002. 

In July of 2017, just two months after Cornell’s death, his long-time friend and frontman of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, took his own life in a similar way. Bennington, who was 41, had just gotten home from a show and was set to attend a press event the very next day. In the morning, he was found by a friend and band member who was there to pick him up, only to find that he had taken his life. Bennington had dealt with depression, suicidal thoughts, alcoholism, and drug abuse his entire life, speaking about it openly through his music and with fans. 

Cornell was a very close friend to Bennington, and his death impacted him in a huge way, as it coincided with what would have been Cornell’s fifty-third birthday. Bennington was found to have had trace amounts of alcohol in his system when he passed. His wife said that he would have “suicidal ideations after consuming alcohol,” and that even a small amount for an alcoholic would be enough to cause these thoughts.

Bergling’s death once again raises concerns about mental health and suicide. With so many artists and musicians who have lost battles with addiction and mental health, when where there be a lasting push for awareness for these musicians and for everyone else? In light of Bennington’s death, his wife began the 320 Changes Direction campaign to raise awareness for the five signs of mental illness, being personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care, and feelings of hopelessness. If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, addiction, or suicidal thoughts or actions, do not hesitate to reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at any time at 1-800-273-8255.