With the sudden and tragic death of Tim Bergling – otherwise known by his pseudonym Avicii – on 20th April 2018, important questions about mental health in our modern society have risen to the forefront of social thought. Although the cause to his death was initially unknown, more recent news have revealed that it was Avicii taking his own life, which largely attributed from his aggravated mental and physical health in recent days. How could this happen? Why did it happen? And can we prevent it from happening again? Contrary to common belief, 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 mental health issues from manifesting any further.
Tim’s death, for many fans and his colleagues alike, was a surprise, sending a shockwave throughout the music industry and our modern cultural milieu. Tributes have poured in internationally. Stars from both within the music industry and out, like 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 Tim had. PM Lofven praised Tim’s achievements, describing him as ‘one of Sweden’s biggest musical wonders of modern time.’ The city of Stockholm, Tim’s original home city, have played Oscar’s Church bells to the tune of his many chart-topping tracks like ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Hey Brother.’ The response to Tim’s death has been astonishing and his memorials are well deserved.
However, one of the key themes that has wrung from Tim’s death was the complete unawareness of the mental health issues which took away Tim’s life. His personal issues are obviously something which he kept private, understandably hiding his torment away from the preying eyes. As Matt Medved for Billboard described it, a significant amount of this shock is rooted in the young nature of the Electronic music genre. As he describes, ‘Its millennial fans are unaccustomed to burying their heroes.’ Medved writing on the 25th April however, did not realise the reality of Tim’s death. With the news of Tim’s apparent reason to death, the shock and surprise evolved from Medved’s speculation to unfolding a new thread: the growing unawareness over the issues which plague minds of individuals, and especially musicians in modern society.
A large part of this misunderstanding over musician’s mental health likely results from their position as celebrities, as infallible and gifted individuals who embody perfection. They are figures which we aspire to follow and whom cannot possibly suffer from such problems. Likely also, as an alternative theory, is that people’s surprise is rooted in the anomalous nature of Tim’s cause of death, being a self-inflicted death, rather than something more common like drug overdose or medical conditions. We have witnessed within our modern age, the images of drugs culture and musical celebrities are increasingly interlinked. Iconic stars like Prince, Whitney Houston, Jim Morrison and Jimmy Hendrix have all fallen victim to drug addiction and misuse; even more recent talents like Lil Peep, who have only just hit the scene, have suffered from drug related issues and have died as a result.
So Tim’s death highlights an increasingly unknown problem within the music industry: the issue of mental health, that has only recently started to rise to surface. Organisations such as ‘Help Musicians UK’ have only recently begun to take action to expose the reality of the music industries and their condition of mental health. In association with the University of Westminster and MusicTank their recent study called, ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’, has revealed issues like feelings of isolation and increasing 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 increasing problems such as self-doubt and anxiety issues, due to unpredictability of work and high pressures, which led them feeling increasingly isolated. The most worrying result of both the preliminary and secondary study was that many of the individuals failed to reveal these problems, fearing that increased support from friends and family would result in ‘feelings of guilt.’ Of the original 70% who noted themselves as having experienced mental health issues, only around ’30% claimed they would be very likely to, or had already sought help.’ That leaves around 40% of those experiencing problems without support, and many more unaware of the increasing mental issues, which are becoming entrenched in their mind. This study, among others, are increasingly important as they reveal an issue which Tim’s death embodies, that musicians, and anyone regardless of occupation, often struggles without support.
According Variety in which Tim’s family’s 26th April statement can be found, the issues which Tim’s family personally cite as the causes for his downward spiral are common issues which many individuals face:
“He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness.
He could not go on any longer.
He wanted to find peace.
Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight.”
Like many other musicians, Tim felt the increasing pressure which the industry placed upon him. Like others he found it incredibly difficult to seek help, often avoiding ‘the spotlight’ for reasons that eventually plagued his mind. Some may argue that Tim, as a multi-platinum musician, would not face the same struggles as that which the ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’ addresses, or at least to the extent which less established musicians would. To a certain extent this is true, but even if it were this only exposes an even greater issue of mental health within our society: that these issues are often difficult to spot, incredibly common and the upmost care must be taken to ensure a balance mental condition for everyone. The story of his mental condition is difficult to piece together from the humble sentences released by Tim’s family, but what is reflected is that Tim felt many of the same struggles which many of us face daily. Unfortunately for him, they were amplified by his famous position and the pressures from the industry he was in.
Tim’s story is not an isolated one, it extends to tens of thousands of ordinary people standing next to us. Individuals in all levels of society face similar issues. I have recently discovered that a son of a family local to me had unfortunately taken his own life some week prior. Despite living a life which many would view perfectly normal and fine, he, much like Tim, suffered from horrible mental torment which drove him to making a tragic decision. His brother, Mr. West, took the initiative and began the campaign ‘ProjectWalkToTalk’, a local charity event which hopes to raise money to promote mental health awareness. Their mission, as their tagline implies, is to ‘Beat The Stigma’ and allow people who experience such problems to open up. As Mr. West describes, ‘There is nothing wrong with having a mental health problem, and that is the message we need to promote.’ Their mission is to stop people who, like Tim, suffered from mental health and battle their demons alone. Their message is a noble one and one, which we should take from both untimely deaths I recently witnessed.
Tim Bergling will be remembered forever as a rising star who feel too soon. His music will forever embody a message about the dangers of unattended mental health. If there is one thing we should take from his passing, it is that awareness of mental health issues which he, and others like him throughout the world face, is crucial. The music industry has been forever changed by his contributions, and his unfortunate passing has raised valuable questions about the current state of the modern music industries and social world.
If you or anyone you know is affected by issues raised in this article, then please do not hesitate to contact these numbers:
NHS 24 hours helpline
Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Text 07786 209697
Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill
The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90