According to a graphic report released earlier, Swedish DJ Tim Bergling, better known as Avicii, committed suicide on April 20th while vacationing in the Sultanate of Oman. The performer was found in his hotel room, and an autopsy determined the cause of death to be massive blood less due to cuts received from broken glass. These findings are consistent with a statement made last week by his family which said that Avicii “really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness.” As well as that “He could not go on any longer.”
Now that the police have closed the case, this has put an end to rumors that ongoing health issues or a drug addiction could have been contributing factors. Despite his impressive fame, the DJ had not performed live in more than two years, since announcing his retirement in 2016. At the time, Avicii blamed his need to step out of the public eye on battles with stress and anxiety. Industry insiders also noted his recent medical problems, admittedly made worse by years of heavy drinking. In 2014, he was forced to cancel several shows as he recuperated from having his gall bladder and appendix removed.
The tragic death has renewed calls to make mental health services more accessible for artists on tour, as the hectic schedules and poor working conditions put them at considerable risk for depression. In 2015, a survey released by UK charity Help Musicians found that 60 percent of respondents had experienced mental health challenges. The most common contributors to the problem were listed as a lack of sleep, isolation, and social pressure to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Vijaya Manicavasagar who is in charge of Psychological Services at the Black Dog Institute, a leading non-profit research center, says that the highs and lows of touring can even mask serious problems. It’s easy to balme underlying anxiety on partying too hard, instead of looking for a deeper cause. And the highs and lows of alternating days on the road with nights surrounded by adoring fans can be hard to distinguish from the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Manicavasagar explained that artists may “look at tried and true ways in the past that might have cheered them up… when actually they need professional help.”
In 2016, Avicii was the subject of a documentary made by fellow Swede Levan Tsikurishvili which followed the musician as he prepared for his last show. Titled Avicii: True Stories, it gives a look into how the star’s management team pushed him to perform despite his attempts to scale back on live performances. At one point, Avicii made a shockingly prophetic announcement:
“I have said, like, I’m going to die. I have said it so many times. And so I don’t want to hear that I should even entertain the thought of doing another gig. And I know Arash knows this, which is why I feel extra hurt – because he has said that [I should play more gigs] when it suits him.”
Fans continue to pay respects to Avicii, and several of his fellow entertainers have performed tribute concerts in his honor. Hopefully this sad outcome will help the entertainment community place an increased value on the lives of its members. Unfortunately, Avicii’s death serves as just the latest reminder that even the most successful musicians are not exempt from the consequences of depression.