What No One Wants To Say About Avicii’s Passing

Considering the minimized mental health concerns of musicians

Posted Apr 20, 2018

On Friday April 20th, 2018 the world learned about the loss of progressive house music artist and producer Tim Bergling, better known as Avicii. While the cause of death has not yet been released, media sources have highlighted his history of substance-induced health concerns, including a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis and subsequent surgeries for his gallbladder and appendix. Considering this, you may envision an image of a young artist rising in fame and fortune, exposed to a number of designer drugs and limitless alcohol, and decide that you need no further explanation. However, to paint a clearer picture, the Swedish DJ’s potential mental health struggles may warrant recognition as well.

You might scoff...

"With a net worth of $85 million dollars, he couldn’t have been struggling."

But money can’t buy happiness. One in four people will face mental health concerns, and musicians are not impermeable to this reality. In a survey of over 2,000 musicians by Help Musicians UK, over 70% shared suffering from high levels of anxiety and almost 70% shared experiences with depression.  Avicii may not be too different from famous musicians who are known for their underlying mental health struggles such as Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain.

Chris Kirchoff/Pexels
Source: Chris Kirchoff/Pexels

Bergling started producing at the age of 16 and began touring two short years later. Before you know it he was collaborating with chart-toppers such as Madonna, Chris Martin, and Wyclef Jean, achieving Grammy nominations, and earning up to $500,000 per gig. This quick ascension began to take a toll. By 2012 he was hospitalized for pancreatic problems and shortly returned to his career. Intermittent health concerns and surgeries caused him to cancel shows and in 2016 he shared his decision to retire from performing in a heartfelt letter to fans (which has since been removed from his website).

Avicii openly described himself as introverted, insecure, and acknowledged feeling awkward in the spotlight. In a survey of over 500 musicians Help Musicians UK highlighted that musicians commonly experience several stressors which could impact mental health such as lack of sleep, consistency, and proper diet, physical conditions, performance anxiety, fear of judgment, loneliness, discrimination, bullying, and familial problems. We could simply say Avicii’s physical concerns were simply caused by excessive drinking, but that would ignore the common use of alcohol as a method of coping. As he entered retirement, Bergling had openly discussed his struggles and the need for a change to help his well-being.

As we wait to hear further details about the tragic loss of a young pioneer in the realm of electronic dance music, you might be quick to presume that the cause could be attributed directly to physical health struggles. However, even Avicii’s known medical history may be underlined by maladaptive coping that could not be ameliorated by money or success.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a substance problem, you may benefit from contacting the SAMHSA helpline or finding a specialist in your area through Psychology Today's Directory of Therapists.

**Update: On April 26th, 2018 Berling's family released a letter describing the young artist's mental health struggles. 


World Health Organization. (2001). Mental disorders affect one in four people. Retrieved from www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/

Help Musicians UK. (2017). CAN MUSIC MAKE YOU SICK? Retrieved from https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/assets/publications

Help Musicians UK. (2014). Health and Well-Being Survey. Retrieved from https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/

Haig, M. (2015). Kurt Cobain was not a 'tortured genius', he had an illness. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11515605/Kurt-Cobain-was-not-a-tortured-genius-he-had-an-illness.html

Pressler, J. (2013). Avicii, the King of Oontz Oontz Oontz. Retrieved from https://www.gq.com/story/avicii-tim-bergling-profile-gq-april-2013

The Guardian. (2018). Avicii: A life in pictures. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/music/gallery/2018/apr/20/avicii-a-life-in-pictures

Hampp, A. (2014). Avicii on His Health Struggles: 'I Needed to Take a Break'. Retrieved from https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/code/6273842/avicii-health-interview-the-days

Lynch, J. (2018). Swedish DJ Avicii Dead at 28. Retrieved from https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/dance/8358389/avicii-dead-tim-bergling