Artist News

Benga calls for better awareness of mental health issues

By | Published on Monday 5 October 2015


Benga has spoken further about the mental health problems that led him to announce his retirement from music last year.

As previously reported, the producer and DJ revealed his diagnoses of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder on Twitter last month. He explained that prior to his decision to step back from his career, he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He blamed heavy drug use and a hectic touring schedule for triggering his breakdown.

Now tentatively returning to music, playing a DJ set at last month’s Bestival and preparing to release a “future funk” album created before receiving treatment, he called for more discussion and awareness of mental health in dance music and club culture.

“We have a [party] culture where it’s not about having fun, it’s about outdoing your mates and going on unnecessary benders”, he told The Guardian. “If I’d heard of more cases it would’ve made me think more about what I was consuming.”

Before receiving treatment, he began giving away valuable possessions randomly to people in the street, and later turned violent, which was how he came to be detained in a specialist hospital. However, there had been signs that all was not right earlier, which had gone unchecked.

“I started to get anxiety and paranoia [in my mid-20s]”, he explained. “I found myself getting high because of it – I’d be in a situation and I’d be anxious, so I’d think: ‘Let’s get out of it’. People would say to me: ‘You need to slow down’, but I didn’t recognise that anything was wrong”.

From there, things spiralled out of control. Now he hopes that by speaking about what he’s been through, other people might spot signs that they should seek help for themselves or friends earlier. And that recovery is possible.

“I never thought it would happen to me”, he says. “As a kid, I remember there was one lady in Coulsdon who used to walk around with a doll, and that’s what I used to think when I thought about mental health. We think of mental patients in films; we need to see people like myself. People need to see that I can function and I’m not manic now, and that this can happen to anyone”.

“I would plead with anybody who sees anything wrong with their mates, their family members, to act on it straight away”, he continued. “That way you can limit the damage that’s done. Too many people are blasé. I see it in other people now more than ever. I see the mood swings and the paranoia and I think to myself: ‘You’re on a bad road'”.

Read the full interview here. Find out more about mental health issues and their treatment via the Mind website here.