Adegbenga Adejumo, better known as Benga, recently opened up about his mental health issues. Now, he’s given invaluable insight into the breakdown he experienced two years ago, a move which should help and encourage others who are experiencing similar problems to seek the help they deserve.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Adejumo explained that “part of me opening up and talking with people about mental health is a way of moving forward,” and that “it’s good to see people on my Twitter feed talking about it.” He’s also keen to make clear that the problems he faced are even more of a taboo within the dance music community than they are in everyday life, and that he hopes his experience will change attitudes within the industry.
Directly addressing the issue, Benga explained that the perception of an artist normally overlooks the reality of a person’s life. “This industry is all about perception: a lot of people wouldn’t want anybody to think they’re weak, or that they can’t do what they do, or that they’re not cool. Nobody wants to come clean, let alone an artist.”
He also puts some–though not all–of the blame on recreational drug use. “I’d been taking them since I was 17 years old, but it really started to affect me when I was about 22, 23. The majority was ecstasy but I also discovered ketamine when I was 25. I started to get anxiety and paranoia, but it’s always been in my nature to carry on and think that everything is going to go away.” The lifestyle of a touring DJ simply compounded the problem, and led to him being arrested and then sectioned in March 2014.
Now taking positive steps towards coping with his illness, including making new music, Benga is focusing his efforts on making sure others recognize their problems and hopes to remove the stigma around mental health issues. “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.”
His message is simple, and applies to anyone, from top-tier DJs to your friends and family–get help if people need it, and don’t be afraid to speak out. “I would plead with anybody who sees anything wrong with their mates, their family members, to act on it straight away, 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.’ I can see it in some A-list celebrities, and I think: ‘Who’s around them, who’s going to help them take that step to sort it out?’”
If you or anyone you know suffers from mental health problems, help is at hand. Mental health offices and counsellors in your area can offer impartial advice, and if you feel someone is in immediate danger as a result of their mental state do not hesitate to call the emergency services.