UK Dubstep pioneer Benga has opened up about the mental health issues that drove him to retire from music last February. Benga, real name Adegbenga Adejumo, was diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia after a breakdown two years ago. He states that the disorders were brought on by drug use and the pressures of constant touring. In a recent, in-depth interview with The Guardian, the DJ and producer recounted his decline in detail.
Benga gives some background on the development of his mental health issues.
“It started in winter 2013, that’s when I began to lose control of my body. Around Christmas, I got all of my jewelry together and I started giving it to people as they were shopping. One of my favorite watches was a rose gold Rolex, and I had that in my inside pocket. I remember somebody talking about ‘time’ and I just reached into my pocket and gave it to them. During that period, I cleared out my entire house, not knowing what I was doing. I lost everything within the space of about four months.”
The British producer talks about the decision to speak up, explaining that the industry needs to be more open in their discussion of mental health issues.
“Part of me opening up and talking with people about mental health is a way of moving forward. It’s good to see people on my Twitter feed talking about it.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.”
Benga goes into depth about the drug use that he states was a factor in his mental health issues.
“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. 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 recognize that anything was wrong.”
He then recounts a dark period where he was institutionalized after an incident he doesn't give much detail on.
“I don’t want to scare people but it was an extreme situation and I’d become aggressive. I was seen by a doctor and he decided that I should stay in the intensive unit. It took a while for reality to settle in but the more I spoke about my breakdown, the more I realised that it was common. There’s a lot of stigma around sectioning, as if it’s something you couldn’t possibly do to another person. A lot of people are scared. But it needs to be done.”
Lastly, Benga urges us to help our friends and family before it's too late and states that it 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. That way you can limit the damage that’s done. Too many people are blase. 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? "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.”