Benga on drug use and his mental health: “I lost everything”

UK dubstep pioneer Benga surprised fans in early 2014 by announcing his retirement from DJing to focus on starting a family. Then last month, in a series of revealing tweets, the producer opened up about the mental health issues that prompted his sudden retirement.

“My bipolar was brought on by drugs and the schizophrenia was the result of excessive touring,” Benga wrote. “Who wants to do my lead interview on my mental health issue, I would like to get this heard now. I’m asked so much about my retirement.”

Now, the Guardian has sat down with the pioneering dubstep producer to talk about the breakdown that led to him being sectioned and diagnosed. “Part of me opening up and talking with people about mental health is a way of moving forward,” Benga told the Guardian. “We have a [party] culture where it’s not about having fun, it’s about outdoing your mates and going on unnecessary benders. If I’d heard of more cases it would’ve made me think more about what I was consuming.”

Benga – born Adegbenga Adejumo – attributes the onset of his mental health problems to excessive drug use, in particular ecstasy and ketamine. “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,” he said. “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’… I didn’t recognise that anything was wrong.”

The hectic touring lifestyle and his declining mental health led to a breakdown that saw him giving away his possessions to strangers – “I lost everything within the space of about four months” – and acting aggressively, which led to his arrest and sectioning in March 2014.

By speaking out about his own struggle, Benga told the Guardian, he hopes to get more people talking about mental health. “Too many people are blase. I see it in other people now more than ever,” Benga said. “I would plead with anybody who sees anything wrong with their mates, their family members, to act on it straight away…

“I know I’m going to battle with this my whole life. I know I can’t touch drugs and I can’t be stupid. [But] there are points now where I think to myself that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. This illness has kind of given me focus: it’s made me realise what’s most important to me and to get my priorities straight.” Read the full Guardian interview over here.

If you’d like to talk about depression or other mental health issues, you can reach Lifeline 24 hours a day on 13 11 14, and Headspace on 1800 650 890.

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