While Swedish electronic dance music DJ Avicii may have looked like he was on top of the world, the music star struggled with his mental health for a long time before his death, according to his father.
In a new interview with the Sunday Times, Klas Bergling spoke extensively about what led his son (real name: Tim Bergling) to die by suicide during a vacation in Oman on April 20, 2018. The musician was 28 years old.
“It’s obvious there were things I didn’t see,” Bergling said.
Throughout his life, Tim was painfully nervous, his father shared. As a “serious” child, he dealt with high levels of anxiety that was exacerbated through his teen years when he had debilitating acne.
“He was a shy person. He wasn’t the one that went into a room with lots of people and started talking or holding speeches,” Bergling told the U.K. newspaper. Eventually “it became a problem.”
Avicii relied on alcohol to loosen up. It was a habit that became all-consuming for the rising music star, who was filling arenas with dance-crazed fans in his 20s. In a 2017 documentary, Avicii: True Stories, he explained how alcohol helped him.
“In the beginning I was too afraid to drink, because I didn’t want to screw up,” he said in the documentary. “But then I realized how stiff I was when I wasn’t drinking. So then I found the magical cure of just having a couple of drinks before going on.”
Avicii’s alcoholism progressed so rapidly that he was hospitalized with multiple bouts of pancreatitis, likely caused by his excessive alcohol consumption. It was then he was treated with opioids to deal with the excruciating pain. Soon, he relied on the drugs.
“At that time I started worrying,” said Bergling, who began to notice changes in his son’s personality. “He was easily upset, easily irritated. It was hard to talk with him.”
Family and friends staged a lengthy intervention in 2015.
“I saw in his eyes that he understood something was going on,” Bergling recalled. “It was one of the worst moments of my life because you really feel you’ve betrayed your son. But it had to be done. It was naive. I’ve heard a thousand times that the fight starts when you’re sober.”
But after rehabilitation, mental health issues lingered. When all the drugs and alcohol were stripped away, Avicii had no means to cope with his feelings. Soon after, Avicii announced his retirement, hoping that avoiding the stage would help him recover.
In the present day, Bergling still struggles with his son’s suicide. Being unable to pinpoint a specific reason for his death is “part of the trauma.”
“It’s the way we are as human beings. We want to have an explanation,” Bergling said, adding that “fame and fortune” are a “very dangerous combination.”
Bergling has created the Tim Bergling Foundation to advocate for the recognition of suicide as a global health emergency. In the meantime, he’s just a father attempting to deal with his grief.
“I find it hard, still. But I will, one day. Tim is here,” he said as he rested his hand over his heart. “Tim was very proud of the Avicii name, but he didn’t want to be Avicii. He wanted to be Tim.”
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.