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James Blake opens up about mental health and “suicidal thoughts”

“I was taken away from normal life essentially at an age where I was half-formed”

James Blake
James Blake

James Blake has spoken out about his struggles with mental health, explaining he suffered “existential depression on a daily basis” at the start of his career.

The ‘Retrograde’ singer, who won the Mercury prize in 2013, opened up about his battle with illness at the Performing Arts Medicine Association’s annual symposium, where he was a guest speaker on a panel called 'You got this: managing the suicide crisis in the arts population'.

Not long ago, Blake had been vocal about problematic descriptors of his music including ‘sad boy’, as well as pointing out the epidemic of male suicide and depression, citing the recent tragic deaths of Avicii and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.

“We are the generation that’s watched several other generations of musicians turn to drugs and turn to excess and coping mechanisms that have destroyed them,” he said. “And there are so many high-profile people recently who’ve taken their own lives. So we, I think, have a responsibility to talk about it and to remove the stigma.”

On the panel, Blake discussed his rise to fame in his early 20s, believing that success at such a young age played a part in his ill health: “I was taken away from normal life essentially at an age where I was half-formed,” he said.

Mentioning his early experiences of touring, he continued, “Your connection to other people becomes surface level. So if you were only in town for one day and someone asked you how you are, you go into the good stuff… which generally doesn’t involve how anxious you feel [or] how depressed you feel.”

“Honestly, a lot of catharsis just came in telling lots of people to fuck off,” he added. “And saying no. Saying no to constant touring. No [amount of] money will ever be enough.”

Blake encouraged other artists who found themselves in similar situations to reach out and get help.

Advice and support can be accessed through the Samaritans or CALM.

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