Armin van Buuren says Avicii’s death made him prioritise mental health: “When I started DJing, this was never a topic”

“I think that’s the biggest danger of this industry — no matter how great it is — is that it’s very difficult for most artists to say no and to choose for themselves.”

Avicii and Armin van Buuren

Image: Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images

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Producer, DJ and trance legend Armin van Buuren has opened up about how Avicii’s passing has sparked a much needed conversation about mental health in the dance music industry.

As one of the world’s top DJs for the last two decades, van Buuren is no stranger to the rigours of a touring lifestyle. But the 46-year-old admits in a recent chat with The National that Avicii’s tragic death by suicide in 2018 had forced him to take a long, hard look at his own mental well-being.

“Mental health is now an issue and people are aware,” van Buuren told the publication. “When I started DJing, this was never a topic. You’re like, ‘Oh, I’m so tired’. [People would reply,] ‘Oh, stop whining man, they’re paying you so much money and you’re on a private jet. What are you complaining about?’ and that’s the biggest pitfall.

“I think that’s the biggest danger of this industry — no matter how great it is — is that it’s very difficult for most artists to say no and to choose for themselves.”

He continued: “I think it’s really important to find that balance for yourself. And to be honest, right before Covid, I didn’t have that balance even though I had just released an album called Balance. I was too much of a people-pleaser trying to not disappoint festival owners, not disappoint my fans, wanting to say yes to everything.”

The DJ added that Avicii’s death and the pandemic had changed how he chose to use his time — he has since given up alcohol, started therapy and meditation, as well as prioritised spending time with his family.

“Sooner or later, every artist will run into that wall and then you need a good team of people around you to support [you] so you can stay in contact with your own soul,” said van Buuren.

“I’m blessed because I have a great team and great management. And they’re super honest with me and they look after me. But if you’re a young and upcoming artist, that may not be the case. But I have a manager who says ‘yeah, is this what you really want?’ and checks in. I think that’s all thanks to Avicii.”

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