James Blake has spoken out about his own experience with depression and anxiety, revealing that he experienced “suicidal thoughts” during his early tours.
The London musician was a guest on a Performing Arts Medicine Association panel in Orange County, California on Sunday (July 1).
During the panel – called ‘You Got This: Managing the Suicide Crisis in the Arts Population’ – Blake spoke candidly about mental health as he encouraged artists struggling with similar issues to reach out.
Recalling the experience of touring for the first time (around the time of his break-out EP ‘CMYK’ in 2010 and his self-titled debut album in 2011), Blake said: “I was taken away from normal life essentially at an age where I was half-formed.” [via Billboard]
Speaking about those early touring experiences, the 29-year-old said: “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.
“I would say that chemical imbalance due to diet and the deterioration of my health [while touring] was a huge, huge factor in my depression and eventual suicidal thoughts,” he continued. “I developed [dietary] intolerances that would lead to existential depression on a daily basis. I would eat a certain thing and then all day I would feel like there was just no point.
“There is this myth that you have to be anxious to be creative, that you have to be depressed to be a genius,” Blake later added. “I can truly say that anxiety has never helped me create. And I’ve watched it destroy my friends’ creative process, too.”
Blake also spoke about his experiences with an experimental treatment called EMDR therapy, which he says “really broke the back of all the traumas and repressions that had led me to depression in the first place”. He also said that he benefitted from the positive influence of his girlfriend, who helped him sever ties with people who were enabling his unhealthy behaviour.
“Honestly, a lot of catharsis just came in telling lots of people to fuck off,” he said. “And saying no. Saying no to constant touring. No [amount of] money will ever be enough.”
Blake said that he’d felt compelled to speak publicly about mental health because “we’ve reached a critical point”.
“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. 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.”