Home health remedies Benga: “Being sectioned was a pretty hard-core experience”

Benga: “Being sectioned was a pretty hard-core experience”

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A sudden psychotic episode took London-based MC, DJ and producer Benga to the edge of reason. Today, music and the support of others help him stay in tune with his mental wellbeing.

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“My first breakdown happened in September 2013. Looking back, I’d been suffering from anxiety for a while, but didn’t realise that was what it was. I was doing a lot of drugs at the time, taking ecstasy and ketamine every day. I was playing shows, doing radio and I’d just entered a relationship – I was in love for the first time. I had a lot going on.

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“Once, I was lying in bed with this girl. We’d done a lot of drugs and, all of a sudden, I couldn’t move. I’ve always been religious – I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness – and the thing that went through my mind was, ‘God is trying to connect with me.’ We went to hospital, and the doctor told me I’d be OK. I chalked it up to a random event and left it at that.

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“I had a few more similar attacks, and slowly started to lose all sense of rationality. I began to miss gigs. In my head, I was on a mission from God. He told me I had to go and collect what was mine. I would walk up to people on the street and make a certain sign with my arms. I’d ask them, ‘Do you know what you took from me?’ I thought people were following me. I thought the CIA was involved.

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“This carried on for months. I also thought there was a hex on me and that I had to get rid of everything I owned by a certain date, or I would die. I gave away my possessions to random people on the street. I gave away three Rolexes and an Audemars. I gave away rings, chains, all kinds of stuff. At one point, I went into my bank, withdrew £30,000, spent it in Selfridges, then went home, poured bleach all over what I’d just bought and threw it in the bin. One night, I threw away my TV, my sofa and my bed.

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“After a while, my girlfriend called the police and I was sectioned. I was in hospital for about seven weeks. Being sectioned was a pretty hard-core experience. I was around a lot of other people who were ill. I would see a psychiatrist every three to four days, but they are struggling to look after everyone, as giving every person the treatment they need would cost a lot.

“Gradually, I began to realise what I had been doing. The people around me, including my girlfriend at the time, really supported me. When I got out of hospital, I went to my mum’s house, set up a studio and wrote a song called “Psychosis”. I was just writing and reflecting. This process helped me learn to deal with my mental health. I still got ill quite a few times afterwards, but music keeps me going, and it gives me something to focus on. It’s always been my lifesaver.”

“Psychosis” is out now on Illuminate Music 

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