Passion Pit Frontman Discusses Bipolar Disorder, Helping Musicians In Need

By David Konow 05/18/18

“My last manic episode was about two years long... what goes up must come down. It’s an extremely isolating type of depression.”

Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos
Photo via YouTube

After the deaths of Linkin Park's Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, there are more people publicly discussing the mental health of musicians and trying to set up resources that could potentially save lives.

Michael Angelakos, lead singer of the band Passion Pit, is one of those people. He has spoken openly about his struggles with bipolar disorder, and how he’s trying to save his musical peers as well.

As Angelakos told Yahoo, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19. When Angelakos was first learning what was wrong with him, he said, “You don’t want to believe this is a lifelong condition. It’s a very strange disorder to deal with.”

Around the time of his diagnosis, Angelakos was putting Passion Pit together and dealing with intense perioids of mania and depression. 

Through the years he tried to find balance through taking a number of medications including lithium, but he eventually wound up in the hospital a number of times, and had to cancel the band's tour in 2012 because of his mental state.

He also attempted suicide, adding that he felt the most suicidal when he was “cycling out of mania into hypomania, depression, very quick mood changes that trigger feelings and ideas that are essentially along the lines of ‘Well, I think the easiest thing to do right now is to not be alive.’

“My last manic episode was about two years long,” he adds. “Although it’s important to note that what goes up must come down. It’s an extremely isolating type of depression.”

Passion Pit’s second album Gossamer dealt with mental illness. As Angelakos explains, “This was before artists were really talking about this. To my knowledge, it was the first album that traces a manic episode and talks pretty honestly about it. It just became part of my life and that’s when I just started becoming an advocate.”

Ironically it was when he was suffering from a manic episode that Angelakos formed The Wishart Group, a nonprofit organization that helps musicians who are suffering from mental health issues.

“People in film and people in other forms of art tend to have some type of institutional support,” he says. “We don’t have that really in music. I started thinking, if our product is based on our emotional health, wouldn’t it make sense to invest in the emotional health and well-being of an artist?”

In forming The Wishart Group, Angelakos consulted with a number of neuroscientists, and he volunteered to be examined by them as well.

“That was the first time anyone’s ever collected this type of data to track mood and emotional well-being in general on a tour. We’re seeing lots of deaths on the road because people are over-touring. We want to actually utilize what we did and make it into something that a lot of other artists can participate in.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.