Trigger warning: this article contains references to substance abuse and mental illness.
When Silverchair first exploded onto the scene in 1994 with their thrashy anthem ‘Tomorrow’, I was in year seven and just six months younger than lead singer Daniel Johns.
I remember being deeply envious of all three band members (Johns, along with Ben Gillies and Chris Joannou) but mostly of this teenage frontman who was catapulted into fame and given permission to let loose on stage in front of first hundreds and eventually thousands of adoring fans.
Being a kid who always found their escape in music and someone who was also drawn to performing, I dreamt of finding the kind of success Silverchair had found so young (athough perhaps not as a musician as I have less than zero talent in that area) and remember going to see the band live, a mix of adrenalin and, still, envy, coursing through me as I joined my peers in the mosh pit.
Silverchair went on to release five studio albums between 1995 – 2007, all of which debuted at #1 on the ARIA Albums Chart and achieved in excess of 10 million sales worldwide.
Johns, who subsequently went on to enjoy solo success as well as with The Dissociatives and DREAMS, was the first songwriter in history to win the prestigious APRA ‘Songwriter of the Year’ award on three separate occasions, and in 2016 also won a Grammy for co-writing Flume’s ‘Say It’ featuring Tove Lo. In short, Johns’ career has been hallmarked with enviable and hard-earned success.
However, as we also now know, that success has come at a huge cost to his physical and mental health — something the singer and songwriter has been bravely candid about over the years.
Having battled both anorexia and anxiety during the height of Silverchair’s fame, Johns released a podcast called Who Is Daniel Johns? in 2021 in which he discussed the impact of fame on his personal life and how it affected his ability as an artist. The podcast included chats with guests including ex-wife Natalie Imbruglia and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan.
As Johns admits, he is a fragile person and perhaps one that was never cut out for the scrutiny of fame, despite his immeasurable talent.
Following a car accident on March 23 this year, which has resulted in the singer being charged with high-range drink driving, Johns has announced his decision to admit himself into a rehabilitation facility to focus on getting better.
“As you know, my mental health is a work in progress. I have good days and bad days but it’s something I always have to manage,” he wrote on Instagram. “Over the last week, I began to experience panic attacks. Last night I got lost while driving and I was in an accident. I am OK, everyone is OK.
“Alongside my therapy, I’ve been self-medicating with alcohol to deal with my anxiety and depression. I know this is not sustainable or healthy. I have to step back now as I’m self-admitting to a rehabilitation centre and I don’t know how long I’ll be there. Appreciate your love and support as always.”
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Johns pled guilty to the high-range drunk driving charge and is now facing jail time.
According to 7 News, Johns’ lawyer, Bryan Wrench, told the Raymond Terrace Local Court that the singer “wanted the matter dealt with immediately because it is causing him anxiety during his three-month rehabilitation program”.
Magistrate Ian Cheetham declined Johns’ request and adjourned the case until June 22 for sentencing.
Johns’ admission, once again refreshingly, if sadly, transparent, should hopefully serve as a reminder that no one is immune to the realities of mental health struggles, no matter how successful or wealthy.
While Johns is not looking to be a poster child for an issue that affects one in five Australians, his willingness to speak about his struggles will still surely inspire others to seek help without shame and to remember they are not alone.
According to the Black Dog Institute, the most common mental illnesses in Australia are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder with these three types of mental illnesses often occurring in combination.
For example, a person with an anxiety disorder could also develop depression, or a person with depression might misuse alcohol or other drugs, in an effort to self-medicate. Of the 20% of Australians with a mental illness in any one year, 11.5% have one disorder and 8.5% have two or more disorders. Almost half (45%) Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
A spokesperson for Johns has confirmed that his new solo album FutureNever will still be released on April 22, which will also be the singer’s 42nd birthday.
John’s announced the new record in December 2021, saying, “This time I’m doing things on my own terms, FutureNever will be the first album I release on my own label via a new global deal with my friends at BMG.
“Call me a hopeless romantic but that’s the benefit of releasing music on your own label,” he explained. “Nobody can tell you what to do.”
The artist also revealed that the podcast had helped him heal from his past and that he is ready to “tackle this new world bravely.”
May he tackle his recovery just as bravely and with as much success as his career has brought him thus far.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.
If you are in need of resources to help yourself or someone you know with issues relating to alcohol use, please call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800-250-015 for free and confidential advice.
If you are in need of resources to help yourself or someone you know with issues relating to drug use, please visit Reach Out Australia or the Alcohol and Drug Foundation for help, information and resources.