K- pop boyband, BTS, made waves earlier this month.
On 3 December, they performed at an online event. The concert was meant to start at midnight. The 4th was lead singer, Jin’s birthday.
Two hours before midnight (Korean Time), Jin revealed a surprise new song, with a note on social media.
The song, Abyss, changed the course of the night, as it discussed mental health.
Jin revealed that the sudden success of BTS’ English hit, Dynamite sparked burnout and a feeling of imposter syndrome.
Jin’s anxiety got so bad that he eventually sought professional help and guidance from his boss, Bang Si-hyuk. Si-hyuk encouraged Jin to put his feelings to music.
Mental health in South Korea
South Korea is a powerhouse when it comes to health. It has one of the lowest obesity rates and one of the longest life expectancies.
However, according to Ozy, South Korea doesn’t fair well when it comes to mental health. In fact, it has one of the worst suicide rates among the OECD countries. Up to forty South Koreans a day die by suicide.
Stress is a massive issue among South Koreans. 95% claim to suffer it. For a third of people, it’s chronic.
It’s not just young people that are facing a mental health crisis. 28% of older South Koreans are depressed. Unfortunately, few want to admit it and get help in fear of being seen as weak.
Alcohol use disorder is also rampant in South Korea. It has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in the world at fourteen shots per person per day.
A number of factors may contribute to this worrying trend. These include pressure to be successful and geopolitical tensions with North Korea.
It’s clear that mental health needs to be discussed. Much work needs to be done to break the stigma. Fortunately, BTS has started the conversation.
Musicians/ singers open up about mental health
Over the years, a number of male singers/ bands have been open about mental health.
Paranoid – Black Sabbath (1970)
According to Songfacts, Black Sabbath bassist and lyricist, Geezer Butler told Mojo magazine that Paranoid was about depression.
In the song, the protagonist is clearly paranoid. Butler admitted that he didn’t know the difference between depression and paranoia at the time.
If you look at the lyrics, hints of depression are obvious:
Finished with my woman cos she couldn’t help me with my mind
People think I’m insane cos I’m frowning all the time.
Make a joke and I will sigh
And you will laugh and I will cry
Happiness I cannot feel
And love to me is so unreal.
I never cry – Alice Cooper (1976)
Alice Cooper has been very open about his mental health battles over the years. A number of his songs, including I never cry speaks about his battle with alcoholism.
How are you going to see me now deals with the fall out of his addiction on his family.
In 2017, Cooper joined Canadian mental health campaign Bell: Let’s Talk. He spoke frankly about his battles with alcoholism and depression.
He addressed his 1991 hit, Hey Stoopid, saying that it was written to discourage youth suicide.
His Definitive Hits album has a number of songs where he addresses mental health struggles.
Runaway train – Soul Asylum (1993)
The clip to the 1993 hit is well – known for raising awareness to missing children. However, lead singer, Dave Pirner has stated that the song is about his battle with depression.
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