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K-pop boy band shines a light on mental health

Image: iStock

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. 

And:

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.

Alice Cooper Definitive hits CD
A number of Alice Cooper’s hits bring mental health into the spotlight.

 

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. 

 

If this post has brought up any issues for you, please seek help. For Australians:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

If you are in immediate danger, contact 000 or other national emergency number.

 

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Australian children face a mental health crisis

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

According to Natasha Bita in the Herald Sun, Australian children and teenagers are facing a mental health crisis. (Mental Health 360: Shocking rise in Aussie teens being medicated, 2 December 2020).

1 in 13 teens are taking antidepressants and/or other psychiatric drugs.

Health and youth experts claim COVID-19 is a factor to this worrying trend. 87,781 primary school – aged children and 134,439 teenagers were prescribed medications for various mental disorders over 2018/2019.

What diagnoses children are receiving?

Not surprisingly, anxiety and depression are major issues facing a number of children. What’s worrying is that primary school and preschool – aged children are also being diagnosed.

Yourtown chief executive, Tracey Adams told Herald Sun that domestic violence is exacerbating these rates.

Children are also being diagnosed with other conditions, including ADD/ ADHD, psychosis and conduct disorder.

The increase in conduct disorder diagnoses has surprised and alarmed me. How can more children be diagnosed? Is it over diagnosis; an accusation commonly aimed at ADD/ADHD?

Or is it something else? As I wrote before, alarms surrounding domestic violence have been raised. According to Better Health Channel, parental aggression (particularly from the father) and domestic violence are risk factors that can trigger the disorder.

Government response

To be honest, I think that the Federal and State governments have failed in this area. It’s too little, too late.

Only now has the Government offered Kids Helpline extra funding for fifty more counsellors. Why wasn’t enough support put in before the pandemic hit?

I think this exposes the great flaws in the Australian mental health system as a whole. There isn’t enough support for those who need it, but haven’t reached breaking point.

Parents play vital role

Psychologist and founder of Parentshop, Michael Hawton told Herald Sun that most anxiety in children is “learned”.

If kids are surrounded by parents who are highly rushed and speaking and behaving anxiously, it’s hard for them to not pick up on that.

He also suggested that parents teach children about facing problems head on rather than avoiding them. Emotional reactivity should also be minimised.

Blaming social media and anxious parents doesn’t solve the problem

Many commenters on the Herald Sun article have blamed social media (surprised?). But to me, the issue is much bigger.

There are obviously children and teenagers that need ongoing help. Some may need different therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). There may be children that need to be removed from violent or abusive homes. Victims of bullies need support to have their self – esteem built back up.

Psychologists and/ or Masters qualified Social Workers need to be employed in all schools.

Also, I really do think the Australian mental health system needs an overhaul. Medicare is grossly inadequate in funding mental health.

The Australian mental health system seems to help two types of people: those who don’t need ongoing professional help. Or, the other extreme: those who are at high risk of harm or suicide.

Both State and Federal Governments have failed in dealing with psychological costs of lockdown and COVID-19. Counselling services should have been properly funded in the first place. It isn’t good enough.

Lastly, all mental health costs should be covered by the Government. If not through Medicare, through other means.

 

What are you thoughts? How can people with mental or behavioural conditions be helped?