Mental health is one of the many romanticized issues in society, dismissed as an excuse, and treated like something you can just easily get over with some sunlight and positivity. And it’s so problematic that when people actually try to speak up about their struggles, they get shut down because it brings the mood down. Or for some like celebrities or people with influence, they’re actually put down as “glorifiers” of depression or using mental health as “a concept”.
Somehow, there is no in between and I hate that kind of black and white narrative.
But here came along seven people who are trying to change the narrative on mental health, breaking stigmas, and resonating their struggles through their music and their platform.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, BTS Suga shared his thoughts on mental health. He said, “We feel that people who have the platform to talk about those things really should talk more, because they say depression is something where you go to the hospital and you’re diagnosed, but you can’t really know until the doctor talks to you.”
Mental health is a health issue and should be addressed as such but the way society is framing it is putting people struggling with anxiety and depression further back into the shadows and afraid of seeking help. And this kind of statement from someone who has made a name in the industry that people look up to helps a lot in sparking discussions.
He also added, “[I]f they talk about it openly — if they talk about depression for example like it’s the common cold, then it becomes more and more accepted if it’s a common disorder like the cold. More and more, I think artists or celebrities who have a voice should talk about these problems and bring it up to the surface.”
RM, the leader of the group, also shared how mental health is manifested through their music.
“That’s why we have the concept Love Yourself. We don’t want to preach ‘Do this or don’t do that,’ because that’s not the way that we want to spread our message … We’re born with different lives, but you cannot choose some things. So we thought that love, the real meaning of it, starts with loving ourselves and accepting some ironies and some destinies that we have from the very start.”
As one reddit user put it, RM is aware of the wide audience that BTS now have and they can’t in good conscience give any “advice” because they know that the life they are living and their experiences are different and limited. They don’t act and speak as if they know better.
The more common narrative on mental health has always been telling people to just cheer up, be positive, and work hard. To some, this kind of positivity is just what they need but we also need to remember that mental health problems are also products of systemic issues like poverty and those kinds of words can be cut as insulting instead of helpful.
The “Love Yourself” message that BTS is trying to convey is not a message of “treat yourself” or how one is always worth it with all the bubble baths and pampering. Their message asks for introspection and self correction which are drowned concepts when dealing with mental health.
Their music is as inspiring as their words and you might have probably heard or read the story one too many times on how fans discovered BTS. Some were there in 2013 as they started their journey from the hip hop rebels trying to take their dreams out of the box to the hype of their popularity with Blood, Sweat, and Tears to the era of loving and speaking yourself or to random videos like their Carpool Karaoke. But everything was in perfect timing. They came into the lives of these people just when they needed the motivation and the healing.
Personally, I’d like to share one part of their song in Outro: Wings that I had written in my journal because it resonated so much to me. It was Verse 3, Suga’s rap and it said,
“I believe in myself
My back hurting is for my wings to come out
I believe in you, even if things are bleak right now
The end will be great
Fly, fly up in the sky
Fly, fly get ’em up high
It’s the path you chose, dude don’t be scared
This is just the first flight.”
Suga has never been one to shy away from describing the gothic and dark image of battling your own mind and mentality as you listen to his mixtape, “The Last”. And he is also one to inspire fans with his words. He does not speak of flying and a happy ending without acknowledging the pain and bleakness of life which is somehow lost in translation when we talk about mental health. We’re trying too much to move forward without absorbing and accepting the present and all its baggage.
This group has not amassed millions of followers and fans just because they’re crazy good-looking and talented. That has been the long-standing stigma when it comes to Kpop groups with their cute and LSS lyrics. BTS are right where they are now because they’re respected in their craft. They produce music that has substance and message, music that relates to the people by telling their own stories and validating the struggles.
Jung Hoseok said, “Being able to provide comfort and healing through music to many people. Become another lifestyle to some people. I still find all of this incredible and amazing. And now, it’s still amazing but there’s also a sense of responsibility. There’s a great sense of responsibility because we give hope and healing to a great many people. And that’s why I don’t take music lightly anymore. Not when it comes to music.”
Sometimes, the most inspiring stories are not the stories of winning but stories of getting by from one day to another. The story of persevering especially during challenging times like this. It’s okay not to be okay, embrace those days.