When Kim Jong-hyun, of the pop group SHINee, died suddenly in December, the K-pop community was devastated — including fellow band BTS. Now, less than two months later, the community is still coming to terms with the loss of Jong-hyun, whose death was ruled a suicide.
That's why BTS, also known as the Bangtan Boys, are using their worldwide platform to open up the conversation around mental health.
In a new interview with Billboard magazine, the seven-member group took the time to address the pressures of fame and the importance of speaking up about mental health struggles.
"I really want to say that everyone in the world is lonely and everyone is sad," said BTS member Suga, real name Min Yoon-gi, about Jong-hyun. "If we know that everyone is suffering and lonely, I hope we can create an environment where we can ask for help, and say things are hard when they're hard, and say that we miss someone when we miss them."
RM, real name Kim Nam-joon, added that the band was shocked by the news that Jong-hyun — who had suffered from depression — died by suicide when the 27-year-old was such a successful star, proving that mental illness isn't always apparent or related to one's success.
Speaking about the younger generation, RM then noted that it's the responsibility of policymakers to make resources available to those who are struggling.
"Every day is stressful for our generation," he told Billboard. "It's hard to get a job, it's harder to attend college now more than ever ... adults need to create policies that can facilitate that overall social change."
BTS has never shied away from taking a stand on important matters. Their support of LGBTQ rights is a prime example, which RM specifically tweeted about in 2013.
According to All K-pop, the tweet translates to: "It's Rap Monster. A song about homosexuality. I heard this song before but I didn't know the lyrics, now I know them and I like the song twice as much. I recommend Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Same Love."
BTS' message about mental health is particularly significant considering the Korean entertainment industry is known for its non-stop work culture. This unhealthy environment, especially for young people, has resulted in a number of K-pop stars to die by suicide over the years.
Since the K-pop band has such a huge platform, their message about mental health can help fight the stigma.
BTS' timing of their mental health message couldn't be more apt for Canadians, who recently had their annual Bell Let's Talk Day on Jan. 31, which is a Bell Canada initiative created to raise awareness for mental health, educate people and create social change.
Thanks to BTS, fans are sure to continue the conversation about mental health.