TW: Mentions of depression, self-harm, and su**ide.
One of the most controversial yet important aspects of the k-pop life is the idols’ mental health maintenance. Now, mental health is something that has gained its due importance only in recent times. People now, especially the youth, have been suffering through various mental issues, but now, they are not afraid to voice out their pain and call for help.
Unfortunately, k-pop idols do not have this privilege. Idols are always expected to be perfectly happy, consistently maintaining their set image. But as they say, the happiest faces hide the deepest scars. This rings true in the cases of our beloved idols. It’s about time we talk about this. So, we thought, what better occasion than “World Mental Health Day”?
Yesterday I.e., on 10th October, the whole world spread much-needed awareness on mental health. And as much as our adored k-pop idols are loved, their struggles with mental health are the same, if not worse, than all of us normal citizens because, after all, they are humans too.
Hence, here we are, listing out some of the mental health issues k-pop idols have been suffering from:
The daily lifestyle of a k-pop idol is hectic. Like, really, really hectic. From skill development classes to talent training such as vocal, rap, and dance lessons, these activities are pretty intense. Besides these, they constantly practice for their showcases and award show performances, and when they have a comeback scheduled, these activities take things up a few notches. Hence, the stress and the lethargy that follows the idols at the end of the day weigh them down. Eventually, there are a few times that this takes a toll on their mental health because, after all, the body is connected to the brain and heart. Sometimes, it affects them so much that they develop serious issues like food disorders and depression.
2. Lack of Privacy
All celebrities always need to be in the public eye. They work for the world and hence, their lives are always being watched by their fans and the world. But when it comes to idols, this always intensifies. Fans keep track of their idols’ lives, which is nothing wrong with IF done at a limit. Watching over the people you love is obvious. But sometimes, the fans always watching the idols do not let the idols live their personal life peacefully. Their dating life, their familial life, their vacations, or even their solitary time. All of these affect their mental health as a human needs their privacy and our idols are humans too. They need time to rest, spend time with their family and friends, vacation, and love as normal human beings. They deserve their privacy just as much as us.
Sasaengs, also known as toxic fans, are always notorious for making their idols’ lives difficult. Going into their dorms/homes, where they work, their shooting locations, or even when they are alone for privacy, these toxic fans are always there, invading their personal time and space, which is, honestly, so shameful. But they often cross limits when they invade the idols’ loved ones’ privacy, stalking them and following them. These so-called “fans” who claim to love the idols and that they are nobody but theirs’ fail to understand that what they are doing is totally opposite to what real fans do.
These “acts of love” are not only borderline crazy but most importantly, hurting your own idols deeply. And it is SO. DARN. INFURIATING. For the idols’ sake, stop stalking them and at the same time, claim to love them because, please, the oxymoron in your statement is blatantly obvious. It is because of these toxic fans that k-pop stans are labeled as toxic and are always frowned upon in the world. JUST. STOP.
4. Work-Personal life balance
Maintaining a balance between two things is difficult when one of the scales weighs more on one side. The same analogy applies to the idols’ balance between work and personal life. Often, their work schedules are so busy and so overworked that they are unable to get time for themselves and enjoy their personal time. This takes a toll on their mental health, triggering various issues related to their well-being, especially mental and emotional.
5. Fulfilling Fans’ Expectations
Idols work and strive to make their fans happy. They try their absolute best for their beloved fans. But sometimes, in the process of fulfilling their expectations, the idols push themselves too hard and it has negative effects on not only their physical well-being but also their mental health. The feeling of failure in making their fans happy and disappointing them weighs on them like that of Thanatos, holding Mount Olympus on his shoulders.
6. Agency Pressure
The labels and agencies under which the idols work are usually their biggest cheerleaders, second only to their families and fans. But there are times when they exploit the idols for their own gain. Overworking them, objectifying them, and over-sexualize the idols, even the underage ones. These things take an ugly turn for the idols’ mental health, jeopardizing them to a dangerous extent.
Yes, bullying does exist in the k-pop world. Sometimes, it’s even worse than normal. From seniors to staff to sometimes fellow members, idols go through bullying more often than you can imagine. They are forced to tolerate and keep mum about all the bullying they go through because their image of a perfect, happy idol that they maintain would be tainted. Hence, they suffer all alone. This is probably one of the biggest reasons that idols fall into the downward spiral of depression and sadness. This affects them so badly that their physical health is also compromised, along with their rapidly depleting mental well-being.
Idols are often subjected to partiality and mistreatment. Hence, this disrespect, either from variety shows, award ceremonies, or even their own staff. This all is experienced by the idols and they usually keep quiet about all of this and suffer. But what really hurts the idols is when they encounter fans who are partial to one or more fellow idols. Discriminated by your own fandom? That’s the worst. But poor idols keep a brave face and push through it all.
9. Hate (sometimes even death threats)
Now, not everyone loves all idols equally. There are some people who don’t like them to the point of hating them. And just like the love for k-pop is sometimes extreme, their hatred is to the same degree. Their hatred can pull an idol so down that they slip into depression, and even sometimes resort to self-harm.
Disbandment or the exit of a member is always a tough time not only for the fandom but also for the whole band and its members. Disbandment, especially, is a very sad phenomenon, as it marks an end to a tumultuous but beautiful journey. This sometimes weighs too much on an idol, which makes them lonely, triggering depression. While their solo journeys are something to look forward to, the fear of being as successful as a soloist as they were when they were idols also makes them worry a lot. The fear of the unknown eats them alive, catering to poor mental health. And if, unfortunately, they do not make it in their solo careers; it is altogether another depressing factor.
Now there are two ways they have handled these issues. One, either they continue fighting through these issues or, second and the saddest, end this suffering once and for all.
Some of them are unable to handle all of this and they succumb to their depression and, unfortunately, commit suicide. But there is one point which is absolutely necessary to clear that IF THEY COMMIT SUICIDE DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE WEAK. The beautiful idols lost their life to the burden of k-pop, but in the time they lived, they fought their hardest, to their fiercest point. They have braved all the blows that came to them and fought on. Just because one blow was fatal does not mean they were not strong.
It is actually k-pop’s loss that they lost their most talented and, above all, beautiful souls. Not mentioning them would not do any justice to their memory, so here we have the angels who are not in this world but would always remain in our hearts.
Cha Eun Woo
It’s about time we take our idols’ mental health seriously because if we love them truly, it is our responsibility to protect them. Because one thing is for sure, we would fight our hardest and defend our beloved idols in a way that we would lose another member of our k-pop family.