Let us first realise that mental health is very real.
However, although mental health is very real – it may not necessarily always be obvious.
We now start to see the subtle signs he’s left behind. The tattoo of a black dog on his left ribcage (a symbolism first introduced by Winston Churchill to describe his own bout of depression); one of his last solo songs that he wrote about dealing with grief over loss of a loved one. The letter he left in his friend’s care to post up if he was gone from the world.
For some of us, we are avid fans. For some of us, we knew Jong-hyun personally. I pen this as an advocate for mental health, and as someone who was shaken over the loss of yet another young artist whose life has been taken away too soon.
Mental health has always been a tricky subject, because our society comprises of vastly different approaches. From the ones who are aware of the validity of mental health issues, to the ones who believe that it’s ‘just a phase’, to the ones who think maybe there are other issues more important than mental health.
I urge us to understand that the signs of someone suffering from mental health issues is not always obvious; and we should take the initiative to be educated further on that.
I urge us being within the community to stop comparing symptoms among one other; to not invalidate another person’s condition just because it’s “different from yours”.
I urge us to be more compassionate; if someone has chosen to trust you and tell you about what they’re going through, take a moment to understand rather than to respond. And if you are given the opportunity to respond, respond with love – put yourself in their shoes and understand their situation.
I urge us to deal with the grief; but to not dwell on it. Yes, it’s understandable if you’re devastated over losing your idol or losing this person that was your family. But let us remember that grief is not what Jong-hyun (or anyone who we have personally lost) would have wanted to be remembered by; but rather to remember the passion and love he had for what he does.
I urge us to realise that there is always two sides to everything; we may never know what someone may be going through beyond their smile and their persona. Take charge to be more aware, to be patient with one another.
I urge us to be kind to one another. We’re all running this race of life, striving to get the very best out of our every day. Instead of picking fights over our differences or petty things, let us learn to love. Yes, we are entitled to our own opinions – but it does not mean we are incapable of mutual respect to one another despite differences in opinion.
I urge us to also understand that we are not to treat pioneers of the mental health field as gods. Yes, doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists do play a part in helping us to feel better either by recommending medication or therapy sessions. However, we cannot blame them entirely if something does not work out according to plan, or if treatment works slower compared to other clients. We should have empathy for both sides of the coin: acknowledging that the struggle for the client is very real, and that (disclaimer: most) doctors genuinely do want to help.
I urge us to acknowledge that yes, maybe we could have seen the signs. But what matters now is that we should treat the current need at hand: that support and love is needed for the people directly affected by his passing. Let us send love their way, and speak with love.
I pen this open letter as a plea.
A plea for us to be more understanding – that with whatever circumstance we may be going through, they are very valid and very real;
A plea for us to realise that we should not take this life for granted, and to appreciate the people around us;
A plea for us to not be afraid to take initiative – sometimes taking that first step to ask how a person is doing can actually save them;
A plea for us to think of what Jong-hyun or any other of our loved ones who we have lost would have wanted: for us to remember them for their passions, for the impact they have made on us.
And you did work hard, Jong-hyun.
We want to hear your story. Become a Relate contributor here.