I am not a K-Pop fan and previously didn’t know who Jonghyun was, but the passing of the SHINEE singer hit me hard, as a depression survivor.
It seems when a celebrity passes away from mental illness, people are shocked or in disbelief, because their private persona turned out to be so different from their public one.
Because they are celebrities, it makes their battle with mental illness even more hard-hitting for fans, who look up to them as idols and role models. Who would’ve known that behind a shining star was such a heavy burden that no one saw?
Does a celebrity’s status somehow legitimate the battle with mental illness more?
I once had a friend who was really close to me at one point. Our relationship strayed because for some reason she was really uncomfortable dealing with mental health issues, and unfortunately, defined my whole identity with my condition.
A person with mental illness is not their illness, just like a person with cancer is not their cancer.
Although it’s easier to draw this connection for mental illness as compared to physical ones, because mental illness somehow seems intuitively connected to our personalities.
After all, who we are is observed by others through how we think, feel and act.
Dear people who are uncomfortable with mental illness, how many celebrity passings will it take to legitimise the pain of the people around you?
For you to realise that they are not weak, or not trying hard enough, or bringing it upon themselves?
Depression has no face, no scar, no open wounds. But when someone confides in you, they are entrusting their pain in you, and trust that you will accept its existence despite not being able to see.
If anything, the struggle with depression has only taught me to see better, and look harder at what I cannot see.