Other than being a global superstar with hit songs such as “Dynamite”, “Mic Drop” and “Boy With Luv”, BTS is also known for their support for social issues. Last June, the South Korean music group reportedly donated US $1M to social justice and human rights movement Black Lives Matter. Their fans, ARMY, soon followed their steps and donated the same amount to match their idol.
BTS is also known for their partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for their #ENDViolence campaign to fight bullying among youths and to be kind with each other through sharing notes. Their activism on issues related to violence dated back in 2017. Still in partnership with UNICEF, they launched the “Love Myself” campaign. The social programs focus on prevention on violence against children and teens, as well as supporting victims of violence. In 2020 the campaign won UNICEF Inspire Award.
Their concerns towards anti-violence movements are what makes their fans admire them. If we look back at their earlier years, BTS has always shown concerns on issues revolving around youths. It can be seen through their older songs, such as “N.O”, “No More Dream”, “Tomorrow”, “Run”, and “Change”, a collaboration song between leader Kim Namjoon with rapper Wale.
Other than that, they are also vocal about mental health issues. In their interview with Entertainment Weekly, BTS addresses the importance of shining lights on loneliness and low self-esteem through their songs. Quoting from the interview, member Suga 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.”
He hopes that more people will openly talk about it, especially fellow celebrities and bring mental health issues to the surface. In another interview with Billboard back in 2018, Suga also stated the importance of awareness to create an environment where people could easily seek help and openly talk about their troubles. In terms of their concerns about the issues, here are four ways BTS talks about mental health:
1. BTS and Books About Mental Health
Namjoon, whose stage name is RM, is known as an avid reader. The 26-year-old rapper is always seen accompanied by books. One of the most famous books about mental health that RM reads is I want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Se-hee. The author talks about her experience with distimia (persistent depressive disorder), taking the form of a conversation between herself and her psychiatrist.
In South Korea, the self-improvement book has become a bestseller because mental health issues that are written in the book resonate with many people. Min Yoongi or Suga also recommended About Grief: Insights, Setbacks, Grace Notes, Taboos, in which authors Ron Marasco and Brian Shuff talk about grief and mourning.
2. BTS Talks About Mental Health Through Songs
Suga is known to be the most vocal when talking about mental health. In “The Last”, one of the songs for his solo project as Agust D, he stated that he suffers from anxiety, self-hatred, and depression during his youth. His other song “So Far Away” also expresses the feeling of loneliness to the point of anger, abandonment, and the sinking feeling of being left behind.
BTS’ song “Whalien 52”, meanwhile, talks about loneliness and being alienated. The song is inspired by the 52-hertz whale or the loneliest whale in the world, discovered back in 1989. Their hidden track “Sea” in Love Yourself: Her album narrates about how sometimes success did not bring happiness. True joy can be achieved by accepting one-self. In line with the song, “Epiphany”, the solo song from Kim Seokjin or Jin, also emphasizes the importance of loving yourself.
3. BTS Talks About Mental Health Through “Love Yourself”
Self-love is said to be the key for forgiveness, acceptance, and mental health. In the same interview with Entertainment Weekly, RM claimed the concept of “Loving Yourself” is about accepting ourselves with love, including ironies and all the things we are destined to be with since the beginning. ARMYs even initiated the hashtag #ARMYLoveMyself to share what they love about themselves and what they have to learn for that thorough self-acceptance.
Citing RM speech, which inspired many ARMYs and general public alike, for the launching of Generation Unlimited at UN General Assembly in 2018:
“After releasing Love Yourself albums and launching the Love Myself campaign, we started to hear remarkable stories from our fans all over the world, how our message helped them overcome their hardships in life and start loving themselves. These stories constantly remind us of our responsibility. So, let’s all take one more step. We have learned to love ourselves, now I urge you to ‘speak yourself’.”
4. BTS Talks About Mental Health During COVID-19 with BE
The pandemic has not been easy and it has affected everyone, especially in terms of mental health. To help cope with the situations, BTS released their seventh mini album BE. During their global conference for the album, member J-Hope or Jung Hoseok mentioned that during the pandemic, he felt they had a chance to take a break, but it still tinged with uncertainty.
To overcome those difficulties, BTS as a group wants to share a message that there is still hope for the future. The song that clearly touches the issue of the pandemic is “Life Goes On”.
In the 75th United Nation General Assembly, BTS as brand ambassador for UNICEF claims everyone will get through all these hardships. In his speech RM mentioned everyone should be reminded of who they are, loving themselves, and speaking for themselves, in particular during the hard times of pandemic.