Between TOP’s apparent suicide attempt and Gain’s back-and-forth with the police, it seemed to me like a good time to make some observations about mental health, both in general and in the peculiar world of K-Pop.
1. Medical translation is its own area of specialty. Getting medical information translated correctly is a huge challenge even in hospital settings, where the stakes are very, very high.
And any time these types of stories come up, you’re actually dealing with several layers of communication problems. The first layer of problems happens when a medical specialist attempts to communicate with a lay journalist writing for a lay audience. (No lie: I used to joke when I wrote about medical issues that I was actually a translator.)
It’s not like Korean journalists are particularly hard working or competent. So, it’s Korean medical specialists => Korean reporters => Korean news stories, and then Korean news stories => English news stories.
So when police in Korea say what is translated as “TOP’s not unconscious; he’s just asleep!” (and of course the asshole haters say, “He’s just taking a nap!” because they are 1. assholes, and 2. haters)–well, yes, the police are probably trying to minimize what happened to TOP, but in all likelihood that statement wasn’t anywhere near as egregious as it comes across in English.
What would they say in English? Good luck figuring that one out–they’d probably just stick to the fact that he’s not in critical condition and is capable of being roused. Maybe they’d say that he’s unconscious but not in a coma, but maybe not. Even terms like “unconscious” and “coma” are less cut-and-dried than people often think: We have a widely used coma scale, but it’s considered kind of unhelpful in medical circles for a lot of reasons.
2. Disorders are called disorders for a reason. Honestly, I really hate the slack-jawed gaping that happens when people clearly have significant mental-health disorders. You get this audience that’s like, “Wow, look at these people!!! Why are they acting so crazy!? Why are they so ridiculous? Where’s the popcorn?”
Yes, Gain overreacted when a buddy suggested she smoke pot, and she didn’t anticipate that the police would be interested even though Korea has very strict laws regarding marijuana. Gain has a panic disorder. That fact explains everything about her behavior.
Do you think well when you are panicking? No. Irrational thoughts are a hallmark of panic and anxiety disorders! Her buddy suggested pot, and Gain freaked the fuck out because she has a panic disorder. She panicked when she shouldn’t have; hence the term panic disorder–if her panic were under control, she wouldn’t have a panic disorder. Gain was unable to realistically predict the consequences of her actions because she has a panic disorder. Her excessive panic caused her to make bad choices; this is why it’s called a panic disorder, not a panic all-is-well-you’re-doing-great-everything’s-in-order!
(Personal note: You should have seen the shit show when a totally qualified mental-health professional suggested that one of my relatives go on a common prescription medication for their panic disorder. This is why I don’t work in mental health.)
Why is it called a broken leg? Because your leg is broken. Why is it called a ruptured spleen? Because your spleen is ruptured. Why is it called a panic disorder? Because your panic is fucking up your life.
Why is Gain acting the way she is? Because she has a panic disorder. She told people she has a panic disorder, she’s acting like someone with a panic disorder, and people just can’t put two and two together to figure out what the holy heck is going on with that Gain gal!
3. Being super-judgmental is not helpful. It’s not just the people blathering on about how someone who attempted suicide is “weak” (dicks). It’s also the people saying that Gain is a stupid bitch. Anyone with a serious panic disorder is 1. stupid (i.e. not thinking well, because panicking), and 2. a bitch (i.e. not much fun to be around, because panicking).
It’s especially obnoxious when, hello, the person informed everyone about their mental health issue. “I have a broken leg.” “People just say that because they want sympathy!” “I have a broken leg.” “Why can’t you walk?” “I have a broken leg.” “Why ain’t you running?” “I have a broken leg.” “Why are you lying on the ground?” “I have a broken leg.” “Stop making excuses, you rotten lazy bum!”
But the main problem with laying into people who are suffering from depression or any kind of anxiety disorder is that they are already laying into themselves. You don’t attempt suicide out of an excess of self-love.
It’s also important to keep in mind that everyone is just one hardship or catastrophe away from experiencing a depressive/anxiety/post-traumatic-stress disorder of their very own. You don’t develop these disorders because you’re weak (dicks) any more than you rupture your spleen because you’re weak.
4. Self-reflection is not some panacea. I’m all for people being self-aware, but the whole emphasis on self-reflection in K-Pop…a-ha-ha-ha. I mean, the people telling TOP that they wanted him to reflect, not commit suicide–oh my God, what a bunch of self-deluded control freaks. “Oppa, I wanted you to hate yourself this much, not that much!”
This is I think where the fact that many K-Pop fans are very young comes into play: People seem to honestly believe that they can send an adult with problems into a corner to think about what he’s done, and once the timer runs out he’ll stop spitting into the other kids’ milk and everything will be taken care of.
The problem is that depressed and anxious people are already thinking about themselves–specifically about how much they suck. They’re thinking about that a lot. The psychological term used for this is rumination, and it’s regarded as a pathological thought pattern that is important to break out of if you want to get better.
On the off chance that you’ve been feeling “weak” or like a “stupid bitch,” rather than suggesting self-reflection, I’m going to list some books that I have found helpful with my own mental-health issues (caused by my own deep-seated and inherent inadequacies, of course). I also see a therapist, get regular exercise, and get as much sun exposure as I can during the dark & gloomy months, but I started with books, because they were easy and cheap, and they did help.
Honestly, a big part of the battle is taking that first step.
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns
- Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by
- Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson
- The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach To Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky