The suicide of K-pop star Jonghyun of idol group SHINee has sparked discussion on how Korean celebrities especially K-pop stars are prone to depression despite seemingly living glamorous lives.
Jonghyun revealed in his suicide note that he suffered depression, which the American Psychiatric Association defines as "a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act."
"Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person's ability to function at work and at home," it added.
Jonghyun wrote that "I was broken from the inside. The depression slowly chipped me away, finally devouring me. I could not beat the negativity. I hated myself."
Psychiatrist Kim Byung-soo of the Asan Medical Center where Jonghyun's wake was held said that celebrities suffer depression because of unstable emotional states and separation of identity.
"Psychological studies have already shown that celebrities, who are engaged in creative and artistic activities, have a higher possibility of developing depression than ordinary people. People in such professions are more susceptible to mood swings and emotional consumption than others, elements that are linked to depression," Kim explained.
He added that celebrities experience separation of identity between their real and public personas that may result in their losing of the real selves and depend on their public identity.
Kim said isolation through "severing of all ties from the past self" is a factor in depression among celebrities.
"Becoming a celebrity could be like crossing a river you can never return from. Some people may think that celebrities will always be surrounded by crowds, but their personal relationships are actually very limited and narrow," he said.
He added, "It's really hard for them to get involved in serious relationships with others, because they tend to get defensive with the thought that people like them only because of their appearance and reputation. And that makes them lonely and detached, even from their close friends and families."
Kim said celebrities who suffer mental illness don't seek treatment or visit mental facilities for fear of being recognized by people.
"We can't identify our patients, but many celebs are secretly seeing doctors, while a lot of them may still hide their mental illness," he said.