How a Korean Boy Band Helped Me Overcome Depression

As BTS continues to gain popularity worldwide, I see a lot of people struggling to understand why they are so successful. People are quick to discount them as just another group of cute boys, and the fact that they’re foreign artists with a primarily female fanbase leaves them especially vulnerable to criticism. A lot of media sources tend to attribute their popularity to their amazing dancing and stage presence, which are definitely worth noting. However, I think most fans are drawn to them for another reason.By dedicating themselves to creating music that tackles social issues, such as mental health and the struggles of learning to love yourself, BTS have created a safe space within their fanbase for people to have their trauma and emotions validated. Many fans, including myself, feel empowered by their music, and have used their work to cope with mental illness. I’ve struggled with depression since I was a sophomore in high school. I dealt with this silently at first, not wanting my friends to see me in a “weakened” state, and had many emotional ups and downs throughout my teenage years. When I first started listening to BTS, I was in my senior year of high school and although I didn’t admit it to myself at the time, I was extremely lost and confused. I was planning to go to a community college while all my friends would immediately go off to 4-year universities, and I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t good enough because of this. As I transitioned into college, I quickly started to feel more lonely and insignificant than ever before. This feeling, combined with watching someone I love struggle to win a nearly ten-year long battle with a terminal illness, made my mental health drop to an all-time low. 

When we’re at our lowest points, I think we tend to develop deep emotional connections to any source of positivity that we can find. For me, that was BTS and their music. I took the empowering, relatable messages in their songs, and clung to them with everything I had. I listened to “Spring Day” almost every day driving home from the hospital, clinging to the line “no darkness, no season can last forever,” while trying desperately to erase images of the ICU from my mind. Days when the weight of fighting depression and body dysmorphia felt especially crushing, songs like “Reflection”, “Epiphany”, and “Answer: Love Myself” reminded me that my life has worth, despite the fact that my brain was trying to convince me otherwise. When I first transferred to Davis and the loneliness of being away from my family and home for the first time was almost paralyzing, songs from mono. validated my emotions and made me feel less alone. 

I also don’t want to ignore their happier songs that don’t have deep, socially conscious messages, as these are just as important. During my lowest points, I didn’t always want to wallow in my sadness and think too much about my situation. BTS’s happier, upbeat songs gave me something to smile about when I was so low that I didn’t know where to start on fixing myself. These little pieces of hope on my darkest days were vital in my process of healing.

If you’re wondering, no, I don’t speak Korean, but lyric translations are easily accessible online. Regardless though, one of BTS’s goals is to spread the idea that music is a universal language that we all speak. We all struggle with our mental health, regardless of race, gender, age, culture, or the language we speak. If you need more proof of this, search videos of BTS performing Epiphany, a song about the struggles of learning to love yourself, at the Rose Bowl. Except for one line in the chorus, the entire song is in Korean, but that didn’t stop an entire stadium full of nearly 70,000 fans from singing every word, united in that moment by a struggle that we all face regardless of our background. I was lucky enough to attend 1 of these concerts at the beginning of May, and Epiphany was a particularly meaningful song for me to hear live. Hearing and singing along to the lyrics made me realize how far I’ve come, and that maybe I am actually starting to learn how to love myself. 

I am happy to say that my mental health is the best it’s been in as long as I can remember. When I have bad days, which are inevitable, I find myself reaching for the comfort and familiarity of the songs (and people) that helped me through my worst points. I still have a lot of work to do, but I am getting better everyday. BTS and their music have inspired me and reminded me that I am capable and strong, and without their influence I know I would not be where I am today.