This morning, I woke up to the news that kpop idol Sulli, Choi Jinri, had taken her own life.  Although I’m relatively new to the world of kpop, Sulli was instantly notable to me for several reasons.  First, as a member of the group f(x).  Then for her solo release earlier this, Goblin, a song (and official video) that focused on mental health issues.  Finally, for her surprisingly forthright discussions concerning her own battle with depression.  I say surprising because, in an industry where public images are carefully crafted and curated by entertainment companies, Sulli’s interviews were personal, raw, and brutally honest.  I recall reading one such interview just a few weeks ago wherein she admitted that her sunny facade belied a painful internal struggle with depression.  

Many will debate the causes, but there’s no doubt that the pressures of being an idol, and the demands placed upon her, contributed to the strain she was under.  And then there were the pressures applied on her by the media and an at times mean-spirited fandom.  I mention the latter because, in one of her last instagram posts, she talked about the considerable amount of negativity directed at her on social media, at one point, clearly exasperated, wondering: “I’m not a bad person.  I’m sorry.  Why do you say bad things about me?  What did I do?”.

It’s incredibly sad.

The internet now offers the opportunity for a direct connection to individuals who, in the past, may have been unattainable.  Today, if you tag your favorite celebrity, there’s a chance they may respond by liking your post, perhaps even answering with a message of their own.  It creates a pseudo-intimacy that proves a double-edged sword, empowering people in both good ways and bad.   I remember going out to dinner with an actor who admitted that he is always heartened by the many positive messages fans send his way, but he invariably can’t help fixating on those lone occasional negative comments.  It’s human nature, I think.   Celebrities are particularly susceptible to the best and worst the internet has to offer.  And those that struggle with depression are especially vulnerable.   

I have a few friends who battle depression, several online acquaintances who have been quite honest and open about their own internal struggles, and I’m often at a loss as to how to help.  Words of support always struck me as insufficient, but recent experience has taught me that even these seemingly smallest of gestures go such a long way toward allowing others to feel less alone.  And that can make an enormous difference.


8 thoughts on “October 14, 2019: Sulli

  1. Sad, and unfortunately a big problem in many industries. Many of them often got ignored.
    Have lost a few colleagues myself over the years. 🙁

  2. As someone who has to fight depression regularly I can tell you from my personal experience that sometimes the most insignificant things can be what breaks through for you. My worst fight with depression it was someone else’s laugh that helped me overcome. Kind words are always appreciated, if for no other reason than it reminds me that I’m not alone. That maybe there is someone else out there that gives a damn. I can’t say they always make a difference but for me I’ve learned that I never know what will be the thing to break through the depression. So keep being you, you just the way you are are enough to help someone through something devastating.

  3. Katie said it better than I could. I struggle with depression every day, and believe me even the smallest gesture such as your liking one of my posts can lift my spirit. Simple acts of kindness make a tremendous difference in my life and I believe in others.

  4. I spent a good part of my teen years and all of my 20s being suicidal. It was hell and I didn’t think I would make it to 40 (I’ll be 37 in a few weeks). I used to say at least the body shuts down with so much pain but not the mind. Eventually, after a very long and agonizing road, I got better but I know what that precipice feels like. It breaks my heart to hear when people take their lives. I’m so sorry to hear this.

  5. Definitely what Katie said. Sometimes the smallest kindness can break through. It can make a huge difference.

    I’ve seen how some public figures are treated on-line, and I’m not sure how they can even deal with it. I remember some of the hate by “fans” of SGU directed to the actors on Twitter and was so disappointed. And now they even organize into groups of trolls to try to bring down well-known people. Although it has its positive aspects, it seems especially lately that social media has been more of a pox on humanity.

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