PhD candidate Anson Au on mental health in East Asia: K-pop deaths show East Asia must end stigma surrounding mental health

PhD candidate Anson Au recently wrote an op-ed published by South China Morning Post, entitled “K-pop deaths show East Asia must end the stigma, and the solitude, that surrounds mental health.” The op-ed discusses the deaths of Korean pop stars Goo Hara and Sulli and the stigma surrounding mental health in East Asia. He argues that “more community outreach and specialised resources for reaching specific groups” is necessary to combat the mental health crisis in East Asia.

Anson Au is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research interests include sociological methodology, culture, politics and theory.

The full article is available here. We have posted an excerpt below.

…A pang shot through me when headlines blared that Goo Hara had died from suspected suicide – just a month after her best friend Sulli’s death. 

“That’s the thing about pain,” goes a popular line in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. “It demands to be felt.”

Recent medical and social science literature have added to this picture, showing that pain also demands to be spread. Mental health is contagious in patterned ways. And these patterns tell a compelling story of a mental health epidemic on the rise in East Asia.

Mental health troubles, such as distress, depression and anxiety, can spread subconsciously through social interactions like a virus. This can be short term. People reflect observations of others’ moods and negative emotional states onto themselves. We see this most clearly in emergencies, when someone’s panic or anxiety triggers a chain reaction in others.

Read the full article.