The No. 1 cause of death for Koreans in their 10s and 20s is suicide. However, many adolescents suffering from mental illness choose to shut themselves out rather than seek help. They write false answers in depression tests to be ‘normal.’
Non-profit organization Mental Health Korea is involved in activities to identify adolescents suffering from mental problems and provide suitable intervention. Adolescents who have overcome such difficulties become peer specialists and help other teenagers in need. There are currently 300 peer specialists.
Moon Dana (age 20), a university student, has been working as a peer specialist for four years. Moon, who has attempted self-harm and suicide and has been suffering from depression since her father’s death, shares her experience through YouTube and offline lectures and suggests policy measures. “I learned that my experience could be a strength,” she said. “It’s difficult to identify depression at an early stage simply by pointing out that there’s a problem and advising counseling. We encourage teenagers by asking them to join a cool project,” said Vice President Jang Eun-ha of Mental Health Korea. She explained that early identification of an adolescent suffering from mental issues, and preventing further deterioration can help reduce social costs of up to 20 million won.
The group uses TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms to cater to teenagers. A posting featuring a dance challenge to the music of BTS Jung Kook’s “Seven” hash-tagged with #mental health I am who I am“ exceeded more than 4.8 million views. The posting, whose main message was to reassure teenagers to share their problems and say that it was okay to admit them, has gained much attention by sharing information of interest to adolescents, such as studying tips.