December 18, 2017: Paying Our Respects
Written by Ajané J.K. Celestin
It’s hard to know what to say.
Although we are a visual novel company, we know many of our fans are entrenched in the K-Pop fandom. It’s a tight-knit community, so shock waves travel far when tragedy happens.
When I woke up this morning, I learned about SHINee’s Jonghyun’s death and immediately told the others. Saying words like we were in shock, or that we felt sad doesn’t seem to be enough. Although none of us were personally SHINee fans, we often talk about idols as a collective, as we respect them all immensely for their hard work. Besides that, a life has been lost. There’s really no need to explain why we felt sad in a situation like this, is there?
Until official statements were made about the incident, we decided not to say anything out of respect. But once the statement came out, we began to see the news spread and other, worrisome news came out of how fans of all types have been severely affected. That’s when we all felt the need to reach out and say something to those of you who might have been affected by Jonghyun’s death.
Although there is a lot of information out there right now that we can’t possibly speculate on, it seems that many people are attributing this to a suicide caused by Jonghyun’s mental health. You may be thinking about your own mental health, or that of someone you love, or someone you’re a fan of. Whether you are personally saddened by it, or whether it made you think about things that made you sad…You’re not alone in this. No matter how lonely you feel, there is always someone who cares.
I care. We care. I promise you, we care about YOU.
All of us at Aeon Dream have struggled with mental health and it’s not a fight that goes away, though it does get better if you’re able to grow in an environment that encourages that. But the struggles of celebrities, especially idols, and the state of mental health in many countries is not something that is openly discussed.
After hearing about what happened, and what might have been the cause, I decided that mental health was something I definitely wanted to discuss in To the Edge of the Sky. We have done so in our past games, but I want to put a candid focus on it in TTEOTS. After seeing so many of our TTEOTS fans struggle in their daily lives, not knowing what’s happening to them – and after we’ve personally been through these kinds of struggles – it feels like it just makes sense.
We don’t want to let Jonghyun’s tragedy become just one of many, if there’s anything we can do. Although we’re just writers and artists, if there’s any way we can help start a dialogue about mental health throughout the world, then it’s our responsibility to do so. If there’s any way that we can comfort you and help you understand what you’re going through, then it’s something we will do without hesitation.
Although discussing mental health is quite controversial in many places right now, we think it shouldn’t be. The effects of it are real, no matter how people may try to ignore or hide the truth, it’s something that impacts each and every one of us. We want you all to be able to live in a world where self love means taking care of your health – physical and mental. A world that doesn’t force you past your limits, or make you feel like you have to hide how you feel behind a smile, because we all understand that we’re only human.
If TTEOTS can contribute to a world where you can express how you feel, and receive help freely without being judged, then it’s our responsibility to work towards that, no matter what.
I want to end this by saying that there’s an album this year that came out that deals with a lot of the rawness of mental health issues very candidly, but in a brighter way than one might expect. It’s Paramore’s “After Laughter” and it’s personally helped me through a lot of hard times (which is coincidentally, a song on the album).
Regardless of whether the music is your style or not, if you are dealing with mental health difficulties, I encourage you to look up the lyrics, listen to the honesty in her voice, and know you’re not alone. (There’s also a very meaningful song on the album called “Idol Worship” I personally think is important for fans to listen to in order to understand from a celebrity’s POV how they sometimes feel.) I respect Paramore and especially their lead singer Hayley so much for bringing the honesty of mental health, particularly from a celebrity’s point of view to the table.
I kept thinking about how much bravery that must have taken, and how could I help? But now, it’s clear to me.
In respect of Jonghyun’s memory, I’d like to do the same and help the only way I can by including themes involving mental health in TTEOTS. We will all work hard to make sure we bring you a game that is a meaningful, comforting experience. No matter what’s going on in your life right now, or how you’re feeling, we’re here for you. Again, you’re not alone, and things can and do get better. Please continue to come along with us on this journey and see where everything goes.
The thoughts contained herein reflect the personal thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and feelings of the writer.