K-Pop Artist’s Death by Suicide Sparks Conversation About Mental Health


A portrait of Kim Jong-Hyun on a mourning altar at a hospital in Seoul on December 19, 2017.

Millions of fans mourn the tragic loss of K-Pop star, Kim Jong-Hyun, better known as Jonghyun, who died by suicide on Monday at the age of 27. Jonghyun was best known as the lead singer of K-Pop band, SHINee which rose to fame after the release of its debut EP, Replay, in 2008. As well as being a singer and accomplished dancer, Jonghyun played a large part in the group’s song writing and production.  He had also made headlines for speaking out on issues of the government’s education policy and in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

Jonghyun was considered one of the most talented and well- rounded artists in the K-Pop music industry. According to SM Entertainment, the singer’s management company, “Jonghyun is the best artist who loved music more than anyone else, enjoyed the stage, and loved to communicate with fans through his music. We will always remember you.”

Suicide continues to be a prevalent public health issue primarily due to the constant stigmatization of mental health. A petition on change.org was created in honor of Jonghyun asking for more mental health support for artists in the entertainment industry. The petition explicitly asks for all entertainment industries to make a plan or program to monitor mental health in their employees as well as ensuring that the program would not be used against them and harm their careers. This petition, once reaching its goal of 300,000 signatures is expected to be delivered to Entertainment Industries and the South Korean Government.

Hopefully this petition will increase conversations about mental health and suicide prevention as well as recognition of its importance in saving a life.

If you or someone you know is at risk of self-harm or suicide, seek help as soon as possible by contacting the suicide national hotline: 1800-273-TALK.

The Office of Diversity and Equity offers free Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings to the community. They are designed to help the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. 

For questions about registering and the trainings contact Natalie Andrade at nandrade@smcgov.org or 650-372-8548.


Co-written by Kristie Lui, Natalie Andrade (Y/MHFA), and Siavash Zohoori (Storytelling Series)


  • The recent news of Jonghyun’s death hit my K-pop dance team really hard. I’ve passed along the petition and resources to our members. Thank you so much for writing this post, ODE Fam! -Austyn