More than just a name

Published 10:27 am Thursday, December 21, 2017

To most of you reading this, the name Kim Jonghyun doesn’t mean anything to you. It’s simply a name. For me though, it was a name attached to a smiling face. The face of a Korean singer who I considered myself a somewhat casual fan of in college.

Jonghyun was a part of Korean boy band named Shinee. The pop music he and his four other bandmates released was catchy, soulful, and fun. My college friends were fans of the group, and so I listened to the music too just to check it out. I particularly liked how the group sometimes promoted their music while wearing ridiculous clothing, all bright colors and conflicting patterns and crazy styles.

But, after a while, I stopped keeping up with the group. I followed Jonghyun on Twitter for the rare times when he’d post photos of himself and his friends in funny Halloween costumes. I couldn’t understand the Korean captions, but I needed no translation for the smiling face captured in the photos.

Over the years I moved on to different interests and mostly forgot about Jonghyun. That is until this past Monday morning when I woke up to the news of his suicide.

It was a shock, of course. Any unexpected death is something to mourn over, and it hit me particularly hard because we’re the same age. In a few months, I’ll mark another birthday; Jonghyun never will.

My Twitter feed, where I first learned the news, became filled with discussions on depression and mental health, topics that are often swept under the rug because they’re difficult to speak about. It was nice, at least, to see the online community come together to support each other, offering a virtual shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.

The holiday season is here, but for some people it’s not a happy time of the year. Though I intended originally to write something lighthearted and Christmas-y for my column, I would rather spend this week sharing information on suicide prevention. Perhaps you can help someone speak up, reach out, or offer support.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) website lists warning signs in categories including talk, behavior, and mood. Risk factors can include health, environmental, or historical influences.

Talking about being a burden, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain, or having no reason to live are all words to be taken seriously. Warning behaviors include increased substance abuse, searching online for materials or means, reckless actions, withdrawing from activities and isolating oneself, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, and giving away prized possessions. A suffering person’s moods can range from depression and loss of interest to rage, irritability, and anxiety.

These are all red flags that someone needs help.

The AFSP website also offers guidance on how to support someone who may be at risk. They suggest talking to the person in private, listening, tell them you care, ask them directly if they’re thinking about suicide, encourage them to seek treatment, and avoid minimizing their problems or giving advice.

The national suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or people can text TALK to 741741 to speak with a trained crisis counselor. Both are always open every day of the year.

The name Kim Jonghyun may not mean anything to you, but it meant something to the family, friends, and fans who knew him. It was a name attached to a smiling face. That face which can now only be seen in pictures and videos of the past.

To everyone out there reading, take care of yourself and each other during the holidays.


Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.