These days, it’s thankfully becoming more common than ever for idols to open up about their mental health struggles. However, established stars aren’t the only ones with difficulties. Trainees also struggle with depression, anxiety, unhappiness, and more—and sometimes even therapy doesn’t seem to be the answer. In a recent video, long-time K-Pop trainee Gina Maeng explained why trainees can actually be resistant to talk to therapists to begin with.
Over a period of 12 years, Gina Maeng trained under JYP Entertainment, multiple Kakao Entertainment divisions, and more. While she sadly never ended up debuting despite her talent, she did learn a lot about the K-Pop industry during her time as a trainee. Now a travel writer, K-Pop lyricist, and YouTube creator over at Gina Everywhere, Gina explained the difficulties trainees face when it comes to opening up to a therapist.
Sadly, Gina shared that when she was a trainee, there weren’t any systems in place to take care of the mental health of trainees. Instead, “it was all just about training and making trainees into good singers and good dances.” Now, however, Gina says things have changed.
Gina went on to reveal that a lot of companies are not trying to take care of their trainees’ mental health. Earlier this year, another former trainee—YouTuber Grazy Grace—also explained that the South Korean government’s new standardized contract for all K-Pop trainees mandates that companies have a duty to “help with treatment” for any trainee who develops depression. However, even in spite of this, trainees are still suffering.
Although Gina (who remains a trusted confidante for those still in the industry) says that many companies now provide in-house or outsourced therapists, the problem is that trainees are reluctant to talk to them. While this may sound surprising, there’s actually an understandable reason behind their hesitation.
If you’re training and your company says ‘Okay, this is the in-house or outsourced therapist who will come and talk to you once a month and everything is privileged, you don’t need to worry’… do you think the trainees will actually fully open up and talk about all these issues?
The issue, says the former trainee, is fear of being able to debut. No matter how trustworthy the company therapist appears, Gina says most trainees will still be scared to reveal all the stresses of training just in case the therapist breaks patient confidentiality. If a therapist even lets slip to the company heads that a trainee is experiencing troubles, that trainee may no longer come across as a “healthy, ready trainee who can debut at this moment.”
So, sadly, many trainees are still missing out on mental health support despite the changing industry. That said, Gina proposes a solution that would work for everyone involved: “I think it’s better if the companies, instead of having a company therapist, would help trainees and artists to find their own [therapist].” Unfortunately, Gina also says she doesn’t think most recording companies can afford the time and effort to do so.