A new weapon has been unleashed in the fight against mental illness - K-pop.

Two weeks after K-pop group BTS delivered an emotional speech at the United Nations urging young people to "love yourself", the Korean Government is funding K-pop dance workshops to help Kiwis fight depression.

The first of three Auckland CBD workshops kicked off at the Ellen Melville Centre at Freyberg Place on Monday morning.

Rina Chae, an internationally acclaimed choreographer who is leading the Korean Consulate funded workshops, said K-pop was an ideal tool to fight depression.

K-pop dance workshops will be run by Rina Chae for Mental Health Awareness Week. Photo / Doug Sherring
K-pop dance workshops will be run by Rina Chae for Mental Health Awareness Week. Photo / Doug Sherring

"You hear music these days and sometimes you wonder if it's appropriate for kids to listen to, and I genuinely believe the type of music you listen to affects your mindset and your mental health," Chae said.

"In K-pop, generally, the beat is upbeat, it's cute, it's happy, it makes you want to smile and get along with it too. It lifts your mood and makes people happy."

Korean Consul General Baekwan Hong said the workshops were aimed at raising awareness of mental health and mental illness in New Zealand during Mental Health Awareness Week.

"Mental illness is on the rise in New Zealand, especially among youth," Hong said.

"A cross-sector collaboration of this kind is critical to bring positive change in our society."

Hong said he hoped the workshop would introduce K-pop to more New Zealanders and encourage them to make new friends, keep active and stay physically and mentally healthy.

Workshop participant Ellen How, 36, said she often turns to K-pop music when she's feeling down.

"It makes me feel happy and I think the messages and lyrics in some of the songs can also be very empowering," said How, a piano teacher.


K-pop fan Astrid Lin, 21, said listening to her K-pop heroes talk about their struggles and depression have helped her open up about her own feelings of depression.

"I am really a big fan of K-pop, and to hear that my heroes are just as human as me has made me feel it's okay to talk about feeling broken sometimes," Lin said.

Lyrics from BTS touch on subjects like mental illness and issues students face in school. Last November the band partnered with UNICEF for an anti-violence campaign called "Love Myself".

Behind the glamorous and lucrative show-business lifestyle, several K-pop stars like T-ara's Jiyeon and Minah of Girls' Day have also openly talked about their own struggles with depression.

Jonghyun, the lead vocalist of SHINee, took his life just before Christmas last year.

In his letter, Jonghyun wrote, "I'm broken from the inside. The depression that has slowly eaten away at me has finally consumed me, and I couldn't beat it."

BTS at the United Nations. Photo / Supplied
BTS at the United Nations. Photo / Supplied

During the UN speech, BTS leader RM talked about his struggles on his journey towards self-actualisation.

"I tried to jam myself into the moulds that other people made. Soon I began to shut out my own voice and listen to the voice of others," he said.

"No one called out my name and neither did I. My heart stopped and my eyes closed. Like this, I-we-all lost our names. We became like ghosts.

"But I had one sanctuary, and that was music."

The next K-pop dance workshops will be held on Wednesday and Friday at 11am also at the Ellen Melville Centre. Limited spaces, email re.reconnectnz@gmail.com to enrol.