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Mindset: Candid Conversations about Mental Health with Eric and Brian Nam

Written by Gisele Sanchez

March 21, 2023

This past February, a line of chattering students spilled out from the George Sherman Union as they waited to be let into the Eric and Brian Nam Mindset Town Hall Event.

Eric and Brian Nam, Korean pop singer-songwriter and CEO of ‘Mindset’ respectively, spoke to a sea of curious Boston students about mental health in the AAPI community and their co-founded app Mindset. Joining them on the stage were Boston University professors Dr. Hyeouk Chris Hahm and Dr. Kính T. Vũ, who contributed both personal and professional perspectives on the event’s topic, ‘Path to Success: Mental Health in the Workplace’.

As organizers of the event, members of the BU Asian Student Union provided both Eric and Brian Nam with incredible introductions—but the audience already knew who they were there for.

Eric Nam is a singer and songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia, who began his music career after winning a top-five spot on the Korean music competition show ‘Star Audition: Birth of a Great Star 2’ in 2013. Since his introduction to the K-pop industry ten years ago, he has released two albums titled “Before We Begin” and “There and Back Again.” He is especially revered by fans for the humility and refreshing personality he brings to the Korean entertainment industry, which is predominantly known for its rigid structure and authoritative control over its celebrities.

Brian Nam is a 26-year-old business executive best known for his position as CEO and co-founder of DIVE Studios, a podcast company committed to “positively impacting culture and society through authentic storytelling and story sharing,” and the self-care and wellness app, Mindset.

Mindset collaborates with big-name musicians and actors from both the U.S. and Korea, such as (G)-IDLE, Paul Wesley, SEVENTEEN, Summer Walker, and many more to provide candid conversations about mental health.

“Whatever it is that anyone is going through, there is an artist going through the same thing,” said Eric Nam.

In addition to the celebrity episodes, Mindset partners with Johns Hopkins University professors to develop the rest of the app’s content, such as an interactive daily mood tracker, daily quotes, and a community reflection board.

The Nam brothers introduced Mindset as their shared attempt to normalize the conversation around mental health by providing a candid perspective into the lives of the celebrities their listeners know and love. Incorporating artists into these conversations allows Mindset to reach young people on a familiar level, and remind them that all humans struggle.

“Stigma is disappearing just by us being in this room,” Eric Nam said.

As an example of the content available on Mindset, the K-pop group DPR’s collection trailer was played for the audience. The crowd went silent until the voices of each member of DPR, otherwise known as Dream Perfect Regime, rang out through the speakers. They sounded clear, comfortable, and open.

“We haven’t shared so much about…the principles, the values, the stories. Or how we came about…” said the members of DPR, their voices layering over each other. “Even if one person, one day, decides to take a career in creating, you’ve affected somebody’s life—just like that.”

The second half of the event was dedicated to a Q&A session where the audience was able to speak to the Nam brothers, Dr. Hanh, and Dr. Vũ directly about their own personal questions and concerns.

Dr. Hanh is a professor at the BU School of Social Work, with a specialization in the lack of mental health support for Asian American women in the U.S.. Dr. Vũ, an assistant professor of music at BU’s School of Fine Arts, joined her onstage. His research aims to understand the relationship between forced displacement and art.

The moment the floor opened up for questions, an ocean of anxious hands sprung into the air.

There were two topics that seemed to stream through all of the students’ questions about mental health: parents and racism.

Eric Nam began the conversation with a clip of a Mindset episode in which he has a vulnerable conversation with his own mother about the tensions they had at the beginning of his music career.

“I just feel your effort, as a mom, all the time. You know, actually, parents learn a lot from their children. I respect your courage—I told your dad too—you’re doing great. I’m so thankful about that,” said Eric Nam’s mother, who he referred to as ‘Mama Nam.’

The questions asked at that point indicated that many of the students were facing similar problems with their parents. The guests continued to support and encourage the audience, establishing a sense of support that blanketed the room.

“I would urge you, no matter your field, to seek that help. If you have a trusted professor, go and see them. They may not be certified, but they are a listener,” said Dr. Vũ, “When you prune a rose bush, you think it looks dead but comes back robust and beautiful—you are robust and beautiful.”

Dr. Hanh explained that the stigma surrounding mental health in the Asian community is a result of the long-time lack of mental health resources in the United States. And, in order to approach destigmatizing mental health conversations in the Asian community, it is important to first redefine the political position of the Asian American community in the U.S.. The means of doing that, she expressed, is through conversation and curiosity—the very things taking place that night.

“We need to know where we stand…It affects us every single day, whether we are aware of it or not,” said Dr. Hahn, “there is a collective struggle that young Asian Americans can combat with hope and collective effort.”

The talk ended with encouragement from the Nam brothers and BU professors to stay healthy, turn off social media, find and chase passions, rest, and continue having candid conversations.

Eric Nam ended the event with a reassuring thumbs-up to the audience.

“You’re doing great!”

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