Minzy's breakthrough came by connecting with Christianity in her late teens, which led her to finding resources and, finally, people open to talking about her mental health. "I was struggling most intensely at 16, 17, and no one knew about it," she shares. "There was a point where I would just avoid people. People didn't even really know I was struggling. I was just alone. When I was 17, 18, I basically met God, I found my faith. That was a major change in my life. The people with the same faith and that same encouragement came into my life and were able to speak very boldly into my life. It wasn't like, 'Oh, you just have to get better.' It was 'We understand that it's a struggle. It's OK to struggle and it's OK to feel bad, but let's think about it, deal with it and have faith.' I held onto that."
When she decided to depart 2NE1 and YG Entertainment in 2016, Minzy says it was the first step in figuring out if performing was her true path. "I needed some time to deal with my depression, find my own way and decide if this was something I really wanted to do,” she explains. “It was something I was doing for so long, but it was so hard to maintain. I had to find my own direction, and the only way to do that was by leaving the group and fighting for my own will. I was wondering, 'What is my life about?'"
The next step was putting herself first. She signed with a smaller label, The Music Works, which helped put out her Minzy Work 01 EP that hit No. 2 on Billboard's World Albums chart last year. She surrounded herself with people who support her and her vision like Ashley Choi, whose previous clients include Justin Timberlake and Jay Park, who handles global management and is her "best friend." These changes allowed her space to set new goals, both personally and professionally.
"Leaving 2NE1, it's not about leaving [or] breaking up the group. It's that I fought for myself, my own future and what I wanted," she reflects of her now-solo journey. "I finally chose something for myself. I did feel pressure and [a] burden [when going solo], but it was a good burden."
Looking ahead, Minzy wants to incorporate mental health resources and support for those dealing with similar issues into her upcoming tours in a similar vein to Demi Lovato offering free mental-health counseling throughout her 2018 Tell Me You Love Me tour. "I want to help people who are struggling as someone who has struggled, overcome and taken control of my mind and heart," she says. "I want to share the love I feel from my faith and from my music to let people know they, too, are loved and that there's love for them."
Minzy choosing to speak out about her journey comes when almost exactly a year ago SHINee's Jonghyun died suddenly in late 2017. His passing -- ruled as a suicide -- struck her. "That reminded me of my old self and I could understand why he wanted to escape," she says, before hoping her words can make a difference in K-pop's future. "I want to let the young and newer idols know that success in the idol world is just not as important to what you need to live up to as a person."