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In collaboration with free tele-counseling service Ngày Mai Hotline, a group of organizers has created an audio-visual project called 'Mental Sound' to promote their message. Using youth-targeted language, music and visual expressions, the project aims to encourage young adults to open up about their mental struggles, as well as raise public awareness about psychological conditions prevalent among younger generations.

The official music video for ‘Mental Sound’ was released on December 30, just two days shy of the end of a tumultuous year that left damaging impacts on countless Vietnamese — many of whom were young people who saw the supposed best times of their lives dwindling away due to infinitely postponed dreams and plans.

"In 2021, my friends and I went through troubling experiences that were difficult for adults to grasp. We were faced with a markedly different mode of education, precarious living conditions, mounting pressure to find employment after graduation, and losses of social relationships. These are not as tangible as worries about food or money, but they have real impacts on our emotional well-being nevertheless. And the reality is, there are so many others like us out there who are too afraid to speak about their trauma," says Nguyễn Xuân, the project’s media representative.

“This song was made to help them express those emotional jumbles that the pandemic has brought on," Xuân explains regarding why they chose to launch their campaign.

Atop a rhythmic beat that simulates the heartbeat of a person with depression, a slow and melancholic melody stretches from beginning to end, drawing listeners into the lonesome inner world of those living with the condition. A torrent of ambiguous and somber feelings kicks off the song:

“Lại một mình loay hoay / All alone tumbling arround
Cố thoát ra nhưng bên trong toàn mảnh vỡ tâm hồn… / Trying to break free but pieces of the soul are breaking down...
Đầu óc lơ lửng như ở trên mây / My mind is all up in the clouds
Cố gắng cân bằng như đứng trên dây... / Standing on a rope trying to balance it out...”

The second verse continues to voice how we ourselves could have very well hurt people with depression through neglectful language:

“Họ bảo mình điên / They said that I’m crazy
Họ vào mình phiền / Stared at me irritatingly
Ra vẻ cảm thông nhưng lại cau mày / Tried to show sympathy with a little frown…”

Turning heartbeats into a musical instrument isn't merely a creative act, as it is inspired by a health issue that commonly affects people with depression. According to research by the organizers, up to 40% of people with depression and mental disorders are at risk of having cardiovascular diseases, which can significantly increase the risk of death by heart failure and stroke.

Studies have also shown that those who experience depression often exhibit signs of heart rhythm disorder, which causes their hearts to beat at much faster or slower rates than unaffected individuals. Thus, the group came up with the idea of incorporating this sound into their musical composition to amplify the unspoken struggle of people with depression, as well as raise awareness about the potential health risks that friends, families, and “outsiders” might remain oblivious to.

The music video was designed entirely in 2D, using simple yet effectively evocative illustrations. In every frame, there is a contrast between the enveloping darkness and the neon blue-pink moving rays of light, a visual reference to electrocardiograms and sound waves, which represents the emotional turbulence that people with depression experience.

The contrast between the enveloping darkness and the neon blue-pink moving rays of light represents the opposite extremes of emotion that people with depression experience.

"We do not mean to shallowly tell people to ‘think more positively.’ Rather, we would like to encourage them to take the first and most important step — acknowledging and “unloading” their emotional burden. We hope that young people, when they listen to the song and its relatable lyrics, will know that their grief is acknowledged and understood [...],” Xuân touched upon the MV's core message.

"You don’t have to define clearly what you are feeling, it's enough to speak up and be heard. And the Ngày Mai hotline will be there to listen should you choose to share your story."

As for people who are without depression, the team hopes that the song will inspire them to be more considerate, and look out for those who are around them, as they might not even recognize the struggle they are undergoing.

'Mental Sound' is a call for all of us to be more considerate, and look out for those who are around us, as they might not even recognize the struggle they are undergoing.

Believing that it takes one to know one, the group has connected with other young people already within their circles to run the campaign, but some new faces and friends also lent a helping hand. One of such individuals is Avocat, a France-based rapper who overcame the five-timezone barrier to work on the project. Thanks to their shared interest in mental health awareness and telling personal stories, the group and their collaborators managed to check all their to-do boxes within just two weeks.

The team also received advice from a group of specialists from the Ngày Mai Hotline, which is led by Dr. Đặng Hoàng Giang and psychologist Nguyễn Hà Thành. The experts had shared anonymous stories sent in by young adults in the past seven months of the center's operation so that the final song could offer more sensible lyrics and nuanced interpretation of the topic.

“Both the rapper and the singer were very careful in crafting the lyrics so that they would accurately and safely reflect the experience of the target group. There were some questionable wording choices at first of course because the team's psychological knowledge was flawed. Fortunately, we had the experts come in and give us more inclusive and less alienating suggestions. For example, instead of saying 'depressed person,' we should try to say 'person with depression,'” the group representative recounted.

The music video for 'Mental Sound' is part of a pilot campaign developed by the finalists from the Young Marketers season 10 with expert guidance from the Ngày Mai Hotline. The team hopes to continue the project on a larger scale by creating more music productions featuring the heartbeat of people with depression. Individuals and organizations interested in youth mental health advocacy can send their offer of support or collaboration through the project's official website.