What "It's Okay To Not Be Okay" Teaches Us About Mental Health

Karen Jane Ng

Posted at July 06, 2020

It's only on its sixth episode, but new Korean drama It's Okay To Not Be Okay has already captured our hearts and senses. Not only because it stars equally talented and dashing actors Kim Soo Hyun and Seo Ye Ji but also because of its recurring theme about mental health.

With Soo Hyun playing a psychiatric ward worker who shuns from letting loose to look after his brother with autism spectrum disorder and Ye Ji portraying an antisocial children's book writer traumatized by her past, the series compellingly tackles the dark side of one's mental battle and how we can heal from it. And, so far, here's what it taught us:

1. Choose kindness over judgement.

Mentally-challenged people might act far from your definition of normal. That's because they're struggling. And, as someone who's in much better place than them, what we can do is to give them the only free medication they need: Our attention that should come with love, concern, and acceptance. Just take cues from Gang Tae (Soo Hyun) is to his brother and to all the other patients in the ward.

2. There's more to it than being "crazy."

Moon Young (Ye Ji) treats others arrogantly and indifferently, and while some consider her "crazy" for it, as the story unfolds, we get a glimpse of why she acts that way. She was at a bad place during her childhood and it continues to haunt her up to this day that she even suffers suffocating sleep paralysis. Though it will be hard, we have to have a deep understanding that people like her didn't want to end up like that. They have reasons that they can't often avoid.

3. Every emotion is valid.

The series features the heartwarming relationship between Gang Tae and his brother, who, despite his illness, is able to show affection towards Gang Tae, thus proving that even the likes of him has feelings. Gang Tae, meanwhile, got used to veiling his emotions and putting on a fake smile for others, which he shouldn't. Every emotion is valid, should be recognized, and is meant to be expressed. Ignoring it won't make it go away. So let it flow.

4. One must face trauma to overcome it.

Gang Tae and Sang Tae are both appalled by the death of their parents, and it impacted them in different ways. Years go by, and the two remained trapped in these unfortunate events. And whenever the pain comes back, together, they run from it. Apparently, running won't fix anything. If there's anything we must do, it's to remember it all and confront it. "If you don't overcome it, you'll always be a kid whose soul never grows." 

Many times, we feel guilty for not taking our and others' mental health seriously, when in fact, it should be taken to heart. It's Okay To Not Be Okay is here to remind us that we must confront our own struggles and, at the same time, be gentle in doing so. So yes, it's one of the most valuable shows right now that won't ever be okay for you not to watch.

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