It’s tricky to open up about your mental health in conservative countries like South Korea. Luckily, these K-dramas are paving the way in raising awareness and empowering fans to speak up.
It’s a long way to go since there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health, but these heartfelt K-dramas prove why it needs to be a norm. Apart from the kilig scenes and good-looking characters, these series show the experiences of characters who are dealing with their struggles which in return, helps fans heal.
This World Mental Health Day, let’s look at five K-dramas that portray different types of illnesses and how they’re moving towards the long—and painful—path of recovery.
It’s Okay, That’s Love
Cast: Jo Insung, Gong Hyojin, Sung Dongil, Do Kyungsoo, Lee Kwang-oo
Charismatic radio DJ and mystery novelist Jung Jaeyeol (Jo Insung) suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. This causes him to experience episodes of visual and auditory hallucinations—which includes his “high school fan” Han Kang-woo (Do Kyungsoo) who turns out to be a figment of his imagination.
Jaeyeol soon falls in love with Ji Haesoo (Gong Hyojin), a psychiatrist who suffers from genophobia. As their relationship grows more complicated, they learn how to deal with each other’s mental health struggles.
Cast: Shin Hakyun, Jung Somin
Lee Sijoon (Shin Hakyun) is a passionate psychiatrist who’s determined to help his patients struggling with mental health disorders. His abilities are tested when he meets Han Woojoo (Jung Somin), an actress with a borderline personality disorder.
Sijoon soon helps Woojoo overcome her mental health struggles and emotional breakdowns. However, it turns out he suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Cast: Kim Soohyun, Seo Yeji
Don’t be fooled by Soohyun and Yeji’s fiery chemistry, since this K-drama is a peek into the life of someone who’s suffering from an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
Go Moonyoung (Seo Yeji), a popular children’s book author, suffers from ASPD which spawned from her traumatic childhood. She gets infatuated with Moon Gangtae (Kim Soohyun), a caregiver who constantly moves into different cities to help his brother deal with his nightmares. They soon realize that their mental health struggles are not a weakness. But a form of strength.
Heart to Heart
Cast: Choi Kanghee, Chun Jungmyung, Lee Jaeyoon, Ahn Sohee
An oldie but goodie, Heart to Heart is the story of Cha Hongdo (Choi Kanghee) who’s struggling with severe social anxiety. Her illness makes her blush excessively whenever she looks into someone’s eyes. This makes her lock herself from the outside world where she only interacts with her grandmother.
After her grandmother’s death, Hongdo is forced to live her life “normally.” She meets handsome psychiatrist Go Yiseok (Chun Jungmyung) who wants to help her overcome her anxiety. In return, she helps him deal with his family problems where his mother is suffering from bipolar disorder.
Kill Me, Heal Me
Cast: Ji Sung, Hwang Jungeum, Park Seojoon
Cha Jooyoung (Ji Sung) lives multiple lives. He’s a handsome chaebol, violent young man, and suicidal teenager, among others. Apart from his seven identities, he’s a grandson of a wealthy business mogul who suffers from a dissociative identity disorder.
Jooyoung’s symptoms don’t improve, despite going through 11 years of therapy. He also learns how to deal with his multiple personalities that constantly take over his stream of consciousness.