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It’s Ok To Not Be Ok is a must-watch love story to people with mental illness

It’s Ok To Not Be Ok is a must-watch love story to people with mental illness

The core message of the show can be found right in its title, It’s Ok To Not Be Ok.


Over the years, I’ve watched a number of “kdramas” that are equal blends lighthearted and serious. While all have been excellent viewing, they pale in comparison to the masterpiece… It’s Ok To Not Be Ok. 

Not only do I consider the show top tier among South Korean dramas, but among watchable media in general given how it handles the delicate subject of mental illness.

I’ve never seen a show that’s handled the subject of mental illness quite as respectfully and compassionately as It’s Ok To Not Be Ok, and I feel like it deserves to be talked about more for that reason, among many others.

It’s Ok To Not Be Ok is a must-watch love story to people with mental illness

On the surface, It’s Ok To Not Be Ok is an unpredictable love story between its two main protagonists, acclaimed children’s author Ko Mun-yeong (played by the incredibly talented Seo Yea-ji) and reserved caregiver Moon Gang-tae (played by the also talented Kim Soo-hyun).

Dig deeper though, and you’ll find the show is actually a much larger love story dedicated to anyone who’s ever struggled with mental illness. 

Each and every character in It’s Ok To Not Be Ok has something they’re going through whether that be PTSD, depression, trauma, and so on. Rather than show these characters as afflicted, and have that be the extent of their characterization, the show goes beyond outward presentation to elaborate on how each character got to that point.

Additionally, the show includes how each character is on a unique path towards healing, with an impressive amount of character growth on offer, even among the show’s side characters.

One example is Gang-tae’s friend Nam Ju-ri who’s stuck in a cycle of unrequited “one-sided” love with Gang-tae. 

Over the course of the series, she learns to love herself first, to let go of that unrequited love as her main focus, and to dedicate her time to someone who values and cherishes her.

More impressively, in my opinion, is how the show handles the character Sang-tae, Gang-tae’s autistic brother. Media is notoriously bad at writing autistic characters, which is why it’s so refreshing to follow Sang-tae’s journey in It’s Ok To Not Be Ok.

The writing for Sang-tae isn’t perfect of course, and there are certainly aspects that deserve critique, but the show stays strong in sticking to a few key tenets that can be appreciated both by those who are autistic, and those who have autistic friends and family. 

First, it’s emphasized in It’s Ok To Not Be Ok that Sang-tae is a 35-year-old adult who’s more than capable of caring for himself, and who constantly strives for independence.

Second, Sang-tae is more than Gang-tae’s autistic older brother, and he’s sure as hell not a plot device either. Sang-tae is a talented artist who lends his skills to other characters in the show. Notably, for author Ko Mun-yeong whose books he’s adored for quite some time.

He’s also shown as loving, compassionate, witty, fun, and honest. And capable of personal growth himself, same as the other characters in the show. With the way the show's story unfolds, I found myself loving the sibling-esque relationship between Mun-yeong and Sang-tae even more than Mun-yeong’s blossoming relationship with Gang-tae. It feels so genuine.

Of course, the relationship between those two is also refreshing as Mun-yeong ends up bringing Gang-tae out of his shell, and shows him how to let go and have fun. Meanwhile, Gang-tae helps Mun-yeong connect with others as she has the habit of being crass, and pushing people away. She’s also, according to him, one of the loneliest people he knows.

The end result is a show that’s incredibly sweet and gentle, full of heart, and impossible to watch without crying. In fact, I probably cried more to It’s Ok To Not Be Ok than any other show I’ve seen, but in the most cathartic way possible. You cry with the characters, empathize with their struggles, and then cry again when you see those characters work through challenges and attain happiness. 

I could go on and on about the show and how much it means to me and how special it is and how I think it’s one of the best things ever created, but I also don’t want to completely spoil the show for those who may be considering checking it out.

It’s honestly best to go in with as little information as possible to allow the show to surprise you with its many twists and turns, and the way in which it tackles its subject matter.

Fortunately, It’s Ok To Not Be Ok is currently watchable on Netflix. So if you’ve been looking for something new to check out on the platform, I strongly feel like It’s Ok To Not Be Ok deserves a spot on your watch list even if South Korean dramas aren’t your thing. This one is very different, and as previously mentioned, very special.

From The Chatty
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