Kim Soo-Hyun as Moon Gang-Tae (caregiver in OK Psychiatric Hospital)
Being the only caregiver of his autistic brother (Sang-Tae), Gang-Tae feels that his purpose is to take care of his brother for a lifetime. After the incident that happened when they were kids, (when Gang-Tae hesitates to save his drowning brother because of the neglect and lack of affection from his mother compared to Sang-Tae), Gang-Tae feels a stronger sense of responsibility towards his brother due to Gang-Tae’s guilt from his mistake made in the past. Taking up the role of a caregiver in his brother’s life, Gang-Tae suppresses his emotions a lot and didn’t have anyone to voice his feelings to, he has to learn to control his temper to care for his autistic brother. In this drama, Gang-Tae had a rough childhood, and with all the anger and resentment buried deep within at a young age, he sees himself grow up as a hypocrite. He puts up a front and hides his sadness with a crooked smile. Later in the drama, Gang-Tae’s character evolves as he slowly finds peace and recovery with the help of Ko Moon Young. With her showing up in his life, he was able to search happiness within himself and be his truest self.
The series displays a raw and realistic portrayal of the hardships and challenges faced by Gang-Tae as he takes up the role as a caregiver. As a caregiver, it is easy for one to undermine their emotions. However, it is important to realize that as we care for others, we should also prioritize caring for ourselves without feeling ashamed or guilty. The story emphasizes that everyone has their own battles, but together, we have a greater chance in overcoming them.
Oh Jung-Se as Moon Sang-Tae (autistic brother of Moon Gang-Tae)
Oh Jung-Se portrays the role of Gang Tae’s elder brother, Sang-Tae, with his moving lines and magnetic acting. Sang-Tae deals with a traumatic past after he witnesses his mother’s murder and develops a fear of butterflies as the killer (Moon Young’s mother) was wearing a butterfly brooch as she committed the crime. Ever since then, him and Gang-Tae would have to move from time to time so that they can avoid the butterflies as seasons change. In the series, Sang-Tae has the most heartwarming character evolution. At first, he wanted Gang-Tae all for himself. As Moon Young stepped into their lives, he felt neglected, afraid that his brother would leave him like he almost did in the past, and constantly pushed her away. He also held a grudge towards his brother due to the drowning incident in the past; this outburst of negative emotions was shown in Episode 9, where Sang-Tae confronted his brother for leaving him to drown. However, in the other episodes, it shows that Sang-Tae is always careful around his brother, hoping that he wouldn’t become a burden.
The character then evolves as Sang-Tae has a heart-to-heart with Gang-Tae and it ends with a warm hug which signifies forgiveness and understanding. Later in the series, Sang-Tae gradually opens up his heart to Moon Young and considers her as a sister, as family. He tries his best to fulfill his role as the elder brother of Gang-Tae. He also becomes a caregiver and protector to Moon Young and Gang-Tae, giving them closure and words of wisdom from time to time. At the end of the series, Sang-Tae learns to be on his own and is eager to pursue his dreams, he no longer wants to depend fully on his younger brother as he understands that Gang-Tae has his own passions in life too.
Seo Ye-Ji as Ko Moon Young (a well-known children book author with an antisocial personality disorder)
The character, Moon Young instantly catches the eyes of the audience with her impeccable fashion style and straightforward attitude, displaying a powerful front. However, the character also portrays her raw and intense emotions behind her icy, cold front she puts up. Moon Young deals with a traumatic childhood, raised in a remote castle by her abusive mother and her father with dementia that tried to kill her. Since her youth, Moon Young had to live under constant fear and that caused her to feel detached from human beings, developing an antisocial personality disorder. She would also have recurring nightmares of her abusive mother. In the series, Moon Young was often misunderstood as she would usually project her ill feelings into anger, resorting to violence as a solution. The series showed the evolution of Moon Young as she seeks closure from her traumatic past. By cutting her hair short, it signifies closure and letting go of the hatred towards her abusive mother as her mother wanted her to leave her hair long. After she learns that her mother was the murderer of Gang-Tae and Sang-Tae’s mother, this dreadful turn of events causes her to quickly push everyone away. However, with the help of Gang-Tae and Sang-Tae, she eventually decides to let go of the past as the three of them choose to face any difficulties in life together.
At the end of the series, Moon Young was no longer dwelling on her hurtful past; the love and warmth from others became her healing from her traumatic childhood. She also becomes unafraid of showing her vulnerable side, allowing herself to open up her heart to her loved ones. Moon Young’s character evolution was shown by hints of softness she displayed throughout the series.
Other mental health illnesses and disorders mentioned in this series would include,
TW: Eating disorders
A female patient from OK Psychiatric Hospital was shown in a scene where she forced herself to puke after binge eating by shoving her finger down the throat.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A patient from OK Psychiatric Hospital, Mr.Kan deals with PTSD, with traumatic memories of being in the war and taking away the lives of the innocent, this sense of guilt crippled him down.
A VIP patient, Kwan Gi-Do at OK Psychiatric Hospital, deals with manic syndrome. Being the son of an assemblyman, his father saw him as the black sheep in the family and completely erased his presence in the family.
Dissociative Identity Disorder
A patient at OK Psychiatric Hospital suffered from child abuse, resulting in her only defense mechanism which is by adopting different personalities. As a result, her parents thought she was possessed and consulted a shaman which worsened her condition.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay is a beautifully crafted series with the use of aesthetic settings and creative twists of fairy tales. The series used children’s tales to bring out a deeper realization, this uniqueness draws the attention of the audience as we slowly uncover the hidden meaning behind a simple tale.
The stigma of mental health among Asians still stands due to many factors and misconceptions towards mental health. The series, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, openly talks about mental health,and this makes it a great move in raising awareness of mental health, especially among Asians. Throughout this series, all the characters displayed a wide range of emotions and gave the audience a fresh perspective and deeper insight about mental health. It’s Okay to Not Be Okay adds on to the list of my favourite series with its originality, do give it a watch when you can.
Tan Ken Ee
My name is Ken Ee, a team member of @Zenerations. I’m 18 and I’m from Malaysia. I’m the founder of spreading love. MY, a newly-established youth organization. I aspire to become a youth advocate to educate the younger generations on important global issues. I believe that with our voices, we are able to put them into actions for a reformed and better society.