16 K-Dramas That Deal With Mental Health
Mental health has been a consistent and prevalent theme in K-dramas these days. Although it has been touched on in the past, these days, script writers and filmmakers are making more of an effort to bring awareness to the issue and to show the different types of illnesses that fall under mental health. These K-dramas often show how the characters are healing from their particular illnesses, and this in turn provides healing to the viewers, which is why it’s so pleasing to watch. If you’re looking for some K-dramas that deal with mental health, here are 16 of them.
Warning: There are elements in this feature that may be triggering to some.
Note: List is in no particular order.
1. “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay”
Moon Kang Tae (Kim Soo Hyun) works as a caregiver in a psychiatric hospital. He meets a woman named Go Moon Young (Seo Ye Ji) who writes dark children’s books, and she takes a strong liking to him. She is determined to win Kang Tae’s heart, but Kang Tae can’t be bothered with romance and relationships because he is devoted to taking care of his older brother Moon Sang Tae (Oh Jung Se) who is autistic.
“It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” is a series that really tackles the issue of mental health and various types of mental illnesses. Many of the characters are dealing with some sort of trauma that has caused them a lot of emotional distress as adults. By leaning on each other, they are able to understand each other and deal with their respective issues.
2. “It’s Okay, That’s Love”
In “It’s Okay, That’s Love,” Jo In Sung stars as the megastar writer Jang Jae Yeol, who meets Ji Hae Soo, played by Gong Hyo Jin. They develop a strong distaste for each other, but when Hae Soo discovers that the owner of the house she is renting and living in belongs to Jae Yeol, she must make amends with him and put up with his arrogant ways. Despite their hate for each other, the two discover that they’re a lot alike, and this becomes a breaking point in their relationship. From there stems a beautiful romantic relationship.
This is one the most memorable series that deals with mental health and healing. When Jang Jae Yeol, a hotshot famous author, is seen to be struggling with a serious mental illness, viewers are able to find compassion and some are even able to relate. He was one of the first male leads in a K-drama who suffered from schizophrenia, and viewers follow him on his journey to heal. There are several raw and emotional scenes that show him trying to overcome his illness. The love and loyalty that he receives from his love Ji Hae Soo is uplifting to see.
Watch “It’s Okay, That’s Love” now:
3. “Kill Me Heal Me”
“Kill Me Heal Me” is about a wealthy man named Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung) who struggles with multiple personality disorder as a result of a traumatic experience he had as a child. To be more specific, he has seven personalities, one of which is also in love with the female lead Oh Ri Jin (Hwang Jung Eum).
This series does a great job of not only exposing the mental illness that Cha Do Hyun is going through, but it does it in a way that is light-hearted and funny at times. Although the topic is one that is rather serious, the character of Cha Do Hyun shows strength and persistence in the face of beating his demons. He is willing to figure out what the root of his illness is and tries to figure out how to fix it. He is a brave and courageous character who doesn’t give up without a fight.
You can start watching “Kill Me Heal Me” here:
4. “SKY Castle”
“SKY Castle” is a K-drama that takes place in a neighborhood called SKY Castle where there are four families who are willing to do anything at any cost to make sure that their children go to a top university. The cast includes Yum Jung Ah, Lee Tae Ran, Yoon Se Ah, Oh Na Ra, as well as some new faces whose popularity skyrocketed as a result of the success of this series.
One of the best things about “SKY Castle” is the awareness and attention it brings to students who are dealing with the pressures of having to do well academically, especially in South Korea. This constant pushing of students to succeed and working hard can cause them to have breakdowns and become depressed, which is something that this drama tackles so effectively. Seeing the children all struggling with this pressure on their own is heartbreaking to watch, but it is also encouraging in that it shines light on an issue that needs to be talked about in society.
Watch the first episode of “Sky Castle” now:
5. “Fix You”
Lee Si Joon (Shin Ha Kyun) is a psychiatrist who tries to heal his patients through various ways. He cares about them healing and finds eccentric ways for them to come to terms with their mental illnesses and trauma. He meets Han Woo Joo (Jung So Min), a musical actress with issues that cause her to have emotional breakdowns. Lee Si Joon is willing to work with her to help her heal.
The love and dedication that Lee Si Joon has for Woo Joo is heartwarming. He takes it upon himself to be there for her and to help her get past her issues in a way that isn’t overbearing. Even when she is emotional and unstable, Si Joon look past her distress and has total compassion for her. With this loyalty and love, Woo Joo is able to find the strength to come to terms with her breakdowns and to find healing in her love for Si Joon.
Catch the first episode of “Fix You” here:
6. “Flower Boy Next Door”
Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye) is an introverted girl who spends most of her days avoiding people at any cost. She hardly leaves her small apartment and finds outgoing people a bit burdensome. But when Enrique Geum (Yoon Shi Yoon) catches her stalking her next door neighbor, things get pretty awkward. She can’t seem to avoid the outgoing and outspoken Enrique. The two form an unlikely bond and start to develop some serious feelings for each other.
Go Dok Mi’s introverted personality starts to interfere with her life when she becomes afraid to go outdoors. She has social anxiety which prohibits her from wanting to interact with anyone outside her house, which is why she stays indoors. But when she meets Enrique, he challenges her to come out of her shell and to deal with whatever issues are lying deep within her. She realizes that she has some baggage to overcome in order to heal. It’s an adorable love story that shows how opposites do indeed attract!
Watch the first episode here:
Starring Yoon Kye Sang as Lee Kang and Ha Ji Won as Moon Cha Young, “Chocolate” is about a man and woman who meet as children and face very unfortunate circumstances that drive them apart. They go through some tragic events that fatefully bring them together again as adults. Lee Kang becomes a successful brain surgeon, and Moon Cha Young is a chef. Cha Young recognizes Lee Kang when she first reunites with him, but he fails to recognize her, which makes for a very confusing and awkward situation for Cha Young.
Lee Kang and Moon Cha Young both experience a great deal of loss at a young age. When trauma hits Moon Cha Young, she becomes unable to cope with it as she gets older, which forces her to bury the memory. Whenever she gets triggered by something in her life, she gets a severe panic attack that often makes her pass out. When she meets Lee Kang, she realizes what the event is that she has buried so deep within her. She also figures out a way to come to terms with it so that she can live her life in freedom.
8. “Just Between Lovers”
Junho and Won Jin Ah star in “Just Between Lovers,” a series about a tragic accident experienced by Lee Kang Doo (Junho) and Ha Moon Soo (Won Jin Ah). The two characters meet as adults and don’t realize that they were both involved in the accident that happened when they were children. They fall in love after having to work together on a construction site.
Lee Kang Doo and Ha Moon Soo are both involved in a disaster that takes away all their hopes and dreams. When the two reunite as adults, Lee Kang Doo realizes that Moon Soo was traumatized by her past so much that she has forgotten about it completely. Kang Doo helps her to come to terms with her past in order to help her heal. The two have a beautiful love story that is centered around fate and dreams. With the help of each other, they are able to not only be a light to each other but are also able to find purpose.
Catch the first episode of “Just Between Lovers” here:
9. “Secret Garden”
This classic series stars Hyun Bin as Kim Ju Won and Ha Ji Won as Gil Ra Im. Gil Ra Im is a stuntwoman who accidentally meets the CEO of a department store named Kim Ju Won. Although the two are repulsed by each other at first, they slowly start to fall in love with each other. The two find it difficult to be with each other because of their respective backgrounds, but they still fight to be together.
The main lead Kim Ju Won is a bit of a jerk, but he’s got reasons for it. As a result of some baggage and tragic events from the past, Ju Won suffers from a severe case of claustrophobia that prohibits him from going into elevators and even driving under tunnels. When he meets Gil Ra Im, he realizes that what he needs in his life is to let go of control and to let love in. She becomes the key ingredient and reason for Ju Won to find peace within himself.
You can start watching “Secret Garden” here:
Kim Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung) is not your conventional K-drama character. She’s in college with dreams of becoming a weightlifter. She is raised by a single father who owns a fried chicken restaurant. On a random day, she happens to bump into Jung Joon Hyung (Nam Joo Hyuk), who goes to the same college as her. He is training to become a swimmer but has some things he wants to figure out. The two of them become really good friends and eventually have feelings for each other.
Kim Bok Joo’s dreams of becoming a weightlifting champion come to a crashing halt when she falls head over heels in love with Jung Joon Hyung’s older brother. She becomes self-conscious about her weight and ambitions, which causes her to rethink her entire life. This sends her into a downward spiral of depression. She doesn’t understand the complicated feelings and emotions she’s having, but Jung Joon Hyung helps her to eventually find happiness within herself.
Watch the first episode here:
11. “My Mister”
Starring IU as Lee Ji An, “My Mister” is a heartbreaking story about a girl who is just trying to get by in life. She was dealt an unfortunate hand in life and has rarely had anything good happen to her. She takes care of her frail grandmother by taking on a bunch of part-time jobs and lives in a serious pit of constant depression. But this starts to change when she meets Park Dong Hoon (Lee Sun Gyun), an optimistic and compassionate office worker. He sees Ji An struggling and tries to help her whenever he can.
Lee Ji An has been through hell for her entire life. She has lost almost her entire family and can barely afford to take care of her ailing grandmother. She is depressed and finds zero happiness in her day to day life. Ji An looks at life in a negative light and goes through the actions of living but has nothing to smile about. When she meets Park Dong Hoon though, an older man who is extremely positive and caring, Ji An sees the way he looks at the world and starts to change. He helps her without expecting anything in return, which is something Ji An has never had in her life. With his guidance, she realizes that a happy life is possible.
Watch the first episode of “My Mister” here:
“Clean With Passion For Now” stars Yoon Kyun Sang and Kim Yoo Jung in an adorable rom-com about first loves. Yoon Kyun Sang plays the CEO of a cleaning company named Jang Sun Gyeol, who is a serious germaphobe. He meets Gil Oh Sol (Kim Yoo Jung) who, on the other hand, is a little less than clean. She doesn’t care about her appearance, and being neat and tidy is not on the top of her busy list of things to do. The two meet and form a hate relationship at first, but then it slowly progresses into like and love.
Jung Sun Gyeol has severe OCD that was brought upon him after going through trauma when he was a child. After a particular event, Sun Gyeol has been a complete germaphobe, and it has hindered him from having any sort of normal relationship and life. So when he meets Gil Oh Sol, he is faced with a girl who challenges him to change. She gives him the courage to face his issues and to want to fix them. It’s an adorable romance, and despite the serious topic, it has you smiling and laughing.
You can start watching here:
13. “Heart To Heart”
Cha Hong Do (Choi Kang Hee) is an innocent woman who has severe social anxiety. She cannot even look people in the eyes without blushing and wanting to run away and hide. Everything she learns about in life, she does by reading, but when her grandmother dies, it forces Hong Do to go out into the world and explore. It is during this time that she meets Go Yi Seok (Chun Jung Myung).
Choi Kang Hee has no desire to get better until she meets Yi Seok. Yi Seok is able to give Kang Hee the courage to come out of her shell and find the confidence to get better. He is patient and loving with her while she deals with her anxieties about the world. It is truly a beautiful love story and very effective in showing the struggles of social anxiety!
Watch the first episode now:
14. “Hyde Jekyll Me”
Gu Seo Jin (Hyun Bin) is a chaebol who is the CEO of an amusement park. He seems like he has got it all in terms of looks, wealth, and brains, but he also struggles with dissociative identity disorder. When his heart rate speeds up, his personality changes into one that is kind and gentle—unlike his usual cold personality. He meets Jang Ha Na (Han Ji Min) when they fight over getting rid of the circus show at his amusement park. Although they butt heads, they begin to understand each other and develop feelings for each other.
Gu Seo Jin was traumatized from an event that happened 15 years before that led him to emotionally shut himself off from the world. He would rather avoid living his life and being free than getting caught up in his emotions and having his other personality emerge. He is very reluctant in his journey into healing, but with the help and support of Ha Na, he finds the courage deep within himself to come to terms with his trauma in order to heal. It’s a series that will have you rooting for Seo Jin to be free of his past and to live his life the way he should be living.
Start with the first episode here:
15. “Thirty But Seventeen”
Gong Woo Jin (Yang Se Jong) hasn’t been the same since a tragic accident that happened when he was younger. He finds it difficult to connect with people as an adult, and self-improvement is definitely not something he really cares about. Then he meets Woo Seo Ri (Shin Hye Sun), a girl who wakes up from a coma after 13 years. The two discover that their fate with each other goes far back. During this destined discovery, they lean on each other for emotional support.
Woo Jin and Seo Ri both experience the same traumatic event when they are in high school. This effects both of their lives dramatically in different ways, but for Woo Jin specifically, he has lived in complete seclusion. He refuses to interact with the world around him, and as a result, has become a shell of a person. After he meets Seo Ri again, he realizes that she holds the key to helping him deal with his past trauma and is able to be set free.
Catch the first episode here:
“Beautiful Love Wonderful Life” tells the story of three families that are all intertwined with each other. The main family is a family of three daughters with each of their own issues that are developed throughout the series. There are marriages, divorces, and deception within all of the families, and they learn to rely on each other and help each other through their problems.
Kim Chung Ah (Seol In Ah) is going through some tough times, but her whole family seems to be oblivious to it. She is being bullied in school which makes her depressed, and she goes to the extent of planning to commit suicide. On the day she is about to take her own life, she second guesses it and decides not to go through with it. Chung Ah eventually finds hope within herself to want to live her life despite all the hardships she has gone through, and she also finds love in the process.
Watch the first episode now:
Hey Soompiers, which of these K-dramas is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!
binahearts is a Soompi writer whose ultimate biases are Song Joong Ki and BIGBANG. She is also the author of “K-POP A To Z: The Definitive K-Pop Encyclopedia.” Make sure you follow binahearts on Instagram as she journeys through her latest Korean crazes!
Currently watching: “Was It Love?” and “When I Was The Most Beautiful”
All-time favorite dramas: “Secret Garden,” “Goblin,” “Because This Is My First Life,” “Star In My Heart”
Looking forward to: Won Bin‘s return to the small screen and Song Joong Ki‘s next drama