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Daily Dose of Sunshine -- Netflix Drama

Wow, just wow, I am overwhelmed by this drama. What a gem! The story, the acting, the cinematography, the imagery, the colors, the brilliant and creative visuals inside the minds of those who have mental illness and those working so hard to help them reach that healthy spectrum, and how it affects them mentally, but most importantly emotionally.
Daily Dose of Sunshine is a 2023 South Korean web series directed by Lee Jae-kyoo. It stars lead actors Park Bo-young (Jung Da Eun), a third-year nurse transferred from Internal Medicine to the Psychiatric Department; Yeon Woo-jin (Dong Go Yoon), a proctologist with an erratic personality; Jang Dong-yoon (Song Yu Chan), Da-eun's best friend, who always quarrels with her, and Lee Jung-eun (Song Hyo Shin) the chief nurse of the Psychiatric Department. The series centers on Jung Da-eun, a skilled nurse in the Department of Psychiatry at Myungshin University Hospital, and her interactions with the patients under her care.

Where to start: I will begin with the story and message simultaneously, and then talk about the different actors who touched me throughout the journey. I loved how it loudly and clearly called to attention how thin the line is between mental health and mental illness, and how important it is to understand that mental health is a scale, and there is no clear-cut line between what is considered normal and abnormal. We all experience various emotions and struggles in life, and seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous act of self-care. I read somewhere that mental health is a continuum, and we all fall somewhere along the spectrum. This stayed with me, and this series confirmed it.
Another thing that this drama did well was bring much-needed awareness of quality health caregiving, spending time with patients, listening to them, interacting with them, and not just giving out prescriptions to maximize time. It features everything from Biopolar Disorder to Anxiety Disorder to Delusion Disorder to Panic Disorder, Depression, Pseudodementia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dissociative Amnesia, Schizophrenia, and Borderline Personality Disorder. The drama's message that asking for help is not a weakness, no matter how much taboo it may be, and debunking the idea that mental health is only relevant when struggling with a mental illness. I loved the message, I loved the delivery, and I loved the importance of clarity in the message that mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, social status, or other aspect of cultural identity. The actors that portrayed these different mental illnesses were brilliant. Everyone from Jung Woon-sun as Oh Ri-na: Da-eun's first patient with a bipolar disorder, and our first introduction on how nurses and doctors deal with the patients admitted to their care, as well as their family members. Head Nurse Song Hyo Jin's younger sister, who suffered from schizophrenia, others included Kim Dae-gun as Choi Joon-gi: a patient who loses his child and wife and goes through difficult times. Yoo Eun A as Han Jae Hui: a patient with borderline personality disorder; and Kwon Han-sol as Jung Ha-ram, a psychiatric patient.

Daily Dose of Sunshine kept me interested, if not hooked. I also loved how it raised the question of who cares for mental health carers, from doctors to nurses, which was clearly articulated through intern nurse Ji Seung Jae's (Yoo In Soo) panic disorder and others. But the best was how it gradually showed the bond caregivers create with patients, while helping ease their mental illness. The constant exposure to human suffering, and sometimes death, can lead to mental illness. Jung Da Eun's loss and how she tethered the mental health scale was, to me, the core of this drama. And how her mind naturally decided to lean into patient Kim Sung-sik's (Jo Dal-hwan) anxiety disorder world for her grief was a touch of brilliance. And, of course, there is
Kim Yeo Jin: as patient Kwon Joo Young, a working mother who is on top of the daily stress of professional life and motherhood, faces the bullying incident of her daughter at school, which leads to her daughter being treated by a psychiatrist. However, there, the doctor actually suggested Joo Young was the one who would benefit most from treatment. She disagrees, but eventually has a mental breakdown, is diagnosed with pseudo dementia, and agrees to treatment. Just because someone (doctor, nurse, layperson) may seem perfectly normal on the outside, it doesn't mean they aren't suffering from a hidden mental illness, and it doesn't mean they are crazy; it just means that life has become so difficult to handle that they lose touch with reality for some time and need help finding their way back. How long that takes doesn't matter; what matters is that they make it back all the way.

Now, actors Park Bo Young, Yeon Woo Jin, and Jang Dong Yoon were brilliant together. Their friendship separately and eventually together was uplifting to watch, as was Chang Ryul as Doctor Hwang Yeo Hwan—his struggle with love and acceptance along with Nurse Lee Hye Won (Park Soo Yeon). Her mother is an entirely different story. It seems every K-drama must have one of those; I have come to accept it. I wish the message to those mothers, fathers, and siblings was to cut ties with the toxicity. Just because they are family doesn't mean they deserve to be in your life. I wish to see this loud and clear in K-dramas, and pray it translates to real life. I loved the bond Bo Young, Woo Jin, and Dong Yoon, had as kids and how they built on that in adulthood, worked in the same field more or less, and cared for each other's mental health, whether in a professional or personal setting. I don't typically like how K-drama depicts love triangles, because it doesn't do them correctly. At least not to me. A love triangle is when one person in a romantic relationship with someone is concurrently pursuing or involved in a romantic relationship with someone else. It is not a love triangle when one person loves a second person, who loves a third person; to me, that's just unrequited love. But that's exactly how I saw it. That said, I loved how neither of them, especially Song Yu Chan, let it come in the way of his friendship with Jung Da Eun, but, more importantly, Dong Go Yoon.

All the actors were impressive, but the three supporting cast that stood out to me the most: Jeon Bae Soo as Nurse Yoon Man Cheon, Head Nurse Song Hyo Jin, and Lee Sang Hee as psychiatric nurse Park Soo Yeon. The care and reserved passion Nurse Yoon showed to the patients and his colleagues, especially Da Eun, won me over each time. What a great actor, indeed. The other was Noh Jae Won as patient Kim Seo Wan, a fantastic actor. How he articulated Kim Seo Wan's struggles, bridging the world in his head with reality on the ground, was brilliant. Kudos to the writer; ingenious. He had me all twisted up in him and the world he created for his peace of mind. His physical changes also impressed me, as he took us on that journey with him, which is why losing him was such a blow. I understood how and why Da Eun's mind decided to deal with it the way it did.

As for Head Nurse Song Hyo Jin, she was a rock throughout everything that happened, despite having to deal with hurtful stigma on her sister and ultimately her. Nothing is worse than defining one by one's illness, rather than who they are as an individual. The same goes for Da Eun; having to deal with discrimination from the families of mentally ill patients, she tried so hard to help herself for being on the spectrum. That was hard to watch, but I loved her determination more than anything, not letting it trigger or pull her back. I pray this drama is a stepping stone to overcoming the stigma of mental illness, helping many of us speak out against stigma, and instilling courage in others facing similar challenges as outlined in Daily Dose of Sunshine. I highly, highly recommend this drama, watch it here.
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