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K-Drama Actors Cope With Real-Life Mental Health Issues And Still Deliver A Great Performance

BY Julie Jones | Apr 08, 2015 01:55 PM EDT

Lee Joon

Lately, a few k-dramas have focused on male leads with mental health issues. Schizophrenia was the condition affecting Jo in Sung's character in "It's Okay, That's Love." Dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, affected Ji Sung's character in "Kill Me, Heal Me."

But some k-drama actors have to deal with real-life mental health issues. And they manage to deliver a great performance despite these issues.

Former MBLAQ member Lee Joon, who currently stars in "Heard It Through The Grapevine," suffers from insomnia, caused by stress and bipolar disorder. The actor and singer admitted that he sometimes sleeps only 40 minutes in a 24-hour period.

When criticized for falling asleep during a program and not being admitted to Seoul University because he could not study, he told the Korean media outlet Newsen  about the disorder.

"I had no time to rest during that period. I knew that I had to study, but I couldn't. I have severe bipolar disorder and people only saw what was broadcast on TV. They don't see the effort behind the screen, such as late night rehearsals. No matter how hard I tried, my body just couldn't keep up with me."

Yet he continues to work hard to reach his acting goals.

Park Hae Jin and Lee Byung Hun have both struggled with depression. In the case of Park Hae Jin, the news that he struggled with depression hurt his career. Park was treated for anxiety and depression, which wound up exempting him from his two-year mandatory military duty. This led to some netizens accusing him of draft dodging. According to Korean military law, any man who has been treated for six months or hospitalized for more than a month at the psychiatry department of a hospital may be excused from serving. Park was cleared and although this temporarily hurt his career, it has recovered.

When Lee Byung Hun appeared on a 2013 episode of "Healing Camp" he said that he suffered from depression and panic attacks after his father died and left him in debt.

"At the time, my drama "Beautiful Days" was really popular, and I was able to pay off the debt, I was supposed to be happy, but right then, I fell into depression," he said. "I felt like I was trapped in a small room. It was really difficult to even open my eyes. As soon as I opened my eyes, I wondered why I woke up. The happiest time was when I was asleep. I later found out it was depression."

Although the depression has lifted, he says he still occasionally suffers from panic attacks when he is in crowded places with unfamiliar people.

Cha Tae Hyun, who will soon appear in "Producers," also admitted to suffering from panic attacks.

"I began to suffer from the disorder when a top actor was cast for a role in a rival TV drama after the show I appeared in continued to do poorly in ratings," said Cha. The attacks can be severe. Cha once fainted during a flight and another time had to call an ambulance only a half hour before a concert.

Given the problems these actors cope with, it's even more impressive that they manage to deliver a top-notch performance.

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