Netflix Show 'I Am Not Okay With This' Nails Shows Real Effects of Suicide Loss
Netflix recently released a new show titled, “I Am Not Okay with This,” based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel of the same name. The show centers on a high school girl named Sydney “Syd” Novak (played by Sophia Lillis) who lives with her mom, Maggie (Kathleen Rose Perkins), and younger brother, Liam (Aidan Wojtak-Hissong) in a small Pennsylvania town. Throughout the show, we see Syd navigate the difficulties of high school, family issues, her sexuality and newfound superpowers.
As a two-time suicide loss survivor myself, one of the parts of the show that stood out to me the most was the fact that Syd’s dad recently passed away. As the story progresses, we learn he died by suicide, something her family does not openly discuss.
This show originally interested me as I wanted to see how the creators would depict suicide loss within the family. I was immediately drawn to the kids in the series. My brother and I were the same ages as Syd and Liam in the show when we lost our mom.
The show nailed what it’s like to be a suicide loss survivor. The creators took the reality of the devastation, agony and confusion caused by the suicide of a parent and packed them tightly into a teenage girl, a reality far too overwhelming for her to process.
This shows up most clearly in Syd’s superpowers. Her power causes uncontrollable and powerful destruction (forests crumbling, signs falling, walls breaking). Her power manifests whenever she becomes angry or embarrassed. In fact, anger is an emotion many suicide loss survivors face, but don’t always talk about. Although Syd does not understand this newly acquired superpower, she is able to pinpoint it to her overwhelming emotions.
Syd, for over a year, has avoided going down into the basement where her father took his life, as the trauma is too much to revisit. She ruminates over her dad leaving no note and not explaining why he took his life. “Did he think I wouldn’t need him around?” she desperately questions in the show. Syd adored her dad. They were incredibly close and she cannot comprehend why he would take his own life.
In one episode, Syd delivers a eulogy for her brother’s hedgehog, but it can be easily transferred to the loss of her dad instead. In it, she talks about feeling helpless and how life is so different without him. She pleads that had she had known, the family would have helped him. She then cries out, “When does this get easier?”
The family is chaotic, relationships are damaged, and they refuse to speak about his death. Syd wrestles with feeling unloved, alone and let down by others. Like many suicide loss survivors, Syd believes if she could just find a goodbye note from her dad then she could find closure and “move on.”
I have to wonder if, maybe, the writers of the show have also experienced the suicide of a parent because they portray this devastating loss so accurately. Syd and her mom, Maggie, are like pinballs, crashing into each other as they navigate life without Mr. Novak.
The show, overall, is dark-ish but also contains a couple of redeeming relationships for Syd in both her neighbor, Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), and brother, Liam. There is some sarcasm and wit that the audience will appreciate. Because each episode is only 22 minutes, one can pound out the entire first season in one sitting. I would give this show a three out of five stars. I may or may not tune into season two, but will forever appreciate how they portray the suicide loss of a parent in these kids’ lives.
Have you watched this show yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Header image via Netflix