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Suggestions when writing characters with Mental Illnesses

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  • #16
    I think more stories writing characters in roles that have mental illnesses but function with them? For example, the mother may suffer from depression, but she functions if on her medications. I think seeing the characters get help is good? Not making their mental illness the only thing about them? Am I defined as depressed or am I defined as an artistic individual with a loving heart, good cooking ability, but I also suffer from depression?
    This also goes for writing characters with special needs, in order to not define them by them. When I look at my son, I don't see autism, I see a happy kid with a lot of energy, that needs a lot of attention, and is more receptive and expressive than other kids, I see the good qualities in him, not just the bad. We need to look at things from another perspective. See the good in people, while we don't ignore the obvious problem, we don't have to make it the focus.

    It is good to realise though, untreated mental health issues can lead to bad things. I don't necessarily view it as a bad thing that we recognize that.
    For instance: Untreated depression can lead to suicide.
    For instance: Untreated schizophrenia can lead to hurting ones self or others.
    For instance: Untreated anxiety can lead to social isolation

    While we want to recongnise these things, we also don't need to have them the primary focus. Because not all people with depression commit suicide, not all people with schizophrenia are murderers, not all people with anxiety stay indoors.

    just my two cents *shrugs*

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    • #17
      bumping because this is important

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      • #18
        I know with my story, I try to portray Mental Illness in a very honest and real way. It is frustrating when you see stories that inaccurately portray various forms of mental illness. One of the ones that irritates me the most is the person suffering from depression or PTSD that is magically all better by meeting the love of their life. That is simply not the case. Overcoming PTSD, depressions, anxiety, or any form of mental illness is a life long battle. I often get asked "When will the main character get better" and I'm always like... define better. I try to bring light to very serious issues, and hope that by the end, people will realize that PTSD is not something that just goes away. You live with it for the rest of your life, that you just learn to cope and adapt.

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        • #19
          Bumping this because it’s very important and has really helpful info from you all <3

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          • #20
            I think in order to effectively write about mental illness, you have to either experience it. Sure, you can know someone who has a mental illness, but do you really know what goes on inside their mind? I mean, I know you could probably research the heck out of it, but once again, does that really do justice to how it feels to experience mental health problems? That's just my opinion coming from someone with depression.
            I've read some stories that either stigmatize or glorify mental health issues... especially when it comes to trauma survivors. Unless you've experienced it, there are no words to really describe it.
            There are also some amazing stories out there that very accurately depict mental health issues. The ones I hate the most is where a character has an experience and they are all better in no time almost like nothing happened. I have actually quit reading stories because of this, and sadly, some of these are very popular stories with millions of reads.

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            • pottercreep
              pottercreep commented
              Editing a comment
              I disagree with the fact that you'd have to experience mental illness to write about it. That would mean that only people suffering / having suffered from it could portray this topic? Sure, only they know their exact personal experience, but that's also very different from what someone else with the same condition experiences. Not to mention that their illness could influence their writing skills.

              The solution? Take ghost writers for example. There are some excellent ones out there who can really get inside someone's head and portray it as a person who's not suffering from such an illness. I think that would also make it more accessible for readers. What do you think?

              Also note that I am common with mental health issues and therefore in doubt about in which lengths I should add it in my story or not.(see post on first page). I respect your thoughts on it and that's why I want to hear your thoughts on mine

            • StillyMom
              StillyMom commented
              Editing a comment
              I don't think you necessarily have to have experienced mental illness to write about it, you just have to have a good understanding of it. Sure, my story is essentially based on my experiences and struggles with my own mental health issues, but there are some aspects of my story that I have not personally experienced. I do, however, do extensive research and talk with those who have experienced those aspects of mental illness.

              I do agree that there are stories out there that don't accurately portray mental health disorders. While true that not everyone's experience is the same, I have yet to meet or talk to someone who did not endure a lifelong battle with their mind. Therapy, medications, and outlets help... but you are never "fixed". This can be somewhat damaging to people that take stories as fact think that those of us who suffer from mental health issues can just get over it and we don't want to be better. I have received comments on my own story to the fact that the main character with a mental health problem experiences a roller coaster of ups and downs. They don't seem to understand that it is not a smooth journey and you constantly struggle not to fall down again.

              Having struggled with depression, anxiety, and PTSD for over 13 years, I cannot tell you the number of times I have slid backward. Each time results in an increase in medication, more therapy, and more determination. I do think its important to bring awareness though, as it can help people realize that we do not WANT to be this way. I have also found in writing my story, that it does help others who do experience similar experiences to know that they are not alone. That though they may struggle, though they may feel weak, they are still strong for not giving up.

              I hope that makes sense.

              J. Miley

          • #21
            I do not mean to come off as pessimistic but this thread is most definitely not getting moved to the new forums mainly because it only has approximately 20 posts [not including the comments] as well as little to no one supporting it.
            So today I saved everyone's posts onto a google doc and if anyone has anything to add before the move I will be adding their posts to that document so feel free to continue to post until then.
            When the new forums come around, I will be reposting [and possibly revamping] this thread and adding a link to the document again.

            Here is the link.
            [but it may take a while to update again as I will not be going on for a while].

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