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Suggestions when writing characters with Mental Illnesses

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  • Suggestions when writing characters with Mental Illnesses

    Hi guys! We've all seen the new shelf and it's clear that we're not happy with it. So I asked myself the question: How can I make my story more diverse? Well I follow this amazing page on instagram called epy.diversity and some amazing authors who make some great points but one thing I find lacking is non-stereotypical characters with a mental illness. I feel like most of us tend to avoid writing such characters to avoid offending people and making incorrect assumptions so I've made this thread for everyone who has an opinion or advice on this topic for all authors.

    So comment below on what you would like to see (or not see) on Episode when characters with mental illnesses are involved. Feel free to comment f you are someone with a mental illness and you have been offended or misunderstood or if you know someone in that position.

    We are all entitled to our own opinions but please be considerate of other peoples feelings.

    I'll start:

    1. I would like to see less characters who are villains because they are 'mentally ill'. I feel as though this portrays people with mental illnesses as harmful/violent/heartless and so on and I think that this makes people ask themselves questions such as "Am I like this?" "Will I be like them?" and it creates many misconceptions about people with mental illnesses. If you do write a character like that, add a disclaimer or simply avoid writing such character. (That's my personal opinion, you don't have to agree.)

    2. Addiction is not something that is easily cured by a speech. This just creates an impression that people with addictions are simply not trying hard enough or have flaws in their characters. However that is not the case. My grandfather has an alcoholic and I WISH it was that simple but it isn't

    3. OCD is not about being a neat freak. My friend's maths teacher has OCD and it is not that simple.

    4. Know that psychiatrists and psychotherapists are different. (I found this one on the web)

    Psychiatrist – expert in diagnosing mental health problems and prescribing medication, with some knowledge of giving talking therapies to patients (e.g. CBT, psychotherapy)
    Psychotherapist – expert in deliverying a specific type of talking therapy – usually psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy or psychodynamic psychotherapy.

    5. Someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (what you guys refer to as 'split personality') would not kill someone when they are in one of their alter personality state unless the core personality would also kill! I see many antagonists in stories which have this and they blame killing or hurting others on their alter personality.

    Don't be afraid to do your research, ask questions and more importantly let's help each other! It's the only way we will learn and help this community to grow.

  • SnowflakeCookie
    commented on 's reply
    I personally have had bad traumatic experiences with people with autism, so I am just a little confused as to how it isn’t a mental illness. I have PTSD, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts/intentions, major paranoia, and voices in my head (not intentions anymore, just sometimes random thoughts. It is hard to explain). Plus I also suffer from chronic headaches. I have such bad anxiety I can barely function outside my house, and constantly have my eyes twitching.

  • PastelleRose
    commented on 's reply
    Highly religious schools probably won’t have people coming out. In my school (I’m in England), it’s catholic but not all students are catholic. A lot of people are out, and the majority are okay with it.

  • -Trisa
    commented on 's reply
    I'm making a story that has the main character diagnosed with severe depression. If I get a comment saying this is fake, I don't even know what to do anymore because I AM diagnosed with severe depression so hands down i'm just done.

  • StillyMom
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Erkia
    replied
    bumping because this is important

    Leave a comment:


  • myarmyofmonkeys
    replied
    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*

    Leave a comment:


  • Windlay
    replied
    A thing I usually tell myself:
    ”I do not have a psychopathic character, I have a character who is a psychopath.” Their illness does NOT define them.. I am not an anxious person, I am a person with anxiety.

    Leave a comment:


  • pottercreep
    replied
    I'm glad there's life in this topic again, since it's an important one in my opinion.

    I have been diagnosed with several mental illnesses and that makes me unsure whether or not to include them into my story. That's because I'm not sure whether a person without a disorder would react the way I describe in my story. Get it?

    I also want to point out that IF you want to write about mental illness, don't make it your focal point. Even if it's a big part of your story as in certain character development: make it subtle! Don't throw it in your reader's faces. A beautiful example IMO is The Perks of Being a Teenage Wallflower, which is a coming-of-age story in which a mental illness is added beneath the surface. There are some hints here and there which leave us wondering what's going on. Only at the very end of the movie, we see what it was, after it has triggered our curiosity (which is far better to trigger regarding mental illnesses instead of disgust/misunderstanding/pity (ugh)/anger/you name it) and we are much more understanding and touched. Yes, the movie does make me cry every time I see it, but it doesn't make me feel bad or sad, because it's so SUBTLE.

    That subtlety also makes me doubt adding a mental illness to my story, because it's so damn hard to add that subtlety!

    Another note I want to add for writers who think about adding this subject matter to their story: mental illness itself is very complex and possibly subtle. It took me 9 years filled with a variety of psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists and therapies to finally get a proper diagnosis. Those years were also filled with therapy 'gaps' in which I thought (and made my therapists/doctors believe) that nothing's 'wrong' with me (I put wrong in between quotation marks because of the negative sound to that word :/ ). Once again: subtlety is key.

    Leave a comment:


  • GiGi is Me
    replied
    I have AD. (not ADHD, but asperger syndrome. A type of autism) I can be very anti-social, and I've never been the best when it comes to speaking. I shake my hands, and staying still is basically impossible for me. But hey, I'm not ashamed of it . I can't be since I'd be with it for the rest of my life. I love how there's stories where the characters with mental illness aren't adnormal and how they can live life as normal people. Especially stories with autistic characters.

    Leave a comment:


  • bolt2k
    commented on 's reply
    (P.s, if you're wondering what meds I take, I take chlorpromazine and fluphenazine. There is also a drug used to treat schizophrenia called Clozapine, which is known as a drug of last resort because the side affects can kill you. Just in case you are writing a character with schizophrenia, you shouldn't make them take clozapine and have them also be high functioning.) also sorry for the info dump haha

  • bolt2k
    replied
    Hi everyone, I know this post is probably old and dead, but if you are looking for tips on writing mentally ill people then I just want to say that I am always willing to hand out some pointers! I don't usually tell people this because it always makes people act different around me (unsurprisingly, haha), but I am a high fucntioning schizophrenic (high functioning is a term used to describe how a mental illnesses would affect a person's ability to function in society, high functioning being able to work, learn, and live in society albeit a few difficulties. Low functioning is requiring someone to look after you because you are unable to do many things)

    I also have ADHD, which has a lot of symtoms that overlap with schizophrenia.

    I am not self diagnosed.

    My mom has BPD (borderline personality disorder)

    if you need help writing about any of these mental illnesses, feel free to send me a PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • samrover18
    commented on 's reply
    Lum I know. I still talk to people on episode just not any other people. Just not a sociable person.
    Last edited by samrover18; 04-06-2017, 10:13 AM.

  • Lum
    commented on 's reply
    Being antisocial is not being asocial or introverted, though. Antisocial has a much more deep and different meaning that the one people give it in daily conversations.

  • Lum
    commented on 's reply
    I agree with the 4th one, but I'd like to clarify that some people ignore minorities even if they are clearly present in certain enviroments. For example, you can still have a lesbian character in a Catholic school even if some religious clerics are strongly against homosexuality, etcetera.
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