DISCUSSION: How To Mental Illness Portrayal In Stories

I know that their are many different mental health issues that people deal with. Some common ones are depression, anxiety, phobias, forms of ptsd, and more. Different episode stories have their characters deal with these issues and more. Some stories do not do a good job at it while others do. I’m just curious how the community feels about the portrayal in episode stories.

ADD TRIGGER WARNINGS! If you say something that may be triggering to someone please blur it out with a spoiler and give a trigger warning.

These questions are blanketed!

Should mental illnesses/disorders be in episode stories?

Is it alright for a story to focus on a mental illness/disorder?

How have you seen mental illnesses/disorders wrongly portrayed in an episode story?

How have you seen mental illnesses/disorders correctly portrayed in an episode story?

What would you say is the best way to portray mental illnesses/disorders in an episode story?

Is their anything you would like to add?

These questions are illness/disorder specific!

Please only answer these questions if you have a mental illness or mental disorder. You can specify what illness or disorder it is if you want but that is completely up to you.

How would you like to see your mental illness(es)/disorder(s) portrayed in episode stories?

What are some ways your mental illness(es)/disorder(s) has been portrayed that was harmful? Why was that harmful?

What is the correct way to portray your mental illness(es)/disorder(s)?

My answers (contains information about ADHD, DID, and depression)

Should mental illnesses/disorders be in episode stories?
I don’t have any problem with them being in a story.

Is it alright for a story to focus on a mental illness/disorder?
It is alright to do but it can be hard and should be taken with care.

How have you seen mental illnesses/disorders wrongly portrayed in an episode story?
I have seen them used as a plot tool to get a MC with a love interest to many times to count. In many circumstances they also get romanticized.

How have you seen mental illnesses/disorders correctly portrayed in an episode story?
I haven’t seen to to many stories that portray mental illnesses. Then again I don’t look for many either.

What would you say is the best way to portray mental illnesses/disorders in an episode story?
With care and empathy in mind. If you do have the issue you are trying to portray go from person experience or research. Not everyone has the same experiences and that should be remembered.

Note: I have been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention deficient hyper disorder), DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder previously known as multiple personality disorder), and Depression. That is what I will be talking about in these questions.

How would you like to see your mental illness(es)/disorder(s) portrayed in episode stories?
ADHD- I would love to see a character with this that isn’t medicated. A lot of people choose to not be medicated or can not be medicated for ADD and ADHD and I would love for that to be shown more.
DID- It would be nice to see a character with this in general. I have only ever seen one episode story with a character that had DID in it.
Depression- I see a lot of characters with this so I am glad it is well known and getting shown. It would be nice to see some characters who are medicated because I haven’t seen many that are medicated.

What are some ways your mental illness(es)/disorder(s) has been portrayed that was harmful? Why was that harmful?
ADHD- In episode stories this has been shown as something that makes a character hyper all the time. It has been shown making the character bubbly and childish all because of their disorder. It has been shown that characters are bad in school and the token annoying younger sibling type or person. It is a terrible portrayal. Some people with ADHD may act like this and it is alright but when this is all that is shown it makes everyone with ADHD look childish and immature.
DID- The only episode story I have seen this in made the character a criminal. The character was, in short, crazy. They were painted like they were harmful, violent, and a bad person to be around. It is harmful to people with DID to portray characters like this. People get the idea that people with DID are scary and violent when in most cases people with DID are more likely to be a victims to abuse than the abuser due to trauma.
Depression- This has been used as a plot tool to get love interests and MCs together. Once they are in their relationship the MCs depression just disappears and is never talked about again. It paints the idea that people with depression are broken and need to be fixed when this is not the case.

What is the correct way to portray your mental illness(es)/disorder(s)?
ADHD- As a normal person. The character may have issues with focusing on one thing for a long time, sleeping, oversleeping, fidgeting and other things but please do not make it their entire character.
DID- The character will be a complex one and that is how it should be. Making a character with DID is like making multiple characters then putting them in one body. The character may ‘zone out’ and switch between alters (the other people in the body/head) but it is not a dramatic thing to do. It comes from early childhood trauma. The character should not be some crazy killer or be told they are. Please if you add a character with DID in your story do your research. It is a complex disorder and should be written with care.
Depression- If you add character with depression into your story ask others what they think you should do and do some research. Do not take others story portrayals and use them as your own because they may not be correct.

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I personally do not have a mental illness. My story does though does have a MC with AD or AS(Aspergers Syndrome). I try to make sure that I don’t come off as offense but there is also a wide spectrum when it comes to autism. The MC’s isn’t as severe as it was when she was younger but it does leave her prone to seizures. It is ok to have mental illnesses in story but you just gotta do your research. I think there has been and equal amount of bad portrayals and good ones but I think that the focus of the illness in the story also has a big impact. If it is the main thing then it’s hard but if it’s a side thing it maybe easier. yea lol i’m kinda rambling but I hope this helps a bit.

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I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and have so far written two stories about it from personal knowledge.
I think if people write about a particular mental illness in their story they should either have it and write from personal experience, or research A LOT about it. Mental disorders (like OCD) are very misrepresented already and writing incorrect info about it in a story just adds to the pre-existing misconceptions that people have. It’s offensive to people who have actually been professionally diagnosed and suffer from the mental illnesses everyday when those illnesses are taken lightly.

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Yes, definitely. It’s a topic that should be discussed, and a lot of people sometimes relate to these stories.

As long as it written right- yes.

I’ve seen OCD being used as a joke in an episode official story… :grimacing: Also, I don’t know about episode stories - but in wattpad for example, people like to use the mental illness card to justify toxic characters (not talking about disorders like narcissism, which actually causes people to be toxic) by doing this they demonize the mental illness. (super popular with schizophrenia for example) they forget it’s such a complex thing.

research. and a lot of it. if you’re writing about a mental illness you never experienced you should reach out to people who did/do your research.

not as a joke. the stereotype about ocd is that people assume it’s about being organized/being afraid of germs. Sadly this stereotype is being used in stories and even as a slang.

Like I mentioned above, an episode official story (that demi lovato thing) used ocd as a slang/a joke TWICE. It was harmful Because they used it to describe perfectionism, when it’s much more than that. I also don’t really like to see my disorder being used as some kind of a slang, it’s hella annoying and ppl don’t know how hard it is to deal with that.

Well there are many different sides to ocd, there isn’t one correct way I guess. again, research is key ^^

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Mental illnesses absolutely can be in Episode stories if portrayed in a correct and educational way. And no, I’m not talking about writers who portray OCD as just simply having perfectionism or being a clean freak, or it makes a certain character qUiRkY. I’m also not talking about writers who think falling in love with a hot LI can save a character from trauma or depression :heart_eyes:

No. Just no. Do your research, educate yourself on the mental illness/disorder (or any topic you’re unfamiliar with, really) before you decide to publish it. Online resources are plenty so there are really no excuses.

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  1. Yes, I have no problem with that, as long as it is portrayed right.

  2. Of course, I think it’s really important to spread awareness.

  3. I’ve read one story where the main character has depression and, I believe, also anxiety. The MC just kept saying things like “I’m so, so depressed!” and “I can’t do this today, I’m depressed!”. I don’t have depression myself, but I’m pretty sure that is not how it works. It was portrayed just like everyone does nowadays. Saying that they have depression or that they are going to kill themselves, only because they’re not gonna pass an exam or they lost something (for example). I hate that this happens. There are people that have serious depression, it is NOT a joke, guys.

  4. I’ve read a beautiful story that portrayed depression so well with the dialogue. It was beautifully written and it maked me really emotional.

  5. Good written dialogue! It is hard to portray a mental disorder in an Episode story just by using animations. With good written dialogue, you have a good perspective of what the character feels and thinks. I hope I explained this correct :sweat_smile:

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I put them into the hide details thing cause it was kind long :relieved: anyway

By the way

This coming from a person who does have mental illness (mdd, gad, adhd), so it’s based off my own knowledge/experience. It’s just my opinion and I’m not at all an expert.

Should mental illnesses/disorders be in episode stories?

I think including mental illnesses/disorders in stories (when applicable) is really important. That’s not to say every character should be mentally ill nor to say every story should talk about mental illness, but it’s important to discuss the topic because its affects a lot of people. Including it in media such as episode stories helps normalize the discussion of mental health.

Is it alright for a story to focus on a mental illness/disorder?

I think so, but if a story focuses on any kind of illness/disorder, it’s very important that the author do proper research– especially if they don’t have the illness/disorder themselves. Just like there are stories about characters with cancer (for example) I think it’s fine that there’s a story about a character with depression (for example). But again, the author writing the story should just take the time to understand how to accurately and inoffensively portray the illness/disorder.

How have you seen mental illnesses/disorders wrongly portrayed in an episode story?

I just see a lot of disorders not be taken seriously. Like, when characters make comments about how OCD they are when the mean tidy/organized, or when character are described as bipolar, etc. Just overall really insensitive compassions in lieu of actual representation.

What would you say is the best way to portray mental illnesses/disorders in an episode story?

There are a lot of sides to this because portraying any illness/disorder is complex, but the biggest things are as follows: Understanding mental illness affects everyone differently, especially with things like anxiety/depression, it differs at least slightly from individual to individual. Second, do not romanticize or demonize mental illness. That is kind of vague, but for romanticizing I mean don’t make mental illness seem fun or quirky (like haha I’m so ocd :crazy_face:). For demonizing, I’m having some trouble explaining this but I mean don’t antagonize mentally ill people because of their mental illness (I hope that makes sense).

I was gonna do the last three questions but I feel like I just ended up repeating myself a bunch lol

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I’m creating a story called “Mentally Induced” where the MC has DID, and she’s in this mental hospital and meets other characters with other disorders/illnesses. I don’t have a mental illness myself, my little brother has ADHD, but I will still take a very long time on it to make sure everything is correctly portrayed.

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While I think it’s great for authors who have done their research to try and raise awareness toward mental health issues, I sometimes worry about the ‘trendy’ aspect of mental illness.

There’s a real harm in self-diagnosing yourself with a mental illness and portraying certain mental illnesses as ‘cool’ or ‘edgy’ increases this risk. Mental illnesses should be represented, but they shouldn’t be glamorized or romanticized.

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Should mental illnesses/disorders be in episode stories?
I’m perfectly okay with this as long as it’s not the narrative. I’m personally exhausted with “broken girl fixed by boy” narratives. Some are really good and tell a realistic narrative, but some are just cliché and create weird assumptions about mental illness.

Is it alright for a story to focus on a mental illness/disorder?
I don’t really care, to be honest. As long as authors do their research, it’s whatever.

How have you seen mental illnesses/disorders wrongly portrayed in an episode story?
Glorifying it and creating characters that fix it quickly. The reason I have a problem with this is because I deal with clinical depression, and some love interest doesn’t fix it. It takes therapy, medication (for some, it’s a personal preference), talking to people, connecting, etc. It’s not something that just “goes away”.
Do your research before writing about something so sensitive. If you aren’t willing to, you’re just contributing to harmful stereotypes around mental illness.
While mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are more common than more severe ones like schizophrenia, psychopathy, etc., I don’t understand the amount of stories that are portraying it. It’s almost like a crutch to create strong MCs.

How have you seen mental illnesses/disorders correctly portrayed in an episode story?
Not going into huge detail about it and not using it as a way to create a character. Many people are using mental health to prove a point about how strong and badass their characters.
Most writers who correctly portray it are people currently dealing with it. One story I read dealt with over-the-counter drug abuse. They handled it beautifully and showed rather than explained. It left the reader to create the emotional connection.

What would you say is the best way to portray mental illnesses/disorders in an episode story?
The story I read that portrayed it beautifully, made it clear that their mental disorder didn’t define their character. It was something the character was going through and was just a trial to endure. It wasn’t who the character was and if the character didn’t have that problem, the character would still be as emotionally deep and significant.

Most of what they did with mental illness was show and not tell.

Is their anything you would like to add?
There is a significant difference between a character dealing with problems and being depressed. I need writers to stop mingling the two.

Oh, and your MCs don’t need to deal with mental illness to be strong characters. Strength isn’t always something found from having a ton of problems.

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I think that they should be in stories but I think that authors really need to research or ask people about it to learn more. They shouldn’t just shape it the way they see it if they do not have it. Personally, I have depression and I struggle a lot with it. If it was portrayed in a way where the author makes it go away within a few days, that would kind of irritate me. See what I’m getting at??

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You should definitely let me know when you publish it! It would be a great read!

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Thank you! I’ll definitely do so!

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This sounds so interesting! I’d love to read when you publish it.

I’ve done a bit of research on DID for one of my psych classes and I would highly, highly recommend using Youtube for research! You can find a lot of YouTubers who have been diagnosed with DID and talk very candidly about their experiences.

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I agree. I don’t have depression, but I’m sure it’s something that doesn’t go away easily, or maybe it never goes away. I hate how some authors write depression as something that “pops up” when convenient, or they act like it’s being sad. Depression is much more mentally draining, and physically exhausting than that.

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Yes! I’ve watched MultiplicityAndMe and DissociaDID.

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Just a small warning about her. She definitely has done her research and is well educated on the topic but it has come out she may be faking the disorder. I don’t know if she is considering it is her personal business but a lot of people aren’t okay with her over it. Personally I think she is a perfectly fine source but I would be careful with some of her personal experiences just in case.

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Oh wow, I had no idea. I watched her back when TeamPinata and her got engaged. Thanks for telling me, I’ll keep that in mind!

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Yes thank you. Some authors just make depression as the way they see it and they don’t even have it you know what I mean? People with depression have “happy” moments but that doesn’t mean we’re not still suffering from it.

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Bump!