Writing Characters with Mental Illnesses
- July 27, 2019
This article is probably the most important one I have written for Ghost Authors yet. Mental illness affects so many of us, myself included. Reading a character with mental illness can make someone feel recognized and less alone. However, when it is written badly, you can do more harm than good.
So this article will have some pointers to think about when you write a character with a mental illness.
Do Your Research
Please, please, if you are writing any mental illness, do your research. Even if it is your own voice, there will be parts of the illness that don’t affect you the same as others. Use Google or whatever search engine you use and get to work.
Interview people with the illness
This kind of goes with doing your research on the subject. A quick search is not going to be enough for you to integrate a mental illness into your character. The internet can never replace a real person’s experience. If you know someone with the illness that you want to write ask them about it.
However, if you are asking a real person, please be careful not to trigger them. Make sure they are emotionally able to talk about their experiences with you. Also, give them full disclosure. Tell them why you want to know these things.
Watch youtube videos
If you do not have someone to ask, or you do, but they are not comfortable talking about it, another great source is Youtube. Many people will upload mental illness stories to their channels. They go in depth about their experiences. You can usually find a lot of information that way as well.
Don’t make it all of the character
I see a lot of the time that if a character has a mental illness, that mental illness is all that character is. This can happen because the author wants the mental illnesses to be so real that they forget they still need to make a well–rounded character.
This can really offend someone who has mental illness. It can make them feel as if the author thinks mental illness is all that person is.
So remember that while you write this character, to let them take shape like any other character. The only difference is that you are adding a mental illness into the mix.
Find a mental illness that you can write
I would say that if you are scared to write a mental illness, go for it. But, if you honestly do not feel like you can write a certain mental illness at this moment, don’t. Give it time and learn more about it, then maybe one day you can write it.
Know how important it is
Don’t write a mental illness just to write a mental illness. Please, remember that real people go through this. Don’t write it just because the subject is trending or because you want a shock factor. Write it because your character truly has it. Remember that people with that illness will read it and whether it’s good or bad, it will affect them.