Refer to my previous post, in which I discuss why writers should consider addressing mental health themes, through their fiction.
I’m now hoping to expand upon this, and create a series of connected blog posts, and this, therefore, is the second post.
I’ve covered aspects of the subject before, but felt that it deserved more specific attention.
Of course, when it comes to why we might want to address the subject of mental illness in our fiction, often personal experience will be a factor.
Certainly, in my own case, my personal experiences of both mental and physical health issues do motivate me, and make me especially determined to not only cover, but do justice to, the subjects of mental and physical illness.
I definitely don’t want to limit my writing to what I’ve been through.
My characters aren’t me. In fact, they experience many mental health issues that are similar to mine, and many that are not.
I feel that, having been through mental illness of any kind, does make us more compassionate, and able to relate more readily, to many of the extreme emotions, much of the deep distress, associated with other conditions.
In combination with research, this natural sense of empathy and understanding will be invaluable to us, as writers.
Never more so than when it comes to exploring less familiar mental health symptoms, in our own work.
Many mental illnesses are very similar, in certain respects. If you’ve had problems with alcohol, or even eating disorders, this can help you to relate to aspects of heroin addiction, even though you would obviously need to thoroughly research the subject, in order to do it justice.
Also, OCD has a great deal in common with, for example, BPD and Bipolar Disorder – so don’t assume that you necessarily understand very little about a particular mental health problem, merely because you have never had a particular diagnosis.
I would actually advocate thorough research, even if you do have the same mental illness as one or more of your characters, because every case is different. Additionally, not every diagnosis given is even accurate, or as clear-cut and definite as may have been implied by health professionals.
Please also read my recent update about my novel, Distorted Perceptions.