Not sure this will be a long post because this is a delicate topic that everyone seems to have a different opinion on. Using various mental illnesses is common in fiction. Many of us can name at least one story where a character has a diagnosis of some kind. Sometimes it’s done with care and the other times it’s done rather bluntly. Yet, how often is it done correctly?
I remember seeing various shows and movies where they tried to show someone was autistic or schizophrenic. The former was usually done the extreme and the other repeatedly showed up as the reason behind a person committing murders. As a society, we tend to look at all of these things as a hindrance and a portal to abnormality. Many artists take that and run to the darker side of human nature. Seems only recently that people are pulling back and showing characters who have these issues and are proving that one can live a full life with them. Still, they do seem to be the butt of jokes such as Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. Comedy can be a bridge to get the audience to consider mental illness, but it can’t always get them the entire way to understanding.
For myself, I don’t use a lot of mental illness in my stories. I’m too nervous about getting something wrong and pushing the stigma that continues to create trouble. I might touch on depression and anxiety since I have a better understanding of that. For example, Quest of the Brokenhearted utilized my experience and thoughts on severe depression. Kira hit that point where she didn’t want to die, but didn’t care if she did. I’ll admit that I’ve been there in the past. It was fairly easy, and oddly cathartic, to do this since I had experience. Most authors don’t have that to work with when they try to make a character with a mental health issue. So, research is definitely a necessity.
So, I’m going to open the floor since this is a complicated topic and I’m always on the fence about it. Don’t want to say anything as if it’s a rule even though Wednesday will have a list of tips that are done in a tongue-in-cheek style. What does everyone else think about writing characters with mental health issues? Do you have any advice or experience doing this?