How to Write characters with Mental Illnesses the Right Way

one of the things that the characters of my works have in common is that they all have tragedy. And that tragedy affects the characters in my works, so I have to know how to write them with things like P.T.S.D, depression, and D.I.D factually and truthfully. I do that using these things.

  1. Research. This one should be obvious to you. Research everything that you can about the illness. You need to know all of the symptoms, how it affects the person’s brain. You need to become an encyclopedia of information on this illness.
  2. Cross Reference. Researching is not enough though. No you have to find out if this information is true and up to date. These things can change, people find out new things about mental illnesses all the time. Sometimes even the name of illnesses can change. Just look at Multiple Personality Disorder, everybody knows it at that but the medical definition is Dissociative Identity Disorder.
  3. Talk To/Read About Their Experiences. Knowing factually what this illness is not enough. Just because you know the facts about it does not mean you know what the it’s like to actually live with this illness. You need to talk to of find blogs from people living with this illness and find out how it affects them.
  4. Draw From Experience. If you have ever experienced this characters mental illness, or even just something close to or like it then use that. That does not mean that just because you have the mental illness that the character has that you should not do the other steps. Not everybody has the same symptoms or life that you do.
  5. Get Your Facts Straight. One of the things that a lot of people, myself included, hate more than anything is when our mental illness is portrayed in the wrong light. Sure you can get away with some exaggerating here and their and maybe just get an eye roll. But it can get frustrating when the character’s illness is just outright false or contradicting.
  6. Get Someone To Look Your Work Over. You should be able to find someone who has the illness portrayed to be able to read your work and tell you if you got it wrong anywhere.

Mental illness is something that should be taken seriously. We already have enough false or twisted information floating around about it. Please don’t help contribute to that, do your research and get it right.

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