Hello! Today I want to make a post as a reader, not a writer.
These are my opinions when it comes to characters with mental health issues, as a reader and as someone who has dealt with mental health issues herself.
Let me come outright and tell you my three most important values on this topic:
When writing a character with mental health issues, ask yourself:
Am I doing this to gather sympathy?
Am I portraying this in a realistic way?
Am I giving the character human traits or is she a stereotype?
These are really important questions to me. Let me explain why.
1. Am I doing this to gather sympathy?
You want your readers to relate to your characters. I want to relate to characters I read, too. But characters are supposed to be just like people, and I don’t pity or feel sorry for those who have mental health issues.
You know, the tsk-ing, aww-ing, condescending sort of sympathy.
Those who suffer from mental health issues are going through difficulties and deserve our support and empathy, not pity. So if you’re trying to gather sympathy for your character, it’s best to think of meaningful ways to do so.
2. Am I portraying this in a realistic way?
I used to care for a woman who was bipolar. It was difficult work. You can imagine my anger when someone in a workshop had used bipolar to make one of their characters a manic pixie dream girl trope.
(By the way, the autistic super powers thing has been overdone, in books and TV.)
People who deal with mental health issues already deal with a mountain of misconceptions and stereotypes that are thrust upon them. As a reader, I put down any book that simply adds to the misconceptions, because I feel that it hurts the issue of mental health.
3. Am I giving the character human traits or is she a stereotype?
Giving a character OCD is not characterization, in and of itself. When the character is a walking, talking poster-boy for OCD (or any other mental health issue) and nothing else, guess what? You’ve got a stereotype.
People with mental health issues are as complex and multi-dimensional as anyone else.
As a reader, I want to get to know a character, not just walking/talking OCD characteristics. You’re doing your character a disservice if you forget that they, too, are human. Tell me more than what they suffer from. Make them human.
Have you read a book that portrays mental health in a fair, realistic way?
Share it in the comments!
YariGarciaWrites (and reads! 😝)
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