Importance of Depicting Mental Illnesses In Novels

Novels are touted as sources of fantasy and imagination that meet together with the realistic mind to create a painting of endless color and texture. They often take the unimaginable and put them into words that take you along for the ride. Other times, they take reality and twist it into a mocking stereotype of what reality actually is.

I have always loved novels. I can spend hours exploring a fictional world, wishing that I could become one of them. The characters that come to life on the page are my best friends in the entire world. Oftentimes, I end the book wondering why can I not live in a life like that, and if I could become part of their world.

However, as I grow older, I find the urge to want to see more mental illness depictions in novels.

The Harry Potter series did a good job of adding mental illness into a child’s novel so discretely that you cannot tell until you go back and reread. The dementors symbolize depression; Harry Potter himself goes through PTSD after witnessing Cedric’s death.

There are yet many good books which accurately depict mental illnesses, both in real life and fictional life, from depression to anxiety to bipolar disorder.

Even still, there are other books out there who, themselves, deal with traumatic events, yet their characters come out of the other side how they were in the beginning.

Our society has begun accepting mental illness with open arms – although how welcome these embraces are, I am not completely sure – after years of abuse and neglect. More and more authors are beginning to incorporate either their experiences with mental illness or what they have spent hours researching into their novel. This is more important than ever to get over the stigma of mental illness. Furthermore, writing about mental illnesses, rather than the perfect character who is lovely, funny, and sweet, represents a group of society that makes up 19.1% (2018) of the entirety of people in the world (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

On the other hands, writing about mental illnesses allows those without mental illnesses (me, for instance) understand more about the struggles they are going through. Because books reach such a wide part of society, the more that we have conversations about mental illness (between those with and those without), the more that society will be able to understand and be more accepting.

I know that there are still people out there are have their minds set against mental illness. They believe mental illnesses don’t exist and that the condition is conjured up by some attention-seeking minds. Depression is a joke. Anxiety is need for attention. Bipolar disorder is a trick. In reality, if they could actually open their eyes, they would actually find out that really, it is not.

However, if you do not have a mental illness and still insist on writing about someone with a mental illness, please do your research. We do not need authors spreading misinformation or falling into stereotypes of those with mental illnesses.

The more that books correctly depict mental illnesses, the more that society will finally begin to open their eyes. Especially in times of the coronavirus where mental health is slowly declining, having books that depict the struggle of mental illnesses will represent a large group of society, and help the others get of their stigma of mental illnesses.

Lots of love,

Jess

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