Mental illness, disability and other chronic illnesses impact billions of people globally to varying degrees and severities, so it is no surprise that it often comes up in writing. Unfortunately, it is also a subject that is also frequently glorified, exaggerated and sensationalized by people who haven’t done enough research or in some cases are looking to exploit some condition for sensationalism. Looking at you, Hollywood.
That said, there are also many works in different forms of media that portray mental illness very well. So how do you do it? How do you write a mental illness that you may have no experience with.
The first thing you should do, whether you’re portraying something you have or not, is research. Not all experiences are the same, and it can’t hurt to know too much. Another thing you can do is talk to people who have experience with the condition, as they will give you real-life examples of people living with it.
I would also recommend a site called The Mighty. It’s a massive blog where people post about living with various illnesses, both physical and mental. It’s a great place to connect with people who have your same condition and also a great place to learn something about the daily experiences of people dealing with a certain condition.
In the end, doing research and showing respect for the subject and the people who deal with it is the best policy when writing about illness people struggle with, both mental and physical. Avoiding stereotypes is an absolute must as well. It can be difficult to write these things well, but when done, it provides characters that we need in fiction, and portrays people who in some form or anther exist in real life.