PDA

View Full Version : Women and Mental Health



IrishScribbler
08-02-2006, 06:25 PM
I'm currently working on my novel, which is a women's fiction piece about a college-age woman struggling with severe depression and self-mutilation. It's the first novel in my attempt to bring women's mental health to the spotlight for women ages 18-30...an age group that is often overlooked (authors often focus on high school girls or adult women with families).

As someone who struggles with mental health herself (I was diagnosed last year with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorder), I think it's important to look at the mental health of strong female characters.

Has anyone else written women's mental health? Any comments?

Cathy C
08-02-2006, 08:04 PM
The heroine in our first romance, Hunter's Moon, is seriously depressed and, in fact, suicidal. Her's isn't because of an imbalance, though. It's an abusive family. I might add that she does NOT miraculously become "cured" by book's end. Life doesn't work that way. But the hero helps her realize she wants to live. It's a start.

I agree that depression, for whatever reason, can be a strong theme in a book. But the key (and, hence, the TRICK) is not to make the book maudlin. The struggle has to be made palatable to a non-depressed reader, and it helps for the heroine to recognize the problem. If self-delusion is involved, it needs to be made really, REALLY obvious--so the reader understands the heroine is rationalizing. But I will warn you, you'll get some bad reviews. Fiction is an escape from reality. Make the people TOO real and people get nervous.

Good luck with the process, though. It can be a lot of fun! :)

IrishScribbler
08-02-2006, 08:15 PM
I agree that depression, for whatever reason, can be a strong theme in a book. But the key (and, hence, the TRICK) is not to make the book maudlin. The struggle has to be made palatable to a non-depressed reader, and it helps for the heroine to recognize the problem. If self-delusion is involved, it needs to be made really, REALLY obvious--so the reader understands the heroine is rationalizing. But I will warn you, you'll get some bad reviews. Fiction is an escape from reality. Make the people TOO real and people get nervous.

Unless it's meant to be maudlin.

I've read novels that are meant to be disturbing in their reality of a horrible situation.

IrishScribbler
08-02-2006, 08:26 PM
I actually made a twenty something female character a bi-polar in one of my manuscripts. I am bi-polar with an OCD diagnosis as well. I think for me it just makes sense to touch on these issues in my fiction. Though I am male, I somehow feel more comfortable doing it with my female characters.

Good luck with your WIP.

Bipolar is my next novel. I have BPI, so that's how I'll write my M.C., probably.

I can see how it would be easier to write BP with a female character...since it's such an emotional disorder...then again, I'm coming from a female perspective, so who knows?

Susan Gable
08-02-2006, 08:28 PM
I'm currently working on my novel, which is a women's fiction piece about a college-age woman struggling with severe depression and self-mutilation. It's the first novel in my attempt to bring women's mental health to the spotlight for women ages 18-30...an age group that is often overlooked (authors often focus on high school girls or adult women with families).

?

I agree with Cathy. It's all in how you handle it. You need to make the character appealing despite all that she's dealing with.

I also agree that mental health is important, but I don't think it's usually the best idea to approach writing a novel to convey a certain message. Sometimes they DO give a message. But I don't know that's a good reason to write a story because it can lead to being "heavy handed" with the message.

For example, my second novel, The Mommy Plan, involved organ donation from both sides of the equation - that is, one character was dealing with the aftereffects of donating a loved one's organs, and one was dealing with the great joy of having received organs (not the same ones!) for his loved one. Had I set out to preach about or bring light to the organ donation "issue" (i.e, not enough organs out there, and people dying every day, etc.) I could have totally wrecked the story. I wanted to hit on the emotions of the situation. If people took something important away about organ donation, fantastic. But that's not why I wrote it.

I write to entertain and to touch my readers' emotions.

So I would just caution you. Take care with how you deal with the mental illness. Balance dark with light. Don't overburden your readers too much. :) Sprinkle in humor.

Good luck!

Susan G.

IrishScribbler
08-02-2006, 08:31 PM
I agree with Cathy. It's all in how you handle it. You need to make the character appealing despite all that she's dealing with.

I also agree that mental health is important, but I don't think it's usually the best idea to approach writing a novel to convey a certain message. Sometimes they DO give a message. But I don't know that's a good reason to write a story because it can lead to being "heavy handed" with the message.

For example, my second novel, The Mommy Plan, involved organ donation from both sides of the equation - that is, one character was dealing with the aftereffects of donating a loved one's organs, and one was dealing with the great joy of having received organs (not the same ones!) for his loved one. Had I set out to preach about or bring light to the organ donation "issue" (i.e, not enough organs out there, and people dying every day, etc.) I could have totally wrecked the story. I wanted to hit on the emotions of the situation. If people took something important away about organ donation, fantastic. But that's not why I wrote it.

I write to entertain and to touch my readers' emotions.

So I would just caution you. Take care with how you deal with the mental illness. Balance dark with light. Don't overburden your readers too much. :) Sprinkle in humor.

Good luck!

Susan G.

I already am doing that. If it were too dark, it wouldn't be believable, anyway.

IrishScribbler
08-02-2006, 08:40 PM
I make the illness secondary in my own work. As someone dealing with it, it is not a major part of who I am. It is not even something I think about that often. I hope the illness doesn't make me less appealing? I wouldn't think that anyone would be off-put by my characters who suffer from mental illness. I would hope not, anyway. I like to put it in the story, make the character maybe a bit more appealing than the people around them and have them just maybe a bit more quirky in nature than others. 'despite what she's dealing with'...I would say 'because of what she's dealing with'.

That's the challenge. There's so much stigma surrounding mental illness that I want to write it in such a way that, after reading my book, readers don't see mental illness as "Oh, gosh, Nicole has bipolar disorder...don't startle her" but more as "That's Nicole. She's a famous author who has bipolar disorder."

Yes, it's often secondary in the lives of the diagnosed, but not so in society. I want to help break down some of those stereotypes and stigmas.

KTC
08-02-2006, 08:43 PM
I wish you all the best. I think it's a great idea!

Becky Writes
08-04-2006, 11:40 PM
In my 2nd novel, the herione was schizophrenic. Like mentioned before, she was not cured by the end of the book, but my God, she deserved to be after all I ut her through.

kristie911
08-05-2006, 07:24 AM
I have struggled with self-mutilation for years (I'm not cured but I have it under control) but personally I could never create a character with the same problem. I'm too afraid people would look at the character and associate it with me. There are only two people in the world that know about my problem and neither is family (well, and now all of you!). I admire all of you that can take your own situations and put your characters in the same place. I guess it would be too hard for me to do. I have had characters with mental issues but I couldn't mirror my own...I think it would be far too hard for me to deal with.

IrishScribbler
08-07-2006, 05:19 PM
I have struggled with self-mutilation for years (I'm not cured but I have it under control) but personally I could never create a character with the same problem. I'm too afraid people would look at the character and associate it with me. There are only two people in the world that know about my problem and neither is family (well, and now all of you!). I admire all of you that can take your own situations and put your characters in the same place. I guess it would be too hard for me to do. I have had characters with mental issues but I couldn't mirror my own...I think it would be far too hard for me to deal with.



Part of dealing with it, for me, is writing my characters with the same issues. By writing my characters dealing with these issues, it helps me deal with it, as well. And it helps it not become who I am, but rather a small part of me, if that makes sense.