Q&A Part 42: Stigma in Mental Illnesses

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@madily3003 asks: have you experienced the stigma/fear around mental illness in society preventing care to people, and how did this affect how you addressed writing character's reactions to Bo?

Great question! I have and I haven't. I haven't personally experienced the stigma that surrounds mental illness, but it has personally affected me inasmuch as I've seen the harm it can do. My grandfather was never really sympathetic to my brother's mental illness and contributed to his anxiety in a very real way that had negative repercussions. Teachers didn't always care to understand--he was a "problem" child, not a kid who had special needs, because they didn't see the special needs.

I've seen this with friends too--someone with anxiety being told to "get over it," or someone with depression being told to "just get up and do something, that's all it takes."

I had a lot of fear when I was pregnant. I sat my husband down and went over all the warning signs of post partum depression, including suicide signs. I ended up being okay, but I worried with my family's DNA, I would be a victim, and I'm glad we talked about it beforehand. The doctors treated me like a child. "Are you feeling the baby blues?" they'd ask. Post partum depression isn't freaking "baby blues," it's a very real hormonal imbalance that leads to death. But even in the hospital, it was treated like it was just a little sad feeling.

I find the stigman and dismissal of mental health disgustingly repulsive, and it's definitely something I tried to bring up in A World Without You. Bo's father in particular doesn't want to admit that there's something wrong with his son, and dismisses most of his problems. It's only because of caring doctors and a quietly insistent mother that Bo gets treatment. In a more insidious way, I also bring this up with a side character, Ryan. Ryan's parents throw money at the "problem" of their son, not love and treatment.

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