Wattpad Creator Daisy (@ScarlettBlackDaisy) has been writing on Wattpad since 2018. One of her most popular stories on the platform is Knowing Xaiver Hunt. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Wattpad corp. or affiliated companies.
Stories are a huge aspect of my practice as a clinical psychologist. Every person has a story, and their narrative can give life to it. The more of a person's life story I hear, the better I understand and am able to help them towards their goals.
As a teenager struggling with my mental health, I found solace in fiction. It was nice to detach from my reality for a few moments, shift focus away from my pain and towards others, even if they were only characters. Yet even that wasn't enough. I felt helpless in my life and helpless in those books. That was when I started to write. I wanted the characters I loved to live a life I could not, crafting their happy endings to distract me from the ongoing world of reality. Writing became my therapy. Thus began my entangled affair with storytelling.
The relationship only grew stronger when I transformed from a teen struggling with mental health to an adult advocating for mental health. Sitting in the therapist's chair, I could not craft stories in my bedroom past midnight as used to do as a teen. I could, however, try to do my part towards peoples' happy endings. I wanted to help. I wanted to make things better.
Wattpad and mental health awareness
It wasn't until I found Wattpad and put my stories out there that I was able to see the impact my stories had. Although I'd initially tried to find myself represented in other stories, I eventually knew I had to write. I had stories to tell—my own and other people's—and I couldn't keep them to myself any longer. They haunted my waking moments, begging to be shared. Wattpad provided me with the platform to do so.
I was apprehensive though. The stories I had to tell were raw and painful. They were real, tragic, and I questioned my ability to do them justice. Besides, people read to escape their struggles. Why would they want to indulge in them? Who would want to read about anxiety and depression and abuse and pain?
As the voices in my head grew louder, however, I knew I had no choice. The stories needed to be written, and I was going to write them.
With every new chapter, my reader count grew. The first time I hit 100 reads, I was ecstatic. I would check my notifications a hundred times a day, marveling every new vote, every little comment. I couldn't believe it, people were reading the stories I never thought would be expected. And with every new reader, every new follower, my hope grew.
Until the day I got my first inbox message that wasn't promotional. It was a story. A confession. A thank you.
I'll never forget the words, an anonymous stranger from somewhere in the world bleeding words into a message to tell me how hard they cried when they read my story, how they understood the characters, and how they felt seen. They were real, honest, and vulnerable—just like my stories.
And it didn't stop there.
Opportunities from Wattpad and love from the Wattpad community
Being invited into the Wattpad Stars Program was unreal. The Paid Stories Program invites and the Creators Program invite followed, and I knew… not only the Wattpad community but also the Wattpad staff was interested in what I was writing.
One after the other, soon, I had hundreds of messages from people telling me their stories. Some simply wanted to get words off their chest, some had questions on how to cope with their mental health struggles, and some were kind enough to tell me how great my stories were. Not for the grammar. Not for the poetic language. Not for their popularity. But their truth.
There were others who wanted to know how they could do the same, talk about their mental health struggles without stigmatizing it, without romanticizing it, and without dramatizing it. So I started to ask myself the same thing. While there's no one way to go about things, I knew I could do my part in sharing some things I've learned. Which now I'll share with you.
Learning to write about mental health
Do you want to write about mental health but you're not sure where to start? I've got you! Follow these steps to get on your way.
Make sure you know what you're talking about. If you're writing about a mental illness, make sure you know what it is and how it affects people. Don't be fooled by what you see in movies and read in books. Do your own research. If it's a condition you're not personally experiencing, talk to people who have been diagnosed with it so you can get their honest opinions. Sensitivity readers can help, so can simply being an empathic listener.
Do not generalize
Despite mental illnesses being categorized, recognize that people are different. The same mental illness can affect people differently, and their experiences will range widely. Do not attempt to use the more known symptoms as a general rule of thumb. Mental illnesses are nuanced and people are intricate.
Stigmatization vs. Romanticization
Two mistakes I frequently see in mental health literature are the stigmatization of mental illnesses and romanticization of mental illnesses. I understand that it is hard to achieve balance. However, with the number of movies, shows, and books associating antisocial behavior, crime, and violence with mental illnesses, it's hard to overlook the glaring problem. It's important to recognize people as people rather than let their diagnosis define them. It is a 'person with depression', not a 'depressed person'. Making sure we're not doing more harm than good is vital.
On the flip side, we have romanticization. As hard as it might be to admit, romanticization of mental illness is a common phenomenon. Although it is important to accept certain disorders, they are still exactly that: Disorders. 'Normalizing' mental illness is just as damaging as stigmatizing it, especially when linked with romance in young adult and new adult fiction. Yes, struggling with mental health is something many people relate to. Yes, accepting people and being compassionate is key. However, becoming complacent is not. People are not victims of their circumstances. Seeking therapy, getting help, and feeling better is something our stories need to promote.
Reflect, reflect, reflect
Ask yourself why you want to write about mental health. Is it personal to you? Something you're passionate about? Or are you writing about mental health because it's popping up as a trope in many stories? It's important to be honest with ourselves about our motivation behind writing such stories, not only in the beginning of the story but every step of the way.
All in all, if mental health is something you're passionate about, or if it's something that is personal to you and you'd like to write about it, go for it. If not, don't be discouraged. We can all make a change. Let's ensure the change we bring is positive. You never know what people are going through. Whether through writing or by small acts of kindness, we can always make positive change.
I'm so glad I was able to use Wattpad as an outlet to share my stories focused on mental health, and I hope others will find the same support and inspiration too.