Storytelling as a Booster
As the stigma traditionally associated with mental health decreases, more people may feel empowered to tell their own stories of living with mental health conditions. Popular culture can do its part by normalizing the discussion of illnesses and challenges. In pop culture, portraying optimism—feelings of hopefulness about living with mental illness and finding treatment and support—can be helpful, as opposed to focusing on pessimism—a blue or negative attitude.
The Benefits of Hearing Other People’s Stories
- The stories, art, and literature of others can be powerful tools to portray mental illness and to enhance understanding of it.
- Through other people’s stories, we can see new perspectives and encounter characters to relate to.
- We can also develop empathy—the ability to sense and feel others’ feelings—and even develop compassion—the desire to act on feelings of empathy in order to be helpful.
- Gaining an understanding of mental illness through others’ stories may not offer all the facts or nuances of mental illness. However, such stories do bring mental illness to the forefront and offer us an awareness and the opportunity to think about mental illness.
- Respect and concern for mental illness, and knowledge about it, are important steps for improving living with mental illness and making sure accessible, evidence-based treatment is available.
The Benefits of Sharing Your Own Story
According to SAMSHA, telling our own stories can be a healing and empowering experience. Storytelling can offer the opportunity to process our own feelings as well as share experiences with others in the hope of encouraging them to seek help for themselves or loved ones or feel understood.
Storytelling Tips Include:
- Writing to connect with others.
- Writing in an authentic way that reflects your voice.
- Making a story relatable.
- Sharing messages of treatment, recovery, and healing.
- Writing in an engaging way that makes the story memorable and even useful to others seeking help for themselves or loved ones.
- Brainstorming ideas; thinking about personal experiences and knowledge of yourself and others.
- Finding a genuine connection to the topic.
- Deciding whether the subject is interesting, motivating, or relatable for the audience.
- Considering the message you want to share.
- Thinking about the impact your story might have on others.
- Delving into what makes your story unique.
- Thinking about the purpose of your writing. You want to share your story, but do you also want to inform or convince or challenge your audience, for instance?
- Considering your audience. Are you writing for young people or a more mature group? Are you writing for loved ones of those living with mental illness, for a more general population, or for those experiencing mental illness themselves?
- Going back to basics. Engaging the senses: taste, touch, sight, sound, smell) and answering the questions who, what, when. where, how, and why.
Resources for Writing about Mental Illness
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has resources and platforms for telling your story (or encouraging others to do so). Their platforms are hopeful and can help people understand that they are not alone if they are living with mental illness.
Sharing stories can offer strength and hope, drive change, and offer a sense of optimism about the realities of de-stigmatizing mental illness and the effective treatments and successful paths to recovery that are available.
How Storytelling in General Can Help Mental Wellness—Even if the Topic is Not About Mental Health
In general, engaging in a creative activity may be a mental health booster. It can help you get in the flow—a feeling where distractions are kept at bay, negative thoughts are pushed away, and focusing on the creative task at hand is the priority. Writing a story can help you process feelings or simply enjoy the perks of creative energy. So, whether you’re writing explicitly about mental illness or engaging in other forms of storytelling, the creative outlet can have a positive impact on your mental health.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
Want more Pop Culture Articles?
1. Read, Watch, and Listen: The Marriage of Pop Culture and Better Mental Health
2. Psychologists and Creators: How Creative Communities Can Boost Mental Health
3. Sensitivity in Film: Managing Films that Deal with Mental Health
4. Stereotypes of Mental Health in Pop Culture