Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Writing About Mental Illness -- by Christine Lindsay

I'm not much interested in reading novels that weigh me down with the darkness of mental illness. Yet, it's an issue that's risen it's confusing head in my own family. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I steer away from stories that delve deeply into the shadows of depression.

I don't like going there. It's all just too dark.

I've had to live with the affects of emotional and mental illness in many of the people I love. My own precious daughter suffers with severe depression. If it weren't for heavy duty medications from her psychiatrist, she would be unable to function in our fast-as-lighting world today. 

My mother also struggled with depression and was even misdiagnosed by her doctor and prescribed medications that actually worsened her condition. One uncle died from an overdoes of medications, and a distant cousin committed suicide.

Horrible stuff. Horrible memories I don't wish to be reminded of.

Unless, it's to share a ray of hope.

Mental illness can be defeated. People can be set free.

My daughter modeling for the
front of one of my books.
I saw this in both my mother and my daughter. Today they are vibrant women living their lives and making a contribution to the world. 

So, I suppose it was inevitable that I would one day write a novel that touches on mental illness. In this case I put what we call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome into one of my secondary characters. Just because they didn't label it that back in 1913 doesn't mean they didn't experience it.

But my latest book also dealt with a woman who suffers from addiction to a drug prescribed by her doctor. In this case, laudanum. I understood this too well as I watched my own mother slowly weaned off the wrong medication prescribed by her over-worked doctor.

Sofi's Bridge deals with these dark and difficult subjects, but I think the secret is in keeping this topic in small doses for the reader. The last thing the reader needs is pages and pages of dark depression. 

My advice in writing dark subjects such as depression and mental illness is to keep it short. Only place your reader in the mind of that tortured character for short periods of time, then whisk the reader out as quickly as possible to the point of view of a character that is propelled by hope.

We can't and shouldn't avoid stories about depression and mental illness, but we can write these stories in such a way as to give the reader hope for the people they love who struggle with these issues. 
My mum on her way to a
friend's birthday party.

That's the whole purpose behind Sofi's Bridge. I saw healing in my family from this disease, and bright hope for my loved ones' tomorrows.  

Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction with complex emotional and psychological truth, who always promises a happy ending. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary romance Londonderry Dreaming and newest release Sofi’s Bridge.
A busy writer and speaker, Christine, and her husband live on the west coast of Canada. Coming August 2016 is the release of her non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website or follow her on Amazon on Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and  Goodreads


  1. I have a dear Chrisitan friend whose two sons both suffer from schizophrenia. Another whose grown son never leaves his room and refuses to take his medication. Another whose son has attempted suicide more than once. I find myself asking how God can possibly be honored by mental illness. It's not like physical suffering that a person can give to God and come through with shining faith. None of these young men seem even capable of faith in their illness. How can God hold them accountable for something so out of their control? I know he is just and righteous; I just don't understand it. These are tough issues--ones worth struggling with in story. Thank you, Christine.

  2. Christine - with so much of the western world's population being treated for anxiety, depression or some other mental illness, shining the light of these and other such aspects of modern life is very important, I believe. As you say, mental illness can be beaten. The Lord so wants to set all of us free from it.

    Wonderful that Sofi's Bridge addresses the subject, even if in a small way.

  3. Mental illness is hugely misunderstood, perhaps even more so by Christians than in general society. And I do believe we need to have Christian novels which address the issue sensitively and realistically. Otherwise how are we ever to learn how best to deal with mental illness in family, friends and church members?

    Thank you, Christine, for this post, for bringing this difficult subject into the light.