[NoNo] Writing Mental Health Topics (Guest Post ft. Anna Pearl)

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! We’re kicking off this week with a guest post by one of my best friends on a topic many of us have thought about: Should we write mental health topics? And how should we do it?

Let’s dive in!


Writing is always a tough thing, but some things make it an even harder mountain to climb. When you feel like you’re dragging yourself through each chapter, it can make you wonder, “Why am I even doing this?” Adding mental health topics into your writing can be one of the hard things you may find yourself struggling with.

We insert mental health into our writing for many reasons: To relate to others, to address problems we see, to process what we’re going through, or even to add an extra dynamic to a piece of writing. And these are all great! But we have to be careful about how we do it; otherwise, we might address the issue incorrectly.

Whether you’re a fiction writer or a non-fiction writer, this issue is important to you. Why? Because even in fiction, the reader needs to relate to what you’re addressing. If you’re talking about anxiety and someone with anxiety can’t connect the story with their lives, then how are they going to sympathize with the character?

How can you get people to sympathize with your characters? How are you supposed to be authentic and realistic about your mental health portrayal?

Unfortunately, you have to do research, just like with everything else. But this kind of research, depending on what kind of person you are, might be a bit fun.

What I like to do is find a friend who doesn’t mind talking with me about what it’s like to have anxiety, to have depression, or even just to be normal. And then I compare those experiences to other experiences I’ve heard of people adding. The results I’ve gotten have been eye-opening. The key to this approach is to ask your questions respectfully and gently. After all, they’re doing this to help you.

Of course, then there’s the not-so-fun research—the stuff where you actually have to go on Google or whatever web browser you use and look stuff up. The details you need aren’t going to be things that your friend may know to tell you about. Sure, they can tell you what a panic attack is like, but can they tell you what someone else might experience in a panic attack? No. You need a variety of resources and a variety of experiences because no person is going to be exactly like your friend. And no person is going to have the words for everything about their condition. One person might know how to explain their anxiety; another might know how to explain depression; another still might know how to explain their dissociation and why they do it. None of these people can do all three, and maybe someone out there can, but the point is, you need an array of sources.

Researching is, in my opinion, the most important work you can do as a writer. Some people would say it’s the writing, but you can’t portray things unless you’ve learned how they work, whether through your own experience or through online research.

Once you do have the research, though, you can put together a piece that is really meaningful. Your character can defy the odds stacked against them, surpass challenges, and learn who they are just like in normal situations like you may see, but they’re special in their own way.

One important thing to keep in mind, though, is that addressing mental health topics isn’t for everyone. Some of us who go through mental health struggles aren’t going to be able to talk about those in writing in a healthy way, and that’s okay! Someone who doesn’t struggle with mental health issues might want to process some things that have happened to a friend, or they want an outlet to learn through, so they may write a story about a mental health topic. Others might want to reflect on their own mental health journey, so they’ll write something similar to a memoir. Or perhaps they’ll write a poem to encapsulate the feelings that were provoked in them when they heard about someone going through such a hard time.

In the end, the moral of the story is: You have to figure out what’s right for you.

Let’s compare some pros and cons of writing with mental health issues, starting with the pros!

  • You might make a difference in someone’s life–whether big or small
  • You might bring clarity to a struggling person!
  • You can work through your own mental health journey
  • You can illustrate your knowledge of mental health topics via a character

There are just as many cons, however, excluding the ones not mentioned, which may hold more weight than the pros. Again, it all depends on who you are and how determined you are to embark on such a hard and grueling journey.

  • You might offend someone who doesn’t relate to your characters but has the condition you were trying to portray
  • You might convey it in a way that seems to just “spice up the story,” not actually work through the issue
  • You may portray it wrong entirely!
  • You may touch on a controversial issue within the sub-community of a certain mental health topic

In the end, it all depends on why you want to add mental health conditions to your writing. Do you want to “spice it up”? Or do you want to genuinely connect and work through issues that real-life people deal with? If your answer is the former, I’d recommend you think through things a bit more. Mental health issues are a serious thing that people struggle through each and every day. Anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, confusion, “mirages” such as delusions and hallucinations… We may not know who to trust, and sometimes, we turn to books about people like us to learn and feel like we aren’t alone. Are you ready to be that person we try to trust?

We need ready people who will support mental health writing, but we need you to portray it well. We need to be able to trust you to understand us. Can you dedicate that time and energy to learning who we are?

I want to note something else that’s really important, too. Mental health writing can be so powerful when done correctly. It can literally change people’s lives and alter the way they view certain struggles. It can give people hope when they thought there was none left.

The key is to write with intentionality and forethought. Don’t go into things haphazardly, assuming that you can do it. Try your best, put your all into it, and try to honor those who struggle with what you’re portraying.

Most of all, be compassionate; mental health warriors are people just like you.


Anna Pearl is a teen writer who struggles with a couple different mental health conditions. She loves frogs, writing, and helping others.


That really helped me a lot! I hope it helped you, too! As for this week’s schedule, here you go!

  • Writing Mental Health Topics (Guest Post by Anna Pearl)
  • Avoiding Burn Out and Writing Consistently
  • NaNoWriMo Playlist #1
  • Avoiding Writers Block
  • Character Tips with Gary D. Schmidt
  • Weekly Check-In #1
  • Keeping Commitments During NaNoWriMo

If you missed last week, here’s where you can find all of those posts! If you want to keep up, make sure to follow!

I also have some news! Towards the end of the month, I’ll be answering your writing questions. If you have a question you want answered, make sure to comment below and tell me what it is. There’s no limit to how many you can ask, just what you can come up with!

What did you learn from this? What mental health topics are you including in your book? Let us know in the comments!

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Dark House: Illustrated Poem Swap with Maggie!

Hey warriors! I know today isn’t a usual post day, but with NaNoWriMo coming up so soon I wanted to get one more fun post in before I share all my tips, tricks, and encouragement! So today I’ll be sharing my poem Dark House again, only this time… it’s illustrated by Maggie from Maggie’s Doodles! (Psst. If you want to see my own pathetic art skills and her poetry, check out her poem with my art here!) Let’s dive in!

The sound of beating hooves

Pound across the cobblestones

Cracked and coated in dirt

From years of heavy burdens

The gate is iron cold,

Squealing dark disapproval.

Angry dogs threaten guests

Til one regrets arrival

Toward the gloomy house,

Up the winding path of stones,

Past the littered garden…

Could those be a human’s bones?

A loud clap of thunder

And dismal drops of cold rain…

The stink of cigar smoke…

Is someone crying from pain?

The door opens slowly:

The light of a fire dying,

A broken chair lies by

A bruised young boy still crying.

The dream is over and

You wake up and think of him

The tired criminal

You thought of as inhuman

His eyes were full of tears

But he never let them flow,

And deep inside he broke

But he never let it show.

Because another man

Had locked the boy deep inside

A prison made of lies

The boy did his best to hide

And as the boy grew up

He did things he knew were wrong

Then bore his punishments

Inwardly weak but so strong

The sin and taunts gather

Weighing on his weary heart

He’s sorry to be this

And longs for a brand new start

How many times have you

Judged this man for his tough face,

Not realizing the boy

Inside him has remained.

If you said you loved him

And gave him just one more chance,

Hugged him when you saw him

And smiled when you just glanced…

Would the old cracks be filled?

Would those cold gates open wide?

Would you find that young boy

Who’s still crying deep inside?

Could you light a fire

Where the flames have long gone cold

And warm every corner

Til heat reaches the threshold?

Could flowers cover up

The dirt and death he feels?

Could some gentle caring

Help a lonely man to heal?

You look in the mirror

And find your child within

Then visit that poor man

And so the healing begins.

I hope you enjoyed seeing that again, this time with Maggie’s amazing doodles! Make sure to check out her poem! Which drawing was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

The Dark House: A Poem

Hey warriors! I recently realized I’ve been trying too hard to create helpful posts when this blog isn’t just for writing tips but for my writing! So here’s a poem I wrote. I hope you enjoy it!


The Dark House

The sound of beating hooves
Pound across the cobblestones
Cracked and coated in dirt.
From years of heavy burdens

The gate is iron cold,
Squealing dark disapproval.
Angry dogs threaten guests
Til one regrets arrival

Toward the gloomy house,
Up the winding path of stones,
Past the littered garden…
Could those be a human’s bones?

A loud clap of thunder
And dismal drops of cold rain…
The stink of cigar smoke…
Is someone crying from pain?

The door opens slowly:
The light of a fire dying,
A broken chair lies by
A bruised young boy still crying.

The dream is over and
You wake up and think of him
The tired criminal
You thought of as inhuman

His eyes were full of tears
But he never let them flow,
And deep inside he broke
But he never let it show.

Because another man
Had locked the boy deep inside
A prison made of lies
The boy did his best to hide

And as the boy grew up
He did things he knew were wrong
Then bore his punishments
Inwardly weak but so strong

The sin and taunts gather
Weighing on his weary heart
He’s sorry to be this
And longs for a brand new start

How many times have you
Judged this man for his tough face,
Not realizing the boy
Inside him has remained.

If you said you loved him
And gave him just one more chance,
Hugged him when you saw him
And smiled when you just glanced…

Would the old cracks be filled?
Would those cold gates open wide?
Would you find that young boy
Who’s still crying deep inside?

Could you light a fire
Where the flames have long gone cold
And warm every corner
Til heat reaches the threshold?

Could flowers cover up
The dirt and death he feels?
Could some gentle caring
Help a lonely man to heal?

You look in the mirror
And find your child within
Then visit that poor man
And so the healing begins.


I hope you enjoyed this poem. What is one way you could love someone today?

Storms: A Short Story in Poetry

Hey, everyone! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today’s post is a more sad one. This is a short story told in four-line stanzas of poetry. It’s a story of pain, suffering, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and mental struggles and based on true stories. I hope you are able to learn from it or find healing from it.


Part 1

The color of the sky before a storm is green-gray,

Green like jealousy and sickness, 

Gray like gloom and danger coming closer.

That’s the color of the sky right now.

Annabelle stands in the living room,

Watching them scream loudly.

She opens her mouth to say something

But nothing will be heard.

The sky’s tears start to fall.

Raindrops drip, drip, drip.

A flood, for seemingly no reason

And out of control.

Anna runs to the bathroom.

Drip, drip, drip, drip, tears pour.

It refuses to stop, even though

She’s fighting to stuff them back in.

Part 2

Nearby, the clouds are angrier. 

Black, filled with hate.

Thunder cracks through the sky

And light pierces the dark.

Vanessa watches him rage.

It was just a pancake.

She wasn’t hungry.

Now she feels sick.

Again and again and again. 

Loud and exposing,

Painful, hot, and burning.

The storm finally stops.

Nessa watches as they walk in

And her own life starts to change

But the damage is done.

She cries because it’s too late.

Part 3

Another storm forms far away.

The ground shakes,

Rain pours down and down

Nothing looks the same.

Bethany looks at the flowers.

They used to make her smile

Now she just wants it all gone.

Something has to change.

There’s a moment of calm,

A moment of peace,

But then it spits again

Laughing and taunting.

Beth wonders what changed.

Life was never perfect, but 

Somehow it didn’t feel like this.

“I’m fine. Life is great.”

Part 4

Once storms raged here.

Now this place is just a mess

Things block the roads,

Making places hard to reach.

Haley stares at the floor.

It’s just cleaning. That’s all.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

Why is it so hard?

The clouds are here again

More angry, more threatening;

The sky is filled with pressure

Wind blows everything down.

She sighs, sliding to the floor.

Why is it everyone else?

Why can’t she take it all?

Or why can’t it just end?

Part 5

The storms meet.

They slam into each other,

And it’s more powerful,

But only for a moment.

Anna smiles, at least a second.

Nessa laughs, at least right now.

Beth has motivation, at least today.

Haley has hope for a future.

Maybe the storms disappear.

Maybe the storms stick around.

Maybe they get softer.

Maybe they get louder.

They dream of hugs,

Video calls and texts

Collabs and adventures

They can do this together.


Remember, it’s ok to need someone to help you stand. One day you’ll be able to shake off the dust you rose from, I’m certain. Do you relate to any of this? What’s your storm? If it ended, how did you make it stop? Let me know in the comments.