A Critique of the Genre of ‘Mental Health Writing’ | Part One
Tristan Cross

Thank you for this very interesting article Tristan — I think your observations about mental health writing point to, in broader terms, the human condition attempting to “normalize” and “quick advise/quick fix” mental health conditions. I wholeheartedly agree that there is a detrimental flaw to any writing that includes sweeping generalizations (i.e. everything falls under chemical imbalance depression) and/or singular silver bullets (i.e. “Meditation or medication worked for me, so it will work for you!”). But, what I find intriguing is that this same farmework is pretty much used for any type of human experiential transition where one is attempting to escape being in a state (with varying spectrums) of suffering. From a lonely person searching for his/her soulmate to a monetarily struggling individual who wants to stop living paycheck to paycheck, the same generalizing and silver-bullet advice happens via articles, books and speaker tours across a myriad of topics (mental health being just one).

I think the core feelings that are associated with mental illness (fear, anxiety, hopelessness, exhaustion) are fairly standard (and one of the reasons why mental health writing picks up so many readers) but how they play out in each person’s life and also what works towards a path of recovery, is vastly different for every individual.

As a person who suffered from clinical depression in my mid-20’s, I empathize with the core feelings of friends and family members that struggle with varied types of mental illness, but I never ever pontificate that their path and/or methodologies to work through that journey are exact parallels to mine.

What I do think mental health writing offers (especially in stories like my own where I came out the other side a much happier, more empathetic and gratitude filled person) is that there is hope to get to another state of mind. Sometimes hope is all we have left to get us to the next minute, the next hour, the next day.

Many thanks for sharing your story and your perspective.