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Updated: Nov 17, 2022

“Sometimes, late at night, I tend to dwell on negative times in my life. What I find about writing is, once those negative times and people are written about, I dwell on them less.”

― Robert Black

Writing, or journaling, as therapy is a common activity among people who suffer from various diagnoses. While there may be a little stigma to admitting you’ve been diagnosed with some condition, it’s also beneficial for those who have not been officially told they have a mental health issue. As a writer, primarily of fiction, I have often been in workshops or in classes while attending undergraduate and graduate writing classes in which people spoke of writing/journaling as an act they did for therapeutic reasons. Journaling allows writers to express themselves however they so choose, and for many people it acts as a release of what they believe are the toxic elements in their lives.

While mental health in the United States still has a long way to go in terms of what’s available to people with mental health issues resource-wise, the stigma is lessening. Insurance companies often get in the way, and a lack of local, in-person facilities and medical/mental health professionals is also a problem. But there are people looking to change that, and to some success.

That said, there is hope. Today, there are more resources available to those who need assistance, including free “warm lines” where one can call to speak with someone who’ll just listen to what you want to talk about, normally limited to about 15 minutes or so. The warm lines allow someone suffering mental health issues/pain at the moment to connect with someone who is non-judgmental, and who’ll listen without interrupting.

Technology has also provided online tools and support groups (also free, although there are plenty out there that are either paid or where donations are accepted), and there are a multitude of apps and websites that offer their own version of help through software geared around various topics. We have listed a number of these resources with contact information at the bottom of this article.

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

― Graham Greene

But back to writing as therapy. In an experiment at the University of Texas, James Pennebaker, PhD., selected healthy undergraduates and divided them into four groups. He had them each write for 15 minutes each night, for four consecutive nights, and then he tracked them over a six-month period. Three of the groups were directed to write about traumatic events they’d experienced in their lives, and the fourth group were told to write about other things that were not traumatic. To their surprise, the three groups who wrote about the traumatic events in their lives had fewer visits to their health centers. It’s also been discovered that writing as therapy can produce physical benefits as well. To read more on this topic, visit

“We write to be heard. We write to heal.”

― Mitta Xinindlu

At the end of the day, if you want to write or journal as your way of understanding the things that affect you negatively, you should do it. Or at least try to do it. You never know what benefits writing as therapy might deliver to you and your health. If nothing else, it’ll provide you with a release, and everyone can use a release every now and then. Whether it be from the stresses of your job or career (or having lost them), family issues, marriage troubles, or mental health issues, give it a shot. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

As I mentioned, I use fiction to make sense of the world. I have multiple diagnoses, and besides taking the steps I need to take medically, I write short stories and novels because they allow me to dive deep into my characters—and their troubles—without having to focus on me. That may not work for everyone, and that’s fine. Journal about it. Write on napkins about it. But do what you have to do to help improve your mental state. It’ll help you manage the now, and set you on the right course for a better you in the future.

What I do is I focus on my emotional state. I focus on the things that are making me upset, and then I work that into my characters. I try to capture how I’m feeling when, why, and what I do about it, meaning how I react to the stimuli that upset me. I try to communicate that through my characters actions (or inaction), and by how they interact with the characters closest to them and who they have in their lives that aren’t antagonists. Antagonists are easy to make caricatures of; it’s the people closest to the protagonists that are the most complex and that cause the most anxiety for my characters, and it’s what I find most interesting about the characters and scenes and situations I thrust my fictive beings into.

After all of these years of writing, I assume that that’s what many fiction writers do, but I honestly can’t say that with any authority. It’s only my guess. Much of fiction is biographical; it just depends on the writer as to how closely they stick to biography as they write.

“. . . the act of writing . . . functions like a sieve, separating extraneous fears, worries and insecurities from the core of our being, which compels us to do the scary duty of confronting them, understanding them, and ultimately leaving our fears behind. Such is the origination of "tortured artist" syndrome.

―Carolyn Rubenstein Ph.D. from Psychology Today

Here are a few apps and websites for various issues you may need help managing:

Best overall: Moodkit

Best for therapy: Talkspace

Best for meditation: Headspace

Best for suicide awareness: Better Stop Suicide

Best for stress: iBreathe

Best for anxiety: Mindshift CBT

Best for addiction: Quit That!

Best for boosting your mood: Happify

Best for eating disorders: Recovery Record

Best for OCD: NOCD

Best for sleep: Calm

Best for drinking less alcohol: Reframe

Best for quitting alcohol: I Am Sober

--Some of the above list is excerpted from healthline

Some other helpful resources for mental health include:

For Bipolar DisorderDBSA Alliance

Peer support groups covering a broad spectrum of issues - HeyPeers

Mental Health – NAMI or National Alliance on Mental Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Call 24/7 (800) 662-4357

The Trevor Project - suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) young people.

And especially if you’re in immediate crisis:

Call 988 on your phone – Suicide and Crisis Hotline

ChatThe Hope Line

Suicide Text Line - Text HOME to 741741

Veteran’s Crisis Line – Call 988 then press 1 or go to the website

Remember, there is always help out there. No matter how rough it gets, know that what you’re going through is temporary. Do not be afraid or hesitant to seek out help. If you need to, call 911 if you’re in crisis and need help immediately.

*The above article is my own opinion and is not to be taken as professional medical advice. If you need medical or mental health advice, please contact one of the resources listed above.

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Oct 20, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A topic that should be discussed more openly for sure.

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