Welcome to Part 10-3 of my World Building blog series 😀 I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know 🙂
Mental health and disabilities need to be approached with care and respect. If you are not deeply familiar with what you’re writing about, do your research. If your characters are going to deal with something specific, talk to people who deal with the same thing and get their perspective. Aim to be as respectful and accurate as possible with your representation. Let characters struggling with their mental health and/or disabilities be heroes too.
How does your society react to disability in general? Does this view change based on whether or not the disability is visible? Does the view change based on whether the character was born with it or whether it developed later due to illness or injury? Is there accessible care and/or treatment for the conditions you have present in your story?
How is mental health in general regarded in your world? Are there treatments? Are there stigmas? How do the above change based on severity or type? Is your society cruel and focuses on segregation with asylums, etc. or are they more progressive and have support systems in place to help? Depending on how you’ve set up your educational system, do you have anything in place to support those who need additional assistance?
How does your world react to/treat chronic conditions, permanent injuries, etc.? People who are involved in physical careers (ie. soldiers, masons, cooks, etc.) are probably more likely to suffer serious injuries since they’re working with weaponry, blades, and other things that can cause a lot of harm if handled improperly. Is there any compensation if they are injured doing their work? Does physiotherapy, or things like prosthetics, mobility aids, etc. exist in your world? If not, how do characters who have disabilities and injuries cope?
Remember that this is fantasy. If you want to have a herb that properly balances all your neurotransmitters or if you want magical healing to allow limb regrowth, you can do that. Your characters with mental health issues or disabilities don’t need to be “fixed” in order for them to be the hero and their issues don’t have to disappear as a reward for completing the quest, though you can look into that if you want.
A lot of examples I can think of are from comic books like Daredevil and Professor X. Characters who have limitations can still be heroes or villains, main characters and love interests. Those limitations don’t have to define them, but neither should they be ignored. If you’ve set your world in a more primitive level you can still support your characters with things like rudimentary prosthetics, specially designed saddles, walking sticks, etc.
How do characters with disabilities see themselves? How are their communities structured? Is there stigma within the communities based on severity or type? What is the view on seeking treatment? How do religious views impact treatment or living with disabilities? Are there any cultural or religious implications involved with certain ones?
Once you’ve decided on what disabilities or mental illnesses you want to be part of your story, learn how people who have them deal with them on a regular basis. Learn symptoms, coping strategies, reactions they’ve received, etc. so you can get a more rounded understanding of what you’re writing about. When you’ve done that you can adapt it to your fantasy world.