Listen to “Suspense Part 1 with Alex Greenwood – Feelings Matter Episode 9” on Spreaker.
Special guest, J. Alexander Greenwood, sat down to chat about the value of mindful representation of mental illness in books, TV, film. Alex is an award-winning writer, public relations consultant, speaker, and podcaster. He is best known as the author of the acclaimed John Pilate Mysteries.
“John Pilate is an everyman character that finds himself in mysterious circumstances.”
What makes the title character of the John Pilate (pī′lət) Mysteries remarkable is how his personal struggles with depression and anxiety are personified as a separate character that Pilate thinks of as Simon. Pilate is also a reflection of Greenwood’s own struggles with low grade depression and PTSD. The first book, “Pilate’s Cross” is a blend of Greenwood’s personal experiences of restarting his life in a very small town and the historic events of the small land grant college in Nebraska where he worked for a few years. An 8th book in the series is expected to be published in October of 2021.
“This representation of mental illness is not to make sport or use as a dramatic device. I’m very proud of the fact that Pilate gets help. This is not a romanticized version of mental illness.”
Greenwood says a key feature of John Pilate’s character development is that by the end of the first book and throughout books 2 through 4 he is in therapy and becoming more healthy and stable. Greenwood is very open about his own diagnosis of PTSD and how much working with a therapist has improved his own life. He also reminds people that anyone can have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s not something only first responders and combat veterans experience. Anyone that has suffered trauma, whether it’s work related, an abusive relationship, or even a serious auto accident, can suffer varying degrees of PTSD. Greenwood’s personal experience with anxiety inform how John Pilate’s behavior is affected by the same symptoms and how his treatment progresses through the stories.
The relationship between working out anxiety issues and writing suspense
There is a tightrope of tension between personally dealing with anxiety and telling a good story, Greenwood says. It’s not unusual to seek out thrills and tension in entertainment. It can be a healthy outlet for facing our fears.
Listen to “Suspense Pt2 – with Alex Greenwood” on Spreaker.
“We have a responsibility as writers, as storytellers, to craft thoughtful and mindful characters that can remove the stigma of mental illness.”
I would rather not write another word if I had to write something where mentally ill people are mocked or “othered.” Most people with mental health issues are able to get help and return to happy, healthy, productive lives. Emotional health is something we all struggle with in varying degrees. Everybody is human. When we are honest with ourselves, we can admit we all have struggles. We have a duty to educate our readers. This is not a stigma. There’s no judgement if you take medication to treat diabetes. The need for mental health treatment should be no different.
“Ultimately we are all working on ourselves.”
Please take a moment to learn more about J. Alexander Greenwood, the John Pilate book series, and his podcasts Mysterious Goings On and PR After Hours.
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