Paying Mental Disability / Health Markets By Laura Yeager

Print Friendly

I don’t imagine I would have ever thought to write for the disability/mental health market if I had not become mentally disabled myself. In 1991, I was diagnosed with severe bipolar illness. After I got out of the psychiatric hospital, I needed to deal with what had happened to me. Since I was and had been a fiction writer for 12 years, I decided to write a short story about a woman who had this disease. The story was called “Having Anne,” and was about a woman who wanted to get pregnant, but who was taking Lithium for her bipolar illness. Lithium in 1991 was still considered to cause birth defects in fetuses. (Since then, scientists have learned that it is relatively safe for pregnant women to take Lithium.) In the story, the woman decides to get pregnant without her psychiatrist’s permission and without Lithium. She goes off her drug and shortly after “goes crazy.” The story follows her insane pregnancy experience.

“Having Anne” was published in The Missouri Review in 1998. In 2000, the short story was an O. Henry Fiction Prize semi-finalist. It was this story that kicked off my career in writing about disability/mental health.

Years later, in 2006, I began to write nonfiction for the mental disability/health market. I mostly wrote personal narratives about what it was like to be bipolar. But I also wrote service pieces for periodicals such as Abilities Magazine.

But what if you don’t have a mental illness? Can you still write about mental illness for the several mental disability/health markets? Of course you can. With reporting, interviewing and researching skills, one can write about anything.

Let’s begin with bp (bipolar) Magazine, esperanza (a magazine devoted to anxiety and depression) and SZ Magazine (a magazine devoted to schizophrenia and other mental illnesses). Note: SZ Magazine was formerly known as Schizophrenia Digest. These three are always looking for stories about all aspects of their respective health problems. From new treatment therapies, to the national politics of mental illness, to how the mental illnesses appear in the popular culture, mental health magazines are hungry for new ideas. For instance, bp Magazine recently ran an article about the Broadway show Next to Normal. This piece analyzed how bipolar illness is currently being portrayed in contemporary, American drama.

The pieces that I wrote for bp Magazine included the following ideas: bipolar illness and day-to-day married life, remission from bipolar illness, and medication noncompliance. bp Magazine, esperanza and SZ Magazine often run profiles on famous and not-so-famous people with these diseases. For instance, bp Magazine is currently running a piece about Carrie Fisher, who has bipolar illness.

ADDitude, which is described as a magazine that depicts “living well with ADD and learning disabilities” is another paying mental disability/health magazine. This magazine is looking for stories dealing with ADD and learning disability concerns. According to their writer’s guidelines, their articles are often written by professionals, but they also invite first-person contributions from parents, employers and teachers.

Of course, the most well-known mental disability/health magazine in America is probably Psychology Today. This magazine publishes, according to their website, “nearly any subject related to psychology.” A recent issue features stories on hypochondria and the mother/child relationship, among others. I’ve never written for this magazine, but it’s a market I’d love to pursue.

Abilities Magazine (published in Canada) is a disability/health magazine focusing on both mental and physical disabilities. When I queried that magazine, my idea was to write a piece about surviving your wedding day with mental illness. The Managing Editor of Abilities, Jaclyn Law, wanted me to broaden the piece to be about surviving your wedding with any kind of disability – be it mental or physical, or both. In the resulting piece, “Love Saves the Day,” I emphasized three weddings of physically disabled couples (most of the individuals had cerebral palsy) and my own wedding.

Kaleidoscope: Exploring the Experience of Disability Through Literature and the Fine Arts, is a creative writing journal that focuses on all kinds of disabilities. It publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews and visual arts. This magazine published a short story of mine, “The Prodigal Daughter,” in 1995. Kaleidoscope is a great, paying mental (and physical) disability/health market for your more creative work.

You and Me Magazine is a small online magazine that calls itself a “medical magazine.” It is open to publishing more “personal” pieces about mental disability/health. This magazine published my article, “Lithium and Pregnancy: Second Opinion”, about my experience with a prominent infertility doctor who did not know that Lithium had been declared relatively “safe” for fetuses. This article had a humorous slant. In it, I describe how my feet were in the “stirrups,” and I was naked from the waist down, and the doctor said, “WAIT! I can’t inseminate you; you’re on Lithium!” It was all so melodramatic.

Careers and the Disabled Magazine focuses on people with mental and physical disabilities in the workplace. An example of a mental illness article that might appear in this print magazine is a piece having to do with a specific mental illness such as schizophrenia or a learning disability, again, as it appears in the workplace environment. According to James Schneider, the editor, the magazine profiles students or professionals who plan to work for major corporations and government agencies.

These days, freelance writers can also find mental health blogging opportunities. For instance, I worked as a paid bipolar illness blogger for empowher.com, a women’s general health website. Writers can seek these types of positions out on web sites that post freelance job opportunities.

Wherever you choose to pursue the mental health market, you should start off with an open mind and heart. There’s much stigma and many stereotypes associated with mental illness. In your mental disability/health writing journey, you should ultimately try to wipe away the stigma, and portray these issues truthfully and sincerely.

I wish you luck in your journey.

MENTAL DISABILITY/HEALTH MAGAZINES

bp (bipolar) Magazine
Rates are negotiable.

esperanza
Rates are negotiable.

SZ Magazine
Rates are negotiable.
Query for writer’s guidelines

ADDitude
Rates are negotiable.

Psychology Today
Pays $1.00/word

MENTAL AND PHYSICAL DISABILITY/HEALTH MAGAZINES

Kaleidoscope
Pays $10.00-$125.00

You and Me Magazine (technically listed as a “medical magazine”)
Pays $0.05-$0.07/word

Careers and the Disabled
Pays $350-$400
Query for writer’s guidelines

Laura Yeager writes literary fiction, and nonfiction for many kinds of markets. Her nonfiction frequently appears in The Writer Magazine, bp Magazine and at thesavvygal.com. She also works as a professional blogger and speechwriter. She teaches online fiction writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. At 46, she’s the mother of a five-year-old.