Writing the fine line between sanity and madness: Wakefield’s Kristen Dunphy

Drawing on her own mental health struggles, the award-winning Australian TV writer talks about creating characters who are more than their diagnoses.

You might think we’ve come a long way in terms of talking openly about mental illness. But according to Kristen Dunphy, the Australian TV screenwriter, creator and co-showrunner of Wakefield, the ABC’s new 8-part drama set in a Blue Mountains psychiatric ward, we’ve still got a very long way to go.

Dunphy says that stigma, fear and ignorance persist, and admitting you’ve been a patient in a psych unit is still a very brave thing to do. She knows what she’s talking about. The only way she could pitch and sell her show was to get personal and talk about the fact she was writing from intimate and painful experience.

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Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She is a journalist for Screenhub and is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk