Earlier this week The Guardian (@GdnChildrensBooks) held a discussion on Twitter in regards to the way in which mental illness features in Young Adult books. The discussion took place on what is now commonly known as “Blue Monday” – which is supposedly the most “depressing” day of the year.
#Gdnbluemonday received a fantastic response from readers and authors alike, and got many people talking about and thinking about mental health issues, however not enough YA books discuss mental health.
Mental health issues have always existed, and according to the mental health charity Mind 1 in 4 people living in the UK will experience mental health problems each year. There are a vast number of mental health problems including Schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and phobias. Unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to mental illness, and that’s why many people believe that mental illness should be much more widely represented in the media – one way that this can be done is via literature.
Books act as a voice for many individuals and can often help in times of loneliness. It can also help to educate readers on issues that they would have not come across otherwise, therefore books can help reduce the stigma which mental health unfortunately still holds. We need diverse books, and unfortunately the Young Adult genre is can often lack this.
On a personal note, some YA books about mental health I would recommend are:
- The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
- The Catcher In The Rye (J.D. Salinger)
- The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green & David Levithan)
- Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)
I believe that the earlier we educate individuals about mental health problems, the better. I also believe that many children’s and Middle Grade books need to become more diverse and include individuals suffering from mental health problems.
What are your thoughts on the representation of mental illness in YA? What are your favourite books that discuss mental illness?
If you’d like to read more about mental illness you can do so here.
For anyone who needs to talk, here is a list of international helplines.