Bookish, Discussions

Mental Health in YA

I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for a very long time, but it hasn’t been up until recently that it has actually become a lot more personal.

I’ve probably said this a million times in other discussion posts, but representation in fiction, especially YA, is important. Young adult is an in between phase where you’re not really a kid anymore but you still don’t feel like a full blown adult yet (Pro tip: No one feels like a full blown adult, even full blown adult). I feel YA novels should have a responsibility to at least make young adults voices matter. This is what they read and therefore they should be able to see themselves, even just a little bit, within the writing.

I’m not saying you need to find every character and situation relatable. But the idea that you can pick up a YA novel and find yourself within it, is such a big step for representation.

Which leads me onto today’s topic; mental health.

In comparison to my sexuality, I don’t really talk about my mental health much. While I consider my sexuality to be something I am unashamed and confident enough to talk about, my mental health isn’t another one of those somethings, and until recently, I didn’t think there was anything to even talk about.

It only really hit me that there maybe something wrong when I read Solitaire by Alice Oseman. I had read Radio Silence, her latest novel, beforehand and had fallen in love. And while RS characters also deal with symptoms of depression, it wasn’t as relatable and as real as Tori Spring in Solitaire.

See, Tori suffers in silence, she finds it strenuous and tiring to be around other people, let alone be nice to them, and often struggles to enjoy hobbies and past times, even the ones she liked in the past. It was strange to see someone like me in a story, one where the character isn’t a crazy serial killer who needs to be locked away, but as someone who is still considered a normal human being suffering from something that is common and treatable.

It baffles me that mental health is still stigmatized, that people still do not understand it. I’m not asking for everyone to have an obscene amount of knowledge on each individual mental illness, but to understand a person when they bring it up; to support, and to care.

When you’re a young adult, if you’re 18, or 23 (like me), or 27, there will be moments in your life where you don’t really understand what’s going on. There are so many gaps in our information of the world because society and peers have either deemed it unimportant or it’s just slipped through the cracks. I had never been taught about mental health properly apart from one Psychology module on Schizophrenia, which made sufferers sound like they all needed straight jackets and were to be locked away in a ‘lunatic asylum’.

It’s important for young people and teenagers to truly get a grasp on mental health so that they can identify it in themselves and in others. To know when it’s time to speak up, to know when something isn’t right. But also to know that what they’re feeling is valid, happens to others, and that there is support out there.

It helped me, imagine how many others it can help too.

Recommendation time! These are books that I’ve read and books I haven’t, but all have the the theme of mental health running through:

Recommend in the comments too! I haven’t read enough books concerning mental health and I love them!

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  1. doddyaboutbooks

    September 19, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Wonderful post, thank you. I reviewed Strangers Among Us on the weekend, which is a collection of short stories by fantasy and sci fi authors dealing with the topic of mental health and the feeling of alienation that often accompanies it.

    1. hollie (hollieblog)

      September 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      That sounds so interesting! I’ll definitely give it a read 😊

  2. hiraethforthepages

    September 20, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I love this post so much and I agree with it on so many levels! Not every book needs a super relatable character but in saying that, it’s important that we still DO have relatable characters. Mental illness, although it may be hard to talk about, is something that is prominent and so very real today and it’s important that’s it’s brought out to be something that isn’t ‘crazy’. I love these recommendations and I’m adding so many of them to my TBR! I loved Am I Normal Yet? and I think it’s such a good example of a book. Great post! <3

  3. cahwrites

    September 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ was one of those books that probably saved my life in some way. I still find it hard to admit to having a mental illness and I wonder if it had been in a lot more books when I was younger, would I have noticed the symptoms sooner? I know I’ve been dealing with this for some time but it’s hard to think what could’ve changed had I known it was a thing that affected young people and not just older people who had a lot more going on to “justify” it. Such an awesome post, Hollie,

  4. Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews

    September 26, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you for this post, Hollie ♥ I appreciate accurate representation of mental illness in books so much (like when the MI isn’t cured by a love interest). I still can’t believe how stigmatised it is either. I know things have improved a little, but it’s like people only want to see the socially accepting side of mental illness and not some of the more realistic and darker ones.

    These are great recs too. I’ve only read Perks which I adore with my entire being, but nearly all the rest are on my TBR and I’m excited to read them.

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