Earlier this week was Mental Health Awareness Day. Mental health is something that i personally am very passionate about and am not afraid to talk about in the slightest. People need to be much more open about mental health and a little less afraid about what others think about the problems. It’s such a taboo topic in our society, lets be much more open and take mental health seriously! But this got me thinking about is mental health taken seriously in YA novels? I’m going to talk about my opinions in this post.
I’m a big reader of YA novels. I absolutely love young adult stories as they are such easy reads with usually engaging characters. I cannot get enough of them. However, i also really enjoy reading mental health stories. I think because i have experienced mental health issues myself, i enjoy reading about other peoples (or characters) experiences.
Recently, i have been reading a lot of mental illness YA novels. For some reason, i feel like a lot have been released recently, whether this is a phase or people are genuinely getting more interested, i do not know, but it’s nice to see more representation on the shelves. However, saying this, i have read some absolutely shocking tales of mental health in YA novels. Stories that do not portray mental illness in the right way at all or even glamorize it.
I’ve read stories about girls miraculously being cured by the cute boy who lives next door. I’ve read stories about girls on the brink of suicide, and then suddenly changing their mind over lads. I’ve read stories about boys thinking it’s cute that a girl has self harm scars. These things are not cute, and i’m very sorry, but they do not happen. Mental illness is a raw and suffocating thing that comes in all shapes and sizes. For some people, i’m sure they might relate to this. But what kind of message are we sending to younger generations?
We’re telling girls that a boy can cure anything. And we’re telling people it’s okay to hurt yourself because someone will always kiss it better. We’re telling teenagers its okay to starve yourself because someone will come and make it all better in the end. These are not the messages we should be sending through books to our younger generations.
Readers of YA novels are getting younger. I’ve seen 12 and 13 year olds browsing the YA stands in Waterstones, and 12 year old me would have been very impressionable and definitely would have taken the messages from these novels i shouldn’t have done.
It’s important for YA novels to represent mental illness in a real and positive away. This means that we should give young people hope with mental illness, but also create an atmosphere that truly expresses what living with mental illness is like. It’s not glamorous or special, it’s life destroying and difficult.
There are some YA novels that i have read ( It’s Kind Of A Funny Story & The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) that deal with mental health beautifully. However i also think there are many novels out there that we shouldn’t be releasing to impressionable teenagers.
Mental health is SO important to talk about, and reading about mental illness can be a great and educational thing. But please make sure you are reading a good representation of these problems.