Mental Health Issues in Young Adult Fiction

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At some points in your reading experience, you might have stumbled upon at least one or two books about mental health issues. My first experience with it was when I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It was okay but I honestly had NO IDEA what it was about. It was too unconventional and being the little young reader that I was, I couldn’t relate or even understand the essence of the story. You could say that it wasn’t something I wanted to read twice.

So after that, I stayed out of books about mental health issues.

It wasn’t until recently that I finally pushed myself to read more about it. As you may have known, I’m a psychology student. I study about mental health and it would make me a lousy psychology student to not be able to read books about it. So after some research on Goodreads, I picked up several books and I surprisingly LOVED them! ♥

What is it?

According to the DSM V, mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.

In case you didn’t notice the words I highlighted, mental disorder is a dysfunction in psychological, biological, and developmental process. It is also caused by a clinically significant disturbance, so yes, it is a medical condition. It is in your head, but most of the time, it isn’t something that you can just ‘get over with’. It’s something real and serious.

Why do we need to read books about mental health issues?

Mental disorder is an international issue, it’s happening every where right at this moment. For those who suffers from mental disorders, reading a book about it could help them feel understood. There was a man with depression who never talked about his condition for 30 years and the first time he ever talked about it was through quoting a book about depression.

For those of us who don’t suffer from it, reading would help us understand how it feels to live with mental disorders. Books help us to make sense of the world and they shift our perspectives. People with mental disorders are so often stigmatized and for me, reading a book in which the characters suffer from mental disorders helps me understand at least a little bit of their struggles. It makes me less judgmental and more emphatic towards them. It helps that it’s also educating, if only the writers did their research right.

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Some things to consider

Accuracy of the Symptoms

This has been my first and main concern when it comes to books about mental illness. To my delight, a lot of books have portrayed symptoms that are so close to the truth. It’s Kind of A Funny Story is based on the author’s personal experience so no wonder it resembles the truth so much. All the Bright Places also portrays some pretty accurate symptoms of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. This book would be so much better if only we could see more of Finch’s feeling when he’s depressed. It would really explain the WHOLE thing.

Though I admit, there are a lot of books with unclear and somewhat inaccurate symptoms. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Saving Francesca are too absurd while Thirteen Reasons Why is too brutal and sends a twisted message to the readers. I didn’t even realize Looking for Alaska was about mental illness until probably the very last part of the books. I thought Alaska was just being weird like Margo.

Role of therapist

The role of therapist in young adult fiction with mental illness is so UNDERRATED. Therapy session is so often portrayed as useless and therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist seem to be asking a lot of stupid and useless questions. It is completely and extremely OFFENSIVE for me. Let me tell you something.

I spent an entire term practicing how to be a counselor in class and those therapists have logged on hundreds hours of counselling sessions before they even got their licenses. There are rules and techniques for listening, questioning, paraphrasing, and making conclusion. So yes, all our questions are carefully thought and saying that we ‘always ask stupid questions’ is SO insulting.

Mental illness magically cured by love

No. Just NO. Mental illness is a medical and psychological condition that can’t be magically cured by a lover. Not everything is about romance, especially these real and sensitive issues. Maybe love heals but SO DOES THERAPY. I’m so mad someone should seriously stop this bullshit.

My TBR List

Honestly, there are still TONS of books about mental illness that I haven’t read. I’m ashamed of myself, but I’m really trying to catch up! Here are some of the books on my TBR list. I heard they’re awesome! ♦


What about you, got any thoughts on this matter? Or any recommendations for us readers? I’d love to know your thoughts so let me know and drop some comments! ♥ Also, share to your friends and click to tweet! P.S… Happy Ied Mubarak for those who celebrate! 

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18 thoughts on “Mental Health Issues in Young Adult Fiction

  1. I think that mental illness in books is extremely important in helping to break the stigma, but when done wrong it’s almost cringe-worthy. I completely agree that I hate the true-love-solves-all-mental-health-issues trope. I finally read Underwater, about a girl who can’t physically leave her house, and while her disease was portrayed really well I thought the therapy was sort of helpful and sort of not, as in it helped her get the courage to leave….so she could talk to her true love. I still haven’t read I’ll Give You the Sun but it’s been on my TBR forever now so I probably should soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know righttt that’s why the authors seriously have to do their research right. I’m not completely against it either, I agree that supportive environments such as family and lover and friends could help but that shouldn’t be the whole point. Ugh… bummer 😦 Me too and it’s currently on the top of my list!! Let me know what you think if you finish it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually love reading books that revolve around Mental Heath/Illness. I feel like they teach you a lot about things that you normally wouldn’t know about. Another thing I like, is when books show you different sides to mental illnesses that aren’t the norm. Not every mental illness is the same, and not every case is the same. Like every person with Depression, or OCD will act/feel the same. You don’t have to have all symptoms to be considered Bi Polar, or Depressed.

    You have some good choices in your TBR. I’ve read Speak, The Sky Is Everywhere, I’ll Give You The Sun, and OCD Love Story, and let me just say, I LOVED them all! If I could recommend any other books, they would have to be, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. 🙂

    Thanks for this great Post! I really enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree!! I love books that show us all mental illness cases are unique so we shouldn’t judge people’s conditions based on what we know only. It’s the case with OCD since most books and movies only focus on cleanliness while there are so much more to OCD than that! That’s why I realllyyy want to read OCD Love Story and The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I heard they portray a different kind of OCDs 😀 Oooohhh you’ve read quite a lot about it 😀 I can’t wait to devour them anddd thank u so much for the recommendations! Will definitely check them out 💕

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  3. Excellent post!! And I agree, the role of therapists is so under-rated. One that does it really well is Paperweight by Meg Haston. Loved that book. Also It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, and The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter if you want any recs 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much 😀 I’ve read It’s Kind of a Funny Story and I agree. Craig changed therapist several times until he found the one who’s best for him and that’s so realistic. I hate books that portray all therapists as useless 😦 I haven’t heard about Paperweight and The First Time She Drown but I’ll totally check ’em out! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

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