The #MHYALit Discussion Hub – Mental Health in Young Adult Literature
After our first year of the #SVYALit Project, we decided that we at TLT liked the way the format worked and wanted to use it to discuss other topics of relevance to the life of teens. One of the ideas we discussed was using the format to discuss mental health issues in the life of teens and in YA literature, but I was not yet quite ready to delve more deeply into that topic because I was not yet ready to admit my own personal struggles with depression and anxiety. Earlier this year I did in fact share my personal story, which seemed to be the last stumbling point in TLT embracing the #SVYALit format to move forward in discussing mental health. So today we are excited to announce that in addition to #SVYALit and #FSYALit, in 2016 we will be using this same format to more fully discuss both poverty and mental health in the life of teens. Thus, we are excited to put out a call for guest posters for the #MHYALit Discussion (Mental Health in YA Literature).
1 in 5 teens will be diagnosed with some type of mental health issue. In addition, many other teens will be affected by mental health issues in the family as their parents, siblings, and friends struggle with mental health issues. During 2016 TLT would like to really use YA literature to discuss mental health issues in the life of teens. And we need your help. If you would like to write a guest post or share a book list, please contact me at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com. We will be talking throughout 2016, but we would really like to have a good array of posts to launch in early 2016. Amanda MacGregor and Ally Watkins will be helping to organize and coordinate this discussion.
There are lots of important conversations happening right now in many ways about mental health issues. Lots of people are being brave and sharing their personal struggles. Lots of great teen advocates, librarians, authors, and other professionals are engaging in these important conversations and we recommend reading and engaging in as many of them as possible. It’s a huge issue in the life of teens. We are not qualified experts in this discussion, though many of us at TLT have struggled with mental health issues in a variety of ways. And we have of course worked with many teens who have shared their personal stories and struggles with us; this has impacted our understanding of the issues and made us more cognizant to how important this topic is. We hope you’ll join us in reading and writing about this topic.
- To facilitate a discussion about the ways various mental health issues are presented and discussed in YA literature.
- To examine specific titles and create lists of titles that those wanting to look for titles with diverse representations of various mental health issues can add to their collections or buy for the teens in their lives.
- To include a wide variety of voices on the topic of mental health issues in the life of teens.
Some Basic Information
According to the NCCP, approximately 20% of adolescents have a diagnosed mental health issue. Most mental health disorders begin to present in the adolescent years. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among adolescents. According to NAMI, 50% of children who present with a mental illness will drop out of school.
In addition, a variety of teens are living in houses where they are being raised by a parent who suffers from some type of mental health issue. Approximately 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. These are the parents, grandparents, and love ones of many of our teens.
Mental health issues are an important issue for teens. Reading stories about characters with mental health disorders can help teens understand their parents, their friends, or their selves. It can give them hope. It can affirm and validate their experiences. Below are links to several lists of YA titles that deal with mental health issues in some way.
Grief and Loss
Mental Health Care/Advocacy
Previous TLT Posts
Top 10: Books dealing with mental health (guest post by Kim Baccellia)
How Mental Illness Tried and Failed to Ruin My Life (guest post by Robison Wells)
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (discusses medication)
Additional Book Lists and Discussions Around the Internet
- Stephanie Khuen: YA Highway
Kuehn presents a very comprehensive reading list of YA lit titles broken down by various subjects and issues including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, thought disorders and impulse control. The list isn’t annotated, but it does link back to the Goodreads page for a description and publisher information.
- Adventures of Lit Girl
This page presents a list of mostly YA titles, there are a few adult titles, broken down by various issues. Only covers are presented, you have to click through to the Goodreads page to get the book description and publisher information.
- We’re All Mad Here: Mental Illness in YA Fiction
Bitch Magazine discusses some of the issues in titles in a brief article.
- Can Teen Fiction Explain Mental Illness to My Daughter?
The Guardian presents a good article about teens navigating personal and family mental illness and discusses how YA fiction can help teens in these situations.
- Reach Out Reads
In 2011, Inspire USA released a short list of titles called Reach Out Reads. These titles deal with a variety of mental health topics including bullying in schizophrenia. There is only one title for each topic.
- I wanted to share with you a post that Francisco X. Stork wrote for YARN a few years back. It’s about his experiences with depression and how he tapped into them for a novel he was working on. This novel we now know is “The Memory of Light” which is coming out in 2016: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25665016-the-memory-of-light. Here’s the link to the post: http://yareview.net/2012/05/depressed-not-depressing/(from Lourdes Keochgerien)
- YARN also recently posted this short story by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo that tackles depression in a very subtle and quiet yet powerful way: http://yareview.net/2015/08/we-never-get-to-talk-anymore/
- Stacked:Mental Illness in Ya is a Minefield: http://stackedbooks.org/2014/12/mental-illness-in-ya-as.html
- Stacked: Mental Illness in Contemporary YA, a guest post by author Hilary T. Smith: http://stackedbooks.org/2013/11/mental-illness-in-contemporary-ya-guest.html
- Disability in Kidlit: Stigmatizing Treatment of Mental Illness in Fiction: http://disabilityinkidlit.com/2015/05/21/discussion-stigmatizing-treatment-of-mental-illness-in-fiction/
- Bustle: 8 of the Most Realistic Portrayals of Mental Illness in YA Fiction: http://www.bustle.com/articles/23614-8-of-the-most-realistic-portrayals-of-mental-illness-in-contemporary-ya
- The Guardian: Mental Health and Books, teenagers speak out: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/feb/08/mental-health-ya-fiction-teenagers-speak-out
- 8 Great YAs About Mental Health Issues (Adahlia Adler): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/8-great-yas-about-mental-health-issues/
For Statistics, Facts and Resources, Check Out These Resources
- Teen Mental Health
A pretty comprehensive site
- Healthy Children
An article on watching for danger signs
- Office of Adolescent Health
Another comprehensive site that looks at adolescent mental health issues.
- Children of Parents with Mental Illness
Help for children who have parents that suffer from a mental illness.
- From Risk to Resilience: Support for Children whose Parents Have Mental Illness
Help for children who have parents that suffer from a mental illness.
We need your help building our resource guide! Have a book list or blog post you want to see included? Please email us a link at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com. Although we will be taking guest posts all throughout 2016, if you know you would like to participate in the launch in early 2016, please email me by the end of September. We will be continuing our discussions on #SVYALit, #FSYALit, #Poverty and #MHYALit throughout all of 2016. Thank you for your help in discussing this important issues in the life of teens.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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