For the last article in our situational books series, I wanted to bring in the topic of mental health and why it’s important to read about books that include characters with mental illness. It makes it aware to readers who struggle with a mental illness that you are not alone. By authors including these characters, it can also help spread awareness. Here is a list of four fiction books that have characters that navigate life while paying attention to their mental health.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
This novel is an eye-opening story that follows the narrator, Craig, as he deals with his depression and weighs the decision to end his life. Craig decides the best choice is to check himself into an adult psychiatric unit. In the hospital he meets a group of patients, both adults and teenagers, that are all dealing with their own mental health problems. Readers will see Craig find and confront the source of his depression and anxiety. This story is great to read to show young readers its okay not to meet the unrealistic expectations society puts on them.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This book is told through a series of letters that Charlie, the protagonist, writes to a friend. Charlie is also a character who is dealing with mental health through trauma from witnessing his best friend take his own life. He navigates through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder (BPD). He finds two friends that help him see life from within rather than watching it past by. This book can teach young readers about accepting people for who they are and how people can blossom when they are treated well.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The novel revolves around the idea of searching for meaning and purpose. Although the characters are looking for different things, they all end up revolving around identity. This book follows the story of Miles, the protagonist, who divides his life into before and after a life-changing occurrence. Looking for Alaska can teach young readers to find the meaning of their life and independence. John Green does an excellent job of depicting the character, Alaska, with mental illness. Readers and the characters in the book know there is something going on in her brain, but we never grasp what she is feeling. Mental illness is an invisible disease we cannot see in people, both in books and real life.
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Pat, the protagonist, feels his life is a movie produced by God. He feels he has a mission to become physically fit and emotionally literate. After Pats time at a mental health facility, everything to him feels off. This novel is told from Pat’s perspective and mind. It’s distorted yet charming. Pat is released but is still learning about his bipolar disorder, visiting his therapist, and medication he’s reluctant to take. This story will teach readers about the support people with mental illnesses need from society.
Books can teach us a wide variety of lessons important to every aspect of our life. Mental health awareness can come from reading about characters who deal with those very issues. When young readers see themselves in characters that are relatable, then it can create a feeling that they are not alone in this journey of life.