May is Mental Health Month: an important time to help spread the word that mental health is something everyone should care about. As a community, it is important to come together and fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.
In recent time, the way mental health has been portrayed and reported in the media is incredible. We have seen more and more celebrities and big-name personalities speak up and raise their voices on the subject, and even Hollywood on the rise with award-winning films such as A Star is Born, which put the spotlight on extremely tough mental health topics including addiction, depression and suicide.
Books, especially young adult novels, possess the ability to provide comfort to those who can relate themselves to a character with a mental illness, and also educate those who are more unfamiliar with the subject. We need to be able to speak openly about mental health, and the world of young adult novels is opening doors for us to better understand a wide range of issues.
If you’re looking to help a teen that is struggling, or to increase your own understanding of mental health issues, the following books take an honest, raw, and powerful look into the tough topics surrounding mental health.
Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
“16-year-old Aza and her ‘best and most fearless friend’, Daisy, investigate the disappearance of a fugitive billionaire in the hope of pocketing a reward. The detective angle is quickly sidelined, though, when Aza falls for his teenage son, Davis, and a tentative relationship develops."
Turtles All the Way Down is a powerful story for teens about anxiety, love and friendship and learning to cope when the world feels out of control. Available on Amazon.
Hold Still – Nina LaCour
“In the wake of her best friend Ingrid's suicide, Caitlin is left alone, struggling to find hope and answers. When she finds the journal Ingrid left behind for her, she begins a journey of understanding and broadening her horizons that leads her to new friendships and first love."
Hold Still is an honest depiction of the heartbreaking grief that a person goes through after a profound loss.
Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone
“Samantha looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off."
Every Last Word is a touching story of a girl with OCD finding her voice and love through poetry.
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
“Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more. Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realizing that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible."
Fangirl explores social anxiety, learning disabilities, and the importance of taking risks both academically and personally. Available on Amazon.
All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
“When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—six stories above the ground— it’s unclear who saves whom. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink..."
All the Bright Places is a heart-wrenching story of love shared, life lived, and two teens who find one another while standing on the edge.
If you or someone you know struggles with their mental health, please seek professional help. These books are not tools for diagnosis and/or treatment, but a means of continuing the important conversation about mental health.