Saturday, December 12

{Guest Post by Jillian @ Jillian's Books} How Do You Feel About Books Portraying Mental Illness?

Before I begin this, I want to massively thank Ruzi and Veronika for featuring me in this blog today as I am more than grateful to write for you all. This is a privilege!
If you have known me from my blog (Jillian’s Books) or my second blog in which I co-blog in (Chasing Faerytales), I am very sensitive to the portrayal of mental illnesses in YA novels today. I might have discussed about this personal issue previously in my two blogs, but growing up, I was anxious and miserable. When I think about those years when I was sad, I realized that my problems were created by myself. I was overthinking problems that weren’t even problems in the first place. I relied on books, of course, and they’ve helped a lot. Although I am feeling much better about myself than before, I still do feel sad at some points of my life. And I still do worry a lot. It’s exhausting to feel like this sometimes, but I am slowly starting to feel comfortable – thanks to the books I’ve read and my family members who are always there. They played a huge role.

Before I joined the book blogging community,
I had no idea about YA’s portrayal of mental illnesses. Most of the books I’d read before were usually happy books, such as teen love, fantasy, and happily ever afters, because they were what made me feel happy and contented, despite my situation. It was honestly only this year did I discover more and more books that gave an insight on how people dealing with these kinds of problems felt. It was this year did I start to read these kinds of books, and understand its characters whom I felt I could connect to so well. 

I’ve read a few books over the past few days that tackle this issue. And it made me ponder: How does this really make me feel? And how do other people feel about it as well?

So here, I put before you a few choices.
How DOES it make you feel when YA books today decide to write about a sensitive topic?

a) It gives me hope and inspiration that I am not alone.

b) It makes me feel informed on how people feel today.
c) It makes me uncomfortable. 
d) All of the above.

In my case,
I am choosing D.

  1.  I feel hopeful. I can’t be alone.

    They say literature has a relational aspect that gives it so much power to connect to us readers, and it’s true. I love reading books with characters who undergo mental illness – especially anxiety – because I feel like I’m not the only one who feels the same way. I feel I could relate to literary characters who worry a lot like I do. Those characters whose anxious thoughts circulate the conscience again, and again, and again until it becomes emotionally exhausting.

    And yes, I know how that feels. And no, I am definitely not alone.

  2. I know now, therefore I can help now.

    I think YA books that portray this can help educate other people who have no idea how it feels to suffer mental illnesses. When people are depressed, anxious, or schizophrenic, a part of their conscience pushes them to do what others might find “crazy.” Because I’ve read books that tackle this issue, I learned that people who suffer these are definitely not crazy. They are still people, too, and all they need is a sense of love and belonging. They need support. I like how YA books can teach readers to help out those who feel worthless, instead of calling them out as “crazy,” and all I’m ever really hoping is for it have a larger impact to those who feel as if they are worthless.

  3. Yes, it’s quite a sensitive topic. And at some point, I am uncomfortable.

    It’s the truth. When I read books that portray mental illnesses, I am shown dark insights and suicidal thoughts of characters who suffer those sicknesses. And it affects me deeply because I remember those days when I was miserable; I would often lock myself in my room and write morbid poetry about how miserable my life was. I hated that feeling. And I also hate reading about characters who HAVE the same feeling. In some way, these books make me feel a little bit tense when I read about it. But in truth, I don’t avoid them. Even if it does, it still clearly helps me still.
I’m still sort of new to realistic fictional YA novels that portray this issue, but here are some of the books I know that tackle this in their stories:


So far, the book that impacted me the most was
Thirteen Reasons Why, which I read one year ago. It is one of those books that deal with suicide among its characters, and I believe this is a great eye-opener on how people feel in terms of suicide. I also have a copy of All The Bright Places and have yet to read it, but I’ve been warned of its sad ending and its strong aspects on suicide as well. Basically, these books all play a huge role on this strong issue, and I do hope that they impact you (and perhaps those who might be interested in them) as well.

(And because it’s nearly Christmas, why not gift them to a friend or family member whom you think deserves to read them?)

I want to thank Ruzi and Veronika for allowing me to guest post at their blog! Thank you so much!

What do YOU feel about YA novels portraying mental illnesses?


  1. This is a great discussion topic Jillian and although mental illness interest me a lot (that's wy I studied Psychology in the first place) I tend to not read YA book that deals with the problem. Most of the books I've read dealing with different mental illnesses has been adults and although I have not read any of the titles you mentioned above I'm always scared to pick a YA regarding this topic because what if it is clich├ęd? I might not be the first time I've encountered one of those, even on the adult section, and it's just very annoying in my opinion. If authors wanna explore this topic, they better document themselves first. However, I will try to read more, both adult and YA, until I find the perfect one :)

  2. I think the most YA I've been reading lately has had to do with mental illness. All the Bright Places impacted me so much and gave me a new understanding on the topic. I also recently read The Last Time We Say Goodbye by: Cynthia Hand, which left me so impacted by the stigma of suicide. A great read!

  3. Wow, what an amazing post. I feel very connected to this because I write as well, and when I do mental illness is one of the concepts that tends to show up quite a lot. As a reader, it's very easy for me to notice when authors are exaggerating or making uncomfortable assumptions about mental illness and I try to avoid that in my writing. Great post!

  4. I've only been recently discovering YA that deals with mental illness too. I plan to read a lot more than I already have! I think I actually tend to enjoy them a lot more than your average contemporary too, because I feel like they are dealing with real serious issues, and that I can gain a lot from them.
    I can also agree with you on selecting option D - even if it can be uncomfortable, you still are gaining valuable knowledge and understanding. Unless the book is unrealistic and doesn't deal well with the mental illness (eg. 'curing' it with a romance or playing into harmful stereotypes).
    Unfortunately the two books I have picked up that you mentioned, were DNFs for me xD I just couldn't get into Finding Audrey and I think the timing was wrong for me with All The Bright Places.
    However, I do really want to read the other three books, especially Thirteen Reasons Why.
    This is such a great -and important- post Jillian! Thanks for sharing!


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