One of the big issues in the latest YA novel I’m writing is mental illness in teens. For some reason I’m especially heartbroken by the vulnerability of kids struggling with this issue today and the missed opportunities to help them. All the warnings that go dismissed, ignored, and misunderstood are leading to higher and higher rates of suicide among our youth.
More teens harm themselves than harm others. That’s depression. It's when the pain turns inward. Depression says:
· Everything seems hopeless. It just goes on and on.
· Everything is falling apart.
· I am not enough.
· Who I am on the inside doesn’t match the outside.
· I feel empty and alone.
· No one can see me.
Novels about depression and anxiety can help to show teens that they're not alone. Straight A’s is about a girl who feels that everything is falling apart, and there is no way out. Stress and perfectionism push her into a corner. Her cries for help are seen by friends and recognized in time for her to be saved, but for many in our world today, this isn’t true.
When I talk about my book, it makes people squeamish. SUICIDE! Ugh. What a nasty topic. Can’t you write about something nice like romance? Why would you write about something horrible like that?
Because it’s important.
Because it’s real.
Because it hurts a lot of people. Because it’s killing them. Literally.
Talking really does help. Writing in journals helps. Sharing with friends, making art, talking to a counselor, and lots of things like that helps. Reading books about anxiety and depression helps. It’s important that feelings of hopelessness and despair do not stay bottled on the inside, alone. Terrible things grow in that darkness.
Healing happens in the light, in community.
Here's a great list of 10 Young Adult Books That Talk about Anxiety and Depression. Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places is one of my all-time favorites.
What about you? Do you have some other recommendations to share? I'd love to hear from you.