Hello, everyone! This week is mental health awareness week run by the Mental Health Foundation. As this is an area I’m really passionate about both personally and as a psychology student, to do my bit I’ve decided to run a blog feature where I and guest bloggers talk about mental health related topics paired with books and/or blogging to help raise awareness. 🙂 Today I’m welcoming Leah to the blog!
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Hi readers of Becky’s blog, my name is Leah and I’m usually found hanging out over at Perks of Being a Bookworm, thank you, Becky for letting me guest on your blog today!
As you might have noticed, this week Becky has been featuring lots of bloggers talking about various different topics within mental health for Mental Health Awareness Week, being someone who has been mentally unwell on several occasions I do love coming across books that feature mental health as a subject. You know how it is, it’s great to see yourself in the mediums you consume. It helps when you feel you belong and there are loads of great books that deal with mental health fabulously. However, there are also a lot of tropes that I, for one, am very bored of seeing, so here is a plea to writers everywhere, please avoid the following things!
Firstly, romanticising mental illness.
You have no idea how much this frustrates me, mental illness, like any illness actually is not cute or romantic. There is nothing fun about crippling anxiety or having to act out a routine because your mind tells you to, there is nothing quirky and profound about being trapped in your own head thinking about your demise, so if you could stop with all that, I’d be grateful. You wouldn’t have a character using their diabetes as a quirky personality trait now would you?
This point leads me onto trivialising mental illness.
I think this is one of the most damaging things a book can do. The beauty of having characters dealing with mental health means that it helps put these problems into perspective for readers that aren’t experienced with it, but there is nothing more damaging than a book giving off the idea that mental illness doesn’t exist. I have lost count of the number of YA books I’ve read where characters make fun of other secondary characters for having eating disorders or for self-harming or generally being down, eurgh kannst du nicht.
I also have a massive problem with demonising mental illness.
Ok – yeah, so I know earlier I was all like, don’t romanticise mental illnesses, they’re not cute! Well, they’re also not evil! They’re just part of someone’s chemistry.
Whenever I read fantasy and paranormal books – you know the ones, where one character isn’t aware of the paranormal world and then when they find out about it they immediately think they’re having some kind of psychotic delusion? Yeah, those ones. The ones when said character then becomes relieved because finding out that monsters exist and being kidnapped by mythical creatures is apparently preferable to mental health problems.
Whenever I read those stories, the message is very clear to me. Having a mental illness is the worst, and I should be ashamed of it. At the risk of repeating myself, eurgh. I ain’t about that life, and I certainly don’t need that kind of thing on my bookshelf!
Because I don’t want to bring so much negativity to Becky’s blog, I’ll wrap this up with the most annoying trope you can possibly find, being miraculously cured by a romance.
Becky and I had a long rant about this over on my blog once. No. Just no. You have no idea how many young adult novels I’ve read that involve a boy, usually with depression, attending therapy or being sectioned, who is somehow miraculously cured by the arrival of a cute girl who helps them see how beautiful and worth living life is. Yes, sometimes we do meet people who help with all that, but depression really isn’t that easy to cure and it gives totally the wrong message!
So there you have it, a few things that there should be less of in books about mental health.
Thank you Becky for letting me vent on your blog and to anyone reading this who is struggling a little right now, remember, don’t be ashamed to ask for help, we’re always being told by the news that mental health provision in the UK isn’t great, while there is a degree of truth in that, having support is always better than suffering alone, so do go and speak to a GP or other health professional, that’s what they are there for!
Have any of these points irked you when reading books featuring mental illness? Are there any pet hates/things you are tired of seeing misrepresented? Let me know in the comments!
Leah is a journalist, blogger and wannabe film maker who has an unhealthy obsession with words, nerdy memorabilia and cake. You can usually find her at Perks of Being a Bookworm.
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