Monday 30 July 2018

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Mental Illness in YA Month Discussion: What Do We Want to See More & Less of in YA Novels Featuring Mental Illness?

Mental Illness in YA Month

This is the final discussion post inspired by young adult podcast YA Oughta's Mental Health episode, which featured Lydia Ruffles and Tom Pollock in conversation with Chloe Seager and Katherine Dunn, in which they talked about writing about mental illness, representation, and many other things. Towards the end of the episode, they discussed what they want to see more or less of in YA novels featuring mental illness, and I thought that would be an interesting discussion to have.

What do I want to see more of?
  • I want to see more characters with mental illness in novels from genres other than contemporaray. More historical, more SFF, more thrillers and crime. More novels like White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock. More novels like For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig.
  • More YA novels where the protagonist having a mental illness isn't the whole focus of the story.
  • More YA novels featuring protagonists with mental illness who have other intersecting identities.
  • More UKYA novels featuring protagonists with mental illness.
  • More UKYA novels featuring protagonists with mental illness who are/written by people of colour.
  • More YA novels featuring boys with eating disorders.
  • More YA novels that feature mental illnesses other than those we see so often; anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder. More YA novels featuring schizophrenia (or hearing voices), schizoaffective disorder, pre-menstral dysphoric disorder, bipolar, borderline personality disorder and other personality disorders, dissociative disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, seasonal affective disorder, and many others. 
  • Of those mental illnesses we see most often, more YA novels that explore other symptoms of anxiety, depression and OCD than those we see over and over again, like Hannah of Sprinkled With Words said in her guest post.
What do I want to see less of?
  • I want to see fewer YA novels that feature characters who stigmatise mental illness, or treat protagonists with mental illness badly, and not have it challenged or shown in some way how wrong it is.
  • Fewer YA novels that are problematic in terms of representation. There is already so much stigma surrounding mental illness, we don't need books which may make readers without mental illness think that those with mental illness are drama queens, or just need to pull themselves together. No books that make it seem like getting past a period of mental illness is easy - and so therefore, why were they making such a fuss in the first place?
  • Fewer YA novels featuring protagonists with mental illness who are privileged in every other way.
How about you guys? What do you want to see more or less of when it comes to YA novels featuring mental illness?

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  1. Oh I'd definitely like to see more less-privileged characters with mental health issues too! I found this really great series recently that had such good rep of depression/anxiety...but it kind of bothered me that EVERY hurdle could be sorted out with an endless stream of money?! Like that's nice but totally fantasy tbh. 😭😭

    But I love your list of things you want to see more of!! I want to definitely read more mental illness in fantasy!!

  2. This is a great list!! There are lots of aspects of mental illness that could be explored that haven't been.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction