At the YALSA Young Adult Services Symposium in Memphis this last weekend, I had the honor of moderating a panel of contributors to my anthology (Don’t) Call Me Crazy. Our goal was to highlight some of the best when it comes to mental health and illness in YA lit, as well as how to be an effective advocate when it comes to working with teens and these topics. To take this beyond that panel, I wanted to pull together a resource guide to mental health in YA books, as well as some of the key highlights of our discussion. The below book lists are those with titles vetted by the panelists, including myself, Hannah Bae, Christine Heppermann, S. Jae Jones, and Shaun David Hutchinson.
Great YA Books About Mental Health: Titles and Resources
- Over on School Library Journal, a guide to nuanced and thoughtful approaches to mental health in YA lit. I put together this piece as a tool for helping find high quality, inclusive, and intersectional mental health experiences.
- In honor of World Mental Health Day in 2018, (Don’t) Call Me Crazy contributors talked about the most important mental health books they’ve read, along with what they’ve written about the subject.
- 50 must-read YA books about mental illness.
- Powerful teen books about depression.
- This is a reality so many teens experience, but it’s not explored quite as much as it should be. But here’s a start! YA books about social anxiety.
- I find reading to be a challenge sometimes, when I’m dealing with anxiety and depression. I pulled together some of the tips and tricks that have helped me while reading with mental health challenges.
Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Teen Readers: Topics Worth Discussing
Whether or not you heard the panel discussion, there are a number of things we discussed that are worth thinking about or discussing within your own libraries. Here are some vital mental health related topics to consider:
- Why is it vulnerable to discuss mental health? Whether or not you experience mental illness, mental health is in and of itself still often taboo. What holds you back from discussing it and how does it make you feel when you do? If you’ve been at the receiving end of someone discussing their mental health — particularly teens — how does it make you feel? Why? In what ways do you navigate those conversations?
- What makes for a “good” depiction of mental illness in YA? I wrote a bit about the idea of “getting it right” over on To Write Love On Her Arms that’s worth thinking about, since there’s a lot to chew on when it comes to the idea of a “right” depiction of mental illness.
- #OwnVoices stories– books about a particular experience or background written by an author who shares it — are especially powerful when it comes to mental illness stories and this is particularly true when it comes to intersectional explorations of mental illness. When it comes to talking about mental illness, though, it can be tricky to know whether or not a book is #OwnVoices if the writer doesn’t disclose that in the book itself or openly on the website/social media. How can you as a librarian take this into consideration in your collection development decisions? What about in your reader’s advisory decisions? How and where might it be appropriate to connect teen readers with authors who are open about their mental health?
- Are there YA books or depictions of mental illness in the pop culture that teens consume that are actively harmful? What makes them so?
- While we’ve certainly seen an increase in mental illness representation in YA, we can all agree there are holes. What’s lacking? What do you hope to see more of as more writers share stories that explore mental health? What are you seeing with teens that deserves more representation in the books written with them in mind?
- How can librarians use books that explore mental health with teens? What are some resources beyond the books for librarians to know in order to be the best advocates for their teens possible? Kelly talked on panel about developing a book display with compassion and care after a teen suicide rocked her community, written about here, as well as about her experience being part of Port Washington, Wisconsin’s project to have a community read of (Don’t) Call Me Crazy,