Some time ago I did a fascinating and illuminating online course on literature and mental health. It’s still available. Doctors, celebrities and academics shared moving insights about the ways in which reading can help people struggling with depression and other debilitating mental health issues. Mental health problems among children and young people are horribly prevalent. As someone who specialises in children’s and young people’s reading, I am particularly interested in the role that books and reading can play in supporting them, and also in spreading understanding about the issues. In the words of Frank Cottrell Boyce, a book is ‘the knife that picks the lock of your isolation.’
I have found these articles and booklists informative and helpful:
Holly Bourne (author of the wonderful Am I Normal Yet?) has written an excellent piece on mental health issues in YA fiction.
Read what two teenagers with mental health problems have to say about the importance of books – and the paucity of provision – in ‘Mental health and books: teenagers speak out’.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a list of books for pre-school to 12 year-old children on a wide range of mental health concerns. Letterbox Library supplies a good range of children’s books on mental health issues. Have a look too at Booktrust’s list, which includes both children’s and young adult titles.
Do read about the Reading Well scheme to support young people’s mental health in libraries. There’s a useful guide to the books available, organised by issue (eg bullying, self-harm, OCD, body image and eating disorders).
Young Minds has a list of young adult books that reflect mental health issues. There’s another valuable booklist from Madeleine Kuderick, author of Kiss of Broken Glass.
A few more quotes to end. Shami Chakrabarti tells us ‘Reading can bring the breeze of hope’. This is John Green: ‘Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.’ Matt Haig, who writes so brilliantly about depression, says in Reasons to Stay Alive that reading is important ‘because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. Reading makes the world better.’ Finally, here’s Ben Okri: ‘Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.‘