Mental health triggers warning: depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and anxiety. If you feel like this might be triggering, please turn away from this article and turn to a friend.


The most important thing I have learned when it comes to mental health and its process of recovery is to take care of yourself and do what is best for your mental state. Furthermore, for those who know someone or care to learn and understand more about mental health these three books are very insightful on what goes on in the mind of someone who is struggling with their battle. Therefore, these three books cover different types of categories within mental illnesses.

Mental Health: Depression & Suicide

Many of us probably already know who Hannah Baker is from the very popular Netflix original series, Thirteen Reasons Why. What some might not know is that this show was based on a book written by Jay Asher back in 2007. Hannah was bullied, taken advantage of, and raped, which lead to her depression and to her suicide. Depression’s a hard topic to discuss let alone explain. Regardless, we need to talk about depression because the more we talk about it the more people will confront their own depression. In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker went through terrible events, but her isolation is what stands out the most.

Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker.
Netflix (2019-) & Jay Asher (2007)

Furthermore, Hannah tried multiple times to reach out to her peers in the hope someone would listen to her cry for help. In the end, she had absolutely no one. She only had herself, so she bottled everything up. This all attacked her mental health. With all that was going on in her life, Hannah wasn’t sure how to handle it and it just kept getting worse. That’s where Hannah’s depression came from, being alone and bullied to the highest point.

Providing A Light On Mental Illness In Literature

Depression isn’t just a form of sadness that can be shaken off in a day, or in months. It’s an illness that attacks your brain and once it’s there it stays. It takes away any motivation to be around people, to do anything, and many more symptoms. If Hannah had a friend, parent, or teacher to turn to she would have found comfort in knowing she wasn’t going through any of it alone. However, that’s the most important part of helping someone who’s struggling. It’s about reaching out and listening and helping in any way that they need. Just knowing you have someone makes the battle that much more durable.

Mental Health: Eating Disorder

What some people forget is that mental health isn’t just depression, there are multiple types and levels when it comes to mental illnesses. One of the most untalked about illnesses is eating disorders. All mental illnesses are extremely complex; however, eating disorders alone have different types. There is anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, etc. Eating disorders are about having control of something when everything in your life is chaotic.

Mental Health: Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson (2009).
Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson’s main character, Lisa, struggles with an eating disorder: anorexia nervosa. This story is about two best friends, Lisa and Cassie, who make a pact to be the skinniest girl in school. The outcome of this pact isn’t pretty. Cassie ends up losing her life and Lisa is left alone. Lisa is constantly battling her eating disorder and now the grief of a friend. This book pulls at your heart and opens your mind to the intensity of this disorder.

Mental Health: Anxiety

Aza Holmes from Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is a teenage girl who struggles with intense anxiety. Aza’s spiraling with on-going spiral thoughts that take over her mind, and it’s starting to take over life. Aza is trying hard to be the best daughter, friend, student, and potential girlfriend. But with these spiraling thoughts, she cannot seem to do anything right. Aza does her best, but she’s incapable of focusing on anything else when these overwhelming thoughts come and take over.

Mental Health: Turtles All The Way Down, Aza (2017)
John Green (2017)

Anxiety is one of the better known mental illnesses in today’s society, thankfully. People understand the feeling of being overwhelmed, but the severity of extreme levels of anxiety can take a toll on one’s physical body and mental strength. The ongoing panic and worry about every little thing become exhausting, but they cannot help it. Our main character in Turtles All The Way Down has the worst form of anxiety, it has taken over everything that she does and thinks about.

This book really helps outsiders understand what goes on in one mind. The intensity of anxiety and the fear that it’ll never stop. Being aware is the first step to understanding what people with mental health go through. This novel can help with that first step.

Safety

When it comes to mental health everything is fragile, whether it’s the person who is battling it or the topic itself. I would like to strongly encourage those who are battling on their own to continue to reach out to someone. Whether you are going through depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, suicidal ideation, or any other form; continue to push through these tough times because it will get better.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your recovery process, what’s important is that you are trying to get stronger. These novels listed above hold very delicate topics, some that we might not be able to handle, and that’s okay. As a society, we need to continue to spread awareness and show openness. Allow those with mental health to feel like they can speak freely about their pain. I advise those struggling to turn away from these books and to a friend, but for those trying to understand please read. All we can do is become more knowledgeable about what we don’t know, and keep each other safe.