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Mental Health in YA Fiction – Part I

SPOILER ALERT: This article may have spoilers for The Hunger Games trilogy, the Twilight series, Thirteen Reasons Why and All the Bright Places.

We see it all the time. It’s never ending. “I’m depressed, he’s depressed, she’s depressed.” It seems like everyone is depressed. A lot of the time it’s used loosely now, both in real life and fiction. It’s like people don’t realize that sadness and disappointment are completely different matters than depression is. So often we hear or read of someone being ‘depressed’ and it’s so obvious that it’s not. Sometimes it’s almost like it’s a joke. After all, if everyone is depressed, why shouldn’t it be?

Well, it isn’t. And not everyone is depressed. But many people are, and often it is the people who you would never guess.

Often times it’s discussed in places you wouldn’t expect it to be. There are books that are labeled as a book about depression such as All the Bright Places and Thirteen Reasons Why. Sometimes it is snuck into books that we would never expect to find it in, like The Hunger Games trilogy or The Twilight Series.

I’ve found that books that mean to discuss mental health issues are generally depressing. No matter what pieces of hope may be stuck into the book, the facts remain. In All the Bright places Finch kills himself, and in Thirteen Reasons Why Hannah is dead from the start. What hope does this offer? Both are good, thought-provoking books, but I truly feel like they can be dangerous to people who struggle with depression.

Then there are books like The Hunger Games or Twilight where depression plays a part, but the book isn’t focused on it. I feel like, in a sneaky way, these are inspiring. They show that depression, while sometimes it seems like it’ll be consuming, isn’t a death sentence. We see this when Katniss struggles constantly, but is one of the strongest females in modern day literature. We also see this in New Moon, the second book in the Twilight series, when Edward and Bella, a modern Romeo and Juliet, nearly kill themselves because they are being kept from each other, but in the end, love wins out.

Depression is a hard thing to deal with, and it is important to focus on empowerment over outcome. Instead of dreading what could happen, it is so important to find one’s strengths and to push through. So many cases, all over literature, there are so many outcomes that can be found, but one thing remains constant: you are never alone.

As Doctor Suess said, “you’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” Sometimes to defeat that mountain one must stay in bed with a good book and warm drink of choice, and that is okay.