Mental Health Awareness Month: What to read?
It has been an anxious few months for all of us. So much so that I almost forgot that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health gets swiped under the rug often but the pandemic has brought many of these anxieties out into the open. Mental Illness is now more than a fictitious character and has acquired a seat at the table.
The YA genre has been especially progressive in creating realistic depictions of mental Illnesses. They are not as intense as Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar but All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and Turtles All The Way Down by John Green, a personal favorite, have been refreshing to read and help you understand the irrationality and spirals that come with mental illnesses without really romanticizing them.
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is a book especially worthy of your attention this May because of its impeccable representation of Mental Illness.
The author of The Fault In Our Stars graced us with this gem back in October, 2017. Turtles is an effective representation of Aza who suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and crippling anxiety. The entire experience of reading this book is painful because of how the irrational fears engulf the protagonist. Green does not back away from creating a grueling description of mental illness lying low among people that make rational decisions and are surprisingly perceptive in most areas of their life.
Ava’s anxiety stems from the traumatic experience of losing her father and it manifests in many different ways but especially in the form of a wound on her finger that she keeps re-opening and sanitizing. She ends up drinking the sanitizer because it gives her a sense of peace that the alcohol would kill the germs inside. She ends up in the hospital because of it and having to explain it to her mother is a unique scene because Ava understands the irrationality of her actions and the potential health risks that imply but she cannot kill the urge to act on those irrational fears. That is exactly what crippling anxiety does and yet there are so many books out there that don’t show you the hidden monster that mental illness is.
The book has a happy ending but it is not at all a cliche one. The story ends up with Ava going to college and doing it all right. The book breaks the notion that mental illness always ends tragically.
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