Over the past few years mental health has become more apparent, especially among teenagers. Currently, it is estimated that 10% of young people have a diagnosable mental health issue.
To help tackle the amount of teenagers with a mental illness, The Reading Agency in partnership with other organisations has created a book scheme called Reading Well for Young People.
The scheme is a recommended list of books, which are recommended by both mental health experts and young people, that talk about mental health issues.
Annie Robinson, a programme assistant at The Reading Agency, said: “It was set up because of the enormous need for quality assured mental health information and advice for young people.
“The scheme is designed to support mental health conditions or difficulties that are prevalent in young people’s lives.”
There are many authors involved in the Reading Well scheme including Jandy Nelson (I’ll Give You The Sun, The Sky Is Everywhere), Alexia Casale (House of Windows, The Bone Dragon) and Kate Collins-Donelly (Banish Your Body Image Thief: A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook on Building Positive Body Image for Young People).
Since the list includes a wide range of books from non-fiction to fiction, all mental health issues or just one, you are guaranteed to find a book that will help you, and if one doesn’t work then you can try another.
Alexia Casale, member of the selection panel and whose novel House of Windows is featured in the scheme, said: “One of the brilliant things about the Reading Well scheme is the thought and work that goes into picking books that a very diverse group of people think will be helpful – and won’t be harmful.
“There are so many perspectives involved from doctors, nurses, librarians and so forth, but also large workshops engaging with those affected and with carers to bring in lived experience so it can have an equal regard as expertise in what is needed – and what may be unintentionally harmful. This means real trust can be put in the list and the books on it.”
Not only can these books help you understand a mental illness, but it can help distract you from it.
“There are so many ways reading can help people dealing with mental health issues. One that is often pushed aside is escapism. It is no small thing to be able to stop being yourself for a little while and having a ‘break’ of sorts from your life, through being someone else and living a different life, even if only for a little bit. The ‘rest’ can be critical in managing symptoms and finding the strength to carry on.
“Another is recognition: seeing someone go through the same sorts of things is hugely comforting. Especially when you’re young and you maybe don’t ‘know’ how common mental health issues are, or what sorts of thoughts, feelings and behaviours are perfectly ‘normal’ within different mental illnesses.
“If fiction makes someone see that lots of other people have their own versions of similar things, that can be comforting, affirming… and help them start conversations – or even actively seek help. Stories can give young people the language to explain what is going on.”