Mental Health in Books and TV

May is mental health awareness month. It’s a topic I think is important and should be talked about more without the negative stigma associated with it.

I for one, have struggled with anxiety in the past. However, I received help from professionals, and a great support system from family and friends (and my dog). At first, I didn’t recognize the signs or that I had a problem until I realized I wasn’t living the life I wanted. I had stopped eating normally, falling asleep was difficult, my thoughts were constantly racing and swirling in my head at all hours the day (and night), and I stopped going outside. At that moment, I knew I had to say something, ask for help.

It wasn’t easy, or fun, or quick to fix. There were a lot of aches, tears, and difficulties to get to the comfortable place I am today, but it all started with asking for help. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I also want to say that recovering from that crippling anxiety is nonstop, and it’s something I’m still coping with. As corny and cliche as it sounds, if you get help it will get better. It has to.

Since my personal experience with mental health, I worry a lot of how the issue is being depicted. I worry because there are so many misconceptions about the subject, that it’s hard to find stories that get it right.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite books and shows that get it right.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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In this book we follow Cath, a brand new college student coping with all the changes that it comes with attending university for the first time. And she’s completely alone since her twin sister decided to hang out with a new crowd that doesn’t involve Cath. At first I just thought Cath was super relatable in how she sees the world and copes with it, until someone pointed out that it’s also about anxiety. The issues presented in this book are not the focus of the story in the same way others are on this list, but they are present. Alcoholism and depression also make an appearance.

The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Mallory suffers from selective mutism (an anxiety disorder) after years of abuse in the foster care system, but with her adoption and years of hard work, she’s finally gotten her voice back and decides to to go to public school for the first time in years.

What I adored about Mallory is that she really shows how recovery works concerning anxiety disorders. For people that have never had anxiety disorders (or any disorder) it might be weird to see someone get so ecstatic over simple things like talking to a stranger, but the excitement Mallory shows over these things is genuine. She also knows it’s okay to have bad days and stay in bed all day as long as you get back up the next day and move forward. FULL REVIEW.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

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Charlie has had a short but painful and difficult life, which she copes with by cutting herself. It’s not until she goes into treatment she begins to get the right help, however she is soon left to her own devices when she’s forced to walk out of the rehab center. Now she’s on her own and desperately trying get better on her own.

This book showcases a lot of mental health issues apart from self mutilation and it’s a dark read, but it’s incredibly touching to see Charlie’s journey of recovery. She demonstrates the hardships that comes with the territory and the many infuriating bumps along the way. But in the end, all I could do was root for her to make the right decisions instead of the wrong ones (and there were a couple). It also has one of the most bittersweet endings I’ve ever read which  made me bawl like a baby. FULL REVIEW.

Legend of Korra, Book 4: Balance

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Avatar Korra is a headstrong young woman whose job is to maintain balance in the world. Throughout the series she is very confident in her abilities and immensely strong too, but in book 3’s finale she suffers a setback when she’s almost killed in battle. In book 4, we see her deal with the aftermath of that fight, which has left her in deprssed and in a wheelchair. Her problems may start out to be purely physical, but she soon realizes that it’s also her mental state that’s in trouble. For the rest of the season she continues to cope with her loss and receive help from various people.

What really surprises me about this show is that it deviates from the normal animated shows. It’s simply not normal to see an animated show on nickelodeon take on a story about mental health and trauma. What’s even more surprising is that they did take their time with the character’s healing process. They don’t rush it and that’s very important to show, because mental health issues are not that easy to fix, they do take time. I also appreciated that it was a strong character who went through with this, because it shows that it can happen to anyone. It reminds us that mental illness does not discriminate. FULL REVIEW.

What is Fatmagul’s Fault? (Turkish Drama)

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This Turkish TV drama revolves around a young woman, Fatmagul, who was brutally raped by three men and the repercussions after the rape. The reason I put this on the list is because it’s one of the very few rape story lines that didn’t bother me on television. They attend to the issue and although Fatmagul’s healing process is painfully slow (for some viewers), it’s also done right because she receives help. Most of the time, when rape is portrayed on TV it’s glossed over so the story goes on to the next exciting thing, but in this drama they do a great job of addressing the issues that come with it, from confronting it head on, to the social stigma, and how it affects future relationships. It’s not just Fatmagul who has to deal with what happened, but everyone else who was directly or indirectly involved in it and those who tried to hide it.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

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When Craig almost commits suicide, he hospitalizes himself to receive help and treatment for his depression. Vizzini, who has struggled with depression himself, shows all the different ways depression manifests itself through eating disorders, sleeping disorders, and substance abuse. It’s honest, relatable, and a realistic portrayal of a serious issue. However, as the title suggests, the story is not all sad and gloom… or gritty. He takes depression for what it is.

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