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Talia Hoggan

Vicki LeQuire

RC 2001-101

10 September, 2020

Mental Health in Young Adult Literature:

An Analysis of Two Sources Concerned With the Potential Effects to Readers

Mental health is a topic that is heavily talked about in this day and age, with

primarily the younger generation taking the reins of the movement by advocating for

greater acknowledgement, attention, and information on the subject. The American

Psychological Association has even stated that the amount of American youths

experiencing a mental illness has risen significantly over the past decade. In this case, it

is only fitting for the literature written for the audience of young adults often incorporates

mental health issues.

Upon further research, a blog post came to light that was written by Dr. Kia

Richmond, who possesses a Ph.D. in English Studies, Composition, and Pedagogy.

The fact that this qualified author published on an informal medium such as a blog is

ideal considering the age of the subject matter and potential audience. Young adults are

much more likely to read short and simple posts, and are therefore much more likely to

be persuaded by her points and possibly look closer at their reading material.

Richmond’s post is set up clearly from the start, as she states she will be

highlighting two points: 1) how young adult literature can demonstrate how our language

signifies our beliefs and 2) how it can showcase authentic symptoms of mental illness.
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The post is then separated very clearly into the analysis of these two things, making the

information very easy to read and process. Richmond lists the titles of many modern

Young Adult books, with brief quotes that rarely exceed a few words. She utilizes these

quotes to emphasize how there is a negative public stigma found in lots of YA books

through synonyms for having a mental illness. Examples given include words such as

insane, apeshit, nuts, lunatic, etcetera. She goes on to explain how using these

negative terms can influence beliefs, behaviors, and perpetuate the negative stigma

surrounding mental illness. However, using young adult literature as a medium to

discuss mental health can also have the opposite effect, informing teens how to

correctly identify symptoms of mental disorders.

Dr. Richmond argues that authors should make a conscious effort to incorporate

more positive and healthy ways of referring to mental illness. This way, kids can

empathize with people who may suffer from mental health issues. If they have a mental

illness themselves, they may feel less alone after reading a character they identify with.

Incorporating mental illnesses into novels in a healthy, respectful way can help

challenge the stigma associated with mental health disorders.

The second source that came to light is much more formal, written by an

Assistant Professor and graduate student of English at Colorado State University. This

article is much longer than the blog post, at 13 pages long, with a much more complex

language and format. Whereas the blog post was simply separated into two sections,

this article has many different headings and subheadings, one for each small point they

are making. This grand amount of headings can be confusing to the eye and much
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harder to read. If the authors had intended young adults to read it, they would most

likely find that the teens gave up shortly after starting the reading. However, the authors

make very similar points to the blog post, despite the difference in style.

This source also claims that media directed towards youth often depict

characters with a mental illness as aggressive and threatening, which can lead to

children developing a negative perspective of those with a mental illness.

Not quite finished