Happy Monday, friends, and welcome to another day in the wonderful Shattering Stigmas, an event that will take place from October 6th to October 20th here on Drizzle & Hurricane Books.
Three years ago, Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight launched the first Shattering Stigmas, a blogging event dedicated to posts about mental illness to address and challenge the stigmas against it. Through book reviews, discussion posts and lists, Shattering Stigmas has continued conversations around mental illness for the past three years.
You can also enter our INTERNATIONAL (Book Depository) giveaway! TWO winners will be able to win the Mental Health book of their choice at the end of this event. Don’t forget to ENTER HERE!
Today, I have the amazing Marta guest posting, sharing her thoughts about mental illness and how books can help in fighting the stigmas about mental illness. I hope you will love her post as much as I do and please, feel free to share your thoughts about it in the comments below!
Trigger warnings: this post talks about anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, not in a descriptive way, but deals with its stigmas.
Hey, everyone! I’m Marta @ The Cursed Books and today I’ll talk a bit about mental health, stigma and how books can help combat the stigma.
I want to thank Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books for giving me the opportunity to speak on a subject that’s very important to me and to Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight for creating Shattering Stigmas, which is an amazing blog event that’s meant to raise awareness on mental health and on the stigmas surrounding mental illness.
You might be aware of the fact that I’m a psychology student, that helped me greatly by giving me a theoretical base about most mental disorders and in my second year of college, I had a very practice-oriented course called Psychopathology, where we got to watch some clinical interviews and observe how patients with different illnesses behave.
While all these courses were very informative, I couldn’t help, but be very frustrated with the cold approach of everything. How we never talked about the stigmas, how we never talked about how mental health is probably the least funded area in our health system, how psychiatrists and psychotherapists still use very old methods in their practices despite the high amount of research showing that those methods aren’t effective. We never talked about how anxiety and depression have become some of the most frequent illnesses of our decade, yet instead of admitting that our society makes us sick, we keep placing the blame on teenagers and young adults for being too fragile, for being snowflakes.
I can’t even begin to talk about the stigmas around people that suffer from schizophrenia – how everyone thinks that they are dangerous and violent (despite how few those cases are and those only happening when they are not taking their treatment). Sadly, these harmful stereotypes keep on appearing in media, in the movies we watch, in the books we read and they are so dangerous for these people who are already going through so much.
Considering how big the stigma is, it was still never mentioned in class. Never. Not even once. Instead we talked about the symptoms, the treatments (not so much because therapists aren’t allowed in Romania to give prescriptions) and we learnt how to write study cases. Which in my opinion, wasn’t very useful since there are students in my year that despite choosing this major have some huge prejudices when it comes to mental health. I still consider I’ve learnt the most about mental health from the internet, from people that were brave enough to share their stories, from people that had no reason to educate me, but still they did, through their articles, their blog posts, through their tweets, they did more than my education system could.
That’s kind of a scary thing, don’t you think? But I think it’s just shows why we still have so much stigma concerning mental illnesses.
And stigma is very dangerous because it’s making people very reluctant to accept the fact that they might be ill and even more reluctant to seek help or take medication. “There are 450 million people worldwide who suffer from mental health conditions, the majority (60 percent) do not receive any form of care, with 90 percent of people in developing countries receiving no form of care.” (original source).
So, why aren’t we speaking out more? Why are we still acting like mental health is something to be ashamed of? Why are we still behaving like it’s not an illness like any other? Why don’t we do more?
As I’ve mentioned before, media is a great factor in all this. Media influences us so much more than we’d like to admit. There are so many myths on mental illnesses that have been ingrained in our brains through movies, books, video games. So, why don’t we start using those means in a responsible and thoughtful way in order to educate people on mental health, in order to support people with mental disorders and make them feel more accepted?
How can books help combat the stigma? Why do we need them?
First of all, we need them because representation is so important, people that struggle with mental illnesses are discriminated, bullied and they present a higher risk of committing suicide. We need books that tell mentally ill people that they are valid, that they are not broken, that there’s nothing wrong with them. We need books that normalize treatment and therapy. We need to call out on those books that give magical treatments like love. We especially need own-voices books because people with mental illnesses are highly capable of telling their own stories, we just don’t let their voices be heard most of the times. We don’t raise them up enough, we don’t promote them enough.
Representation is so essential with mental illnesses because stigma makes people less inclined to speak out about what they’re going through, to seek support from their family or peers or even the internet (because they are afraid of being misunderstood, which is a very valid fear), because of that, many people with mental illnesses end up isolating themselves. Characters like them, going through similar experiences, can help them see how they are not alone, we shouldn’t underestimate the great comfort they can find in those books.
Second of all, I like to think most stigma around mental illnesses comes from people not being informed enough. I feel like most of the books on mental health are in the non-fiction genre, they are written by specialized people from the medical field or the psychology field. Therefore, these books are full of terminology that might not be accessible to everyone or even if it is, some people don’t read non-fiction, so those books still don’t reach the people that need this information the most.
I also think non-fiction is a genre which makes it harder to empathize (unless it’s a memoir), thus not changing the fact that people might understand the theoretical aspects of mental illnesses, but not be considerate about how these disorders affect the people and their lives. Fiction makes it so much easier to empathize with the characters, to understand their struggles, it’s a great way to learn about mental illnesses and it can be accessible to everyone, even to children.
I think it’s very important that non-fiction books are more inclusive and that fiction books get more exposure. And that’s why I’m going to end this post by recommending you a few fiction books on mental health.
Made You Up and Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia – Zappia is really great at writing about mental health, I only read Eliza and Her Monsters, which has anxiety representation and it was very on point – I especially loved how Eliza actually got help, she went to therapy in the end. It was very well done. Made You Up is on my TBR and from what I’ve heard, the protagonist, Alex has schizophrenia and the rep is also very good.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – this one remains a classic for me, I think it’s a book for everyone. Charlie is dealing with a lot, he shows symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression due to experiencing abuse. It’s one of the first books that I’ve read that focused on mental health and it definitely stayed with me for some time now.
Saving Francesca by Melina Marrchetta – Francesca’s mother has depression and besides the rep being very realistic, we also get to see how it affects the whole family.
I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman – anxiety rep, panic attacks. This book is everything and I will never not love it. It’s amazing.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – PTSD rep done very well, I adore the details, for example, Kaz’s touch aversion. Leigh Bardugo is exceptional, as always.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – social anxiety rep. This book is very relatable to me, from the college struggle to being introverted and finding some solace in fandom. It’s amazing how much I related to Cath’s personality. It was the first time I considered I might struggle with mild anxiety and I’m very thankful for this book for making me aware that my struggles were valid.
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green – a book that I haven’t read yet, but I trust Marie a lot and she has a review here where she makes it sound absolutely amazing. From what I’m aware of, this one has OCD rep and it’s own voices.