Why We Should Talk (Loudly) About Mental Health
Mental illness probably affects someone in your class, your family, your friend group, or maybe even yourself. The numbers are staggering: According to recent stats, one in five teenagers today suffer from mental illness. This can be depression (which affects between 10-15% of teens), anxiety (about 8% of teens), or one of the many, many other variations of psychological disorders. Given the fact that mental health conditions are so common—especially among 13-to 18-year-olds—then shouldn’t more people be talking about it?
Now’s a pretty good time to start. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which aims to spark conversation about all kinds of issues—and hopefully continue these convos all year long. One surefire discussion starter is John Corey Whaley’s brand-new novel Highly Illogical Behavior. The book follows Solomon, a 16-year-old Star Trek nerd (in a cute way, obvs) who suffers from agoraphobia. In fact, he hasn’t left the house in three years, ever since one particularly embarrassing incident at the school’s water fountain. When Lisa—an overachieving student with dreams of psych school—decides to “fix” Sol in order to get a college scholarship, things get really complicated. Trust us, you’ll want to read this book. (We speak from experience.)
The page-turner was inspired in part by Corey’s experience with mental illness. “My reasoning behind the book is a little selfish, honestly,” the author told us. “I was diagnosed with general anxiety maybe 10 years ago, but I never really had to deal with it too much in my daily life.” On his book tour for Noggin, his second novel, he finally had to confront his anxiety. “For the first time in my life I had to deal with the fact that my mental illness, which I had honestly joked about for a decade, was affecting my life in a large way.”
After talking with people who were going through similar things—as well as people who didn’t understand psychological problems at all—Corey decided to write about it. “I wanted to say something about how we talk and think about mental illness,” he explained. “The original intent wasn’t ‘Here’s a message I want to give the world about mental illness.’ It was more, ‘Here’s how I want to figure out my own situation.’” Regardless of whether you’re going through something yourself or if you want to better understand what mental health is all about, the first step is education. It’s tempting to brush illness under the rug; but fortunately, we have resources like Gabby Frost’s The Buddy Project and Kasey Lemley’s Help Hotline as safe spaces to turn.
Just take it from Corey. “The thing about it is, the more people who are exposed personally to things they don’t understand, the wider the understanding becomes,” he said. And it doesn’t have to be in a best-selling YA book, either. “You have to talk to people about things, whether they like it or not. You have to be yourself, despite all opposition.”