Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

The #MHYALit Discussion Hub – Mental Health in Young Adult Literature

MHYALitlogoofficfialAfter our first year of the #SVYALit Project, we decided that we at TLT liked the way the format worked and wanted to use it to discuss other topics of relevance to the life of teens. One of the ideas we discussed was using the format to discuss mental health issues in the life of teens and in YA literature, but I was not yet quite ready to delve more deeply into that topic because I was not yet ready to admit my own personal struggles with depression and anxiety. Earlier this year I did in fact share my personal story, which seemed to be the last stumbling point in TLT embracing the #SVYALit format to move forward in discussing mental health. So today we are excited to announce that in addition to #SVYALit and #FSYALit, in 2016 we will be using this same format to more fully discuss both poverty and mental health in the life of teens. Thus, we are excited to put out a call for guest posters for the #MHYALit Discussion (Mental Health in YA Literature).

1 in 5 teens will be diagnosed with some type of mental health issue. In addition, many other teens will be affected by mental health issues in the family as their parents, siblings, and friends struggle with mental health issues. During 2016 TLT would like to really use YA literature to discuss mental health issues in the life of teens. And we need your help. If you would like to write a guest post or share a book list, please contact me at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com. We will be talking throughout 2016, but we would really like to have a good array of posts to launch in early 2016. Amanda MacGregor and Ally Watkins will be helping to organize and coordinate this discussion.

There are lots of important conversations happening right now in many ways about mental health issues. Lots of people are being brave and sharing their personal struggles. Lots of great teen advocates, librarians, authors, and other professionals are engaging in these important conversations and we recommend reading and engaging in as many of them as possible. It’s a huge issue in the life of teens. We are not qualified experts in this discussion, though many of us at TLT have struggled with mental health issues in a variety of ways. And we have of course worked with many teens who have shared their personal stories and struggles with us; this has impacted our understanding of the issues and made us more cognizant to how important this topic is. We hope you’ll join us in reading and writing about this topic.

Project Goals:

  • To facilitate a discussion about the ways various mental health issues are presented and discussed in YA literature.
  • To examine specific titles and create lists of titles that those wanting to look for titles with diverse representations of various mental health issues can add to their collections or buy for the teens in their lives.
  • To include a wide variety of voices on the topic of mental health issues in the life of teens.

Some Basic Information

According to the NCCP, approximately 20% of adolescents have a diagnosed mental health issue. Most mental health disorders begin to present in the adolescent years. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among adolescents. According to NAMI, 50% of children who present with a mental illness will drop out of school.

In addition, a variety of teens are living in houses where they are being raised by a parent who suffers from some type of mental health issue. Approximately 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. These are the parents, grandparents, and love ones of many of our teens.

Mental health issues are an important issue for teens. Reading stories about characters with mental health disorders can help teens understand their parents, their friends, or their selves. It can give them hope. It can affirm and validate their experiences. Below are links to several lists of YA titles that deal with mental health issues in some way.


Where Are the Books on Addiction for Your Mental Health Book List? by author Christa Desir


Anxiety, Me and It’s All Your Fault, by guest blogger Liz Anderson

Pretending to be Normal: A Story About My Anxiety by Jessica Sankiewicz

Anxiety, Me and Fangirl, a guest post by Danielle Masterson

Panic: What Fear Feels Like by author Tom Leveen

Book Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Accepting Anxiety, a guest post by Jessica Spotswood

How to Manage, reflections on anxiety by Ally Watkins

Knowing When to Talk About It, a Guest Post by Kathryn Holmes

Anxiety Disorder, My Son, and Me by Amanda MacGregor

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, a guest post by author Claire Legrand

Ill Enough, a guest post by Nita Tyndall


Shattered Illusions: Growing up with a Bipolar Father, a guest post by Kim Baccellia


Depression and Obsession: The Pressure of Teen Athletes, by Mia Siegert

Major Depressive Dropout, a guest post by Bryson McCrone.

On depression and Melina Marchetta’s Saving Francesca, by author Carrie Mesrobian

Reading Lists: Depression, a guest post by Natalie Korsavidis

Book Review: We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Eating the Nuts, a guest post reflecting on depression by author Mackenzi Lee

Book Review: 100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen

Eating Disorders

Haunting the 616.85 Section, a #MHYALit guest post by BELIEVAREXIC author J. J. Johnson

The Fantasy of Being Thin and YA Lit, a guest post by Katelyn Browne

“Eating Disorder” Books: How They Only Show Half of the Struggle, a guest post by Jen Petro-Roy

Grief and Loss

A Place Where I Know: Writing About Grief by Hannah Barnaby

Survivor’s Guilt: The Aftermath of Grief by Sherri L. Smith


On Medication, a guest post by author Emery Lord

Mental Health Care/Advocacy

When the Ending Is Not the End: Mental Health and Accepting the Long-Term Journey by Annie Cardi

On Narrative Expectations and the Reflection of Truth, by author Stephanie Kuehn

How Libraries Can Help Teens, by Librarian Dawn Abron

You Are Not Alone, The Primary Message by E. Sparling

How My Debut Year Got Me to Therapy and Why That’s a Good Thing by Annie Cardi

Taking a Historical Look at Mental Health with Mindy McGinnis and A MADNESS SO DISCREET

Book Review: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Pushed Too Hard: Academic Pressure and Mental Health Concerns by Cindy L. Rodriguez

You Won’t Find Girl Interrupted’s Angelina Jolie But At Least You’ll Be Safe! Why Being Hospitalized for Mental Health Issues Isn’t a Bad Thing, a guest post by Ami Allen-Vath

Talking about mental health-related books and issues with teens

The Best Way to Erase the Stigma of Mental Health – Talk About It! by Deanna Cabinian

Puzzling Through Teen Mental Health, a conversation with Emily Franklin and H.A. Swain

You’re Not Alone, a guest post by author Pintip Dunn

Psychological Thrillers and Mental Health

Kneejerk Reactions are Just Jerky, a guest post by author Stacie Ramey

Faith Shaming and Mental Illness, Reflecting on Faith and Mental Illness for the #MHYALit Project

Five Ways to Cope: A Survival Guide for Family Members of Those with Mental Illnesses

Seven Myths About Mental Illness, a guest post by author Paula Stokes

Who Cares for the Caregivers?

Let’s Talk About How We Talk About Mental Health

Please Let’s Stop Telling People with Mental Health Issues to Just X, Y or Z

From Our Mailbox: #MHYALit and POC

This Book Will Save Your Life, a guest post by author Kathleen Glasgow

My Definition of Crazy, a guest post by author Lois Metzger

Why You Shouldn’t Ban Your Kid from the Internet, a guest post by Laura Tims

#MHYALit Interview with HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR author John Corey Whaley

Enough: A #MHYALIT guest post by Katie H.

Those Left Behind, discussing the ways that the mental health struggles of others affect teens, a guest post by Katherine Fleet

Teens, Mental Health and the Places it Takes Them, a guest post by Kerry Sutherland


Author Tamara Ireland Stone Interviews a Teen Called C about OCD

10 Things I Wish You Knew About OCD, by author Tamara Ireland Stone and C

The Story is Enough: Writing the Books I Needed to Read, a guest post by Jackie Lea Sommers

OCD Tales – Reflections on an OCD Sufferer’s Sabbatical Study of YA Novels of Mental Illness by Diane Scrofano


Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Ada, and Me by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

It’s Not Your Fault: Living Each Day with PTSD by Tom Leveen

Speak Up! A guest post about PTSD by author Shannon Greenland

Book Review: Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss


Reading Lists: Schizophrenia, a guest post by Natalie Korsavidis


Picking at Problems, a look at self-harm by author Robison Wells

The Truth I Forgot to Remember, a guest post by Sashi Kaufman

Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow


Author Ann Jacobus Talks About Suicide

Sunday Reflections: Kicking off the Year of #MHYALit

Before and After, a guest post by Melissa Montovani

Nineteen Years of Living, a guest post by Shaun David Hutchinson


Writing a Therapy-Positive Book, a guest post by Marisa Reichardt

What You Want to Hear, a guest post by Shari Goldhagen


Reading Lists: Schizophrenia, a guest post by Natalie Korsavidis

Reading Lists: Depression, a guest post by Natalie Korsavidis

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Book Review: We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Book Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Book Review: 100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagen

Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Book Review: Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss

Previous TLT Posts

Top 10: Books dealing with mental health (guest post by Kim Baccellia)

How Mental Illness Tried and Failed to Ruin My Life (guest post by Robison Wells)

Mental Health Medications Are Not Your Enemy

List of Lists: Teens and Mental Health Resources

Sunday Reflections: Today, I am Eeyore (a reflection on depression and anxiety in the life of tweens and teens)

Medication, Depression, and I Was Here

O Captain, My Captain: In which I mourn the loss of a childhood hero and discuss depression and suicide

The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady: mental illness in three acts

Diverse Teens, Diverse Needs

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (discusses medication)

Additional Book Lists and Discussions Around the Internet

For Statistics, Facts and Resources, Check Out These Resources

We need your help building our resource guide! Have a book list or blog post you want to see included? Please email us a link at kjensenmls at yahoo dot com. Although we will be taking guest posts all throughout 2016, if you know you would like to participate in the launch in early 2016, please email me by the end of September. We will be continuing our discussions on #SVYALit, #FSYALit, #Poverty and #MHYALit throughout all of 2016. Thank you for your help in discussing this important issues in the life of teens.



  1. One good book that I can think of is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

    Also, Elanor and Park (if discussing poverty)

  2. As a result of the Sandy Hook shootings tragedy in Connecticut, President Obama created an initiative called Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. The website for information is: http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/take-a-course/course-types/youth/ . It will direct individuals to where they can take a one-day course where they will learn how to identify teens who may have mental health issues and where to direct them for help. These courses are very appropriate for library staff. My organization received one of these grants and we are holding workshops over the next year.


  1. […] The #MHYALit Discussion Hub – Mental Health in Young Adult Literature […]

  2. […] books is a form of diversity. Karen Jensen and the people at Teen Library Toolbox are launching a Mental Health in YA Lit project in 2016 and are looking for people to write for […]

  3. […] my fellow librarians: I will be reading the Mental Health in YA Lit series at Teen Librarian Toolbox in 2016, and I hope you will be too.  After all, as quote from […]

  4. […] a bevy of resources related to teen mental health, check out the Mental Health in YA Literature project from Teen Librarian Toolbox, which has been going on all […]

  5. […] I’m guest posting on Teen Librarian Toolbox as part of their Mental Health in YA Lit (#MHYALit) […]

Speak Your Mind