This is something I am so glad we get to address! I have always debated about going a teaching route or a counselor route! My mom was a guidance counselor in a school and her work was so powerful and the relationships she made there she is still in contact with now. Mental Illness and school is such an ignored yet important connection that I believe should be addressed more often.
Language and Symptoms of Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature
This first article spoke about the importance of keeping this conversation in life and in classrooms. This is such an easy way to incorporate this dialogue into your, you can include novels in your class library that talk about mental illness. Two specific positives this novel bring to light are:
- YA lit can demonstrate how our language signifies our beliefs
- YA lit can showcase authentic symptoms of mental illness
Bringing this topic to conversation and including literature that can educate people can only benefit students. If students can get a more wholistic understanding of mental illness through a narrative or an educational text it can benefit them in the long run. This kind of inclusion can also help with differentiating “authentic” terms for disorders and symptoms verses words that are just wrong. The book that came to mind reading this article was “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini. I really enjoyed this book and at the time that I read it I had not read a book that addressed mental illness before.
The author of this article was talking about his perspective as a third party who was conducting research on how accurate the mental illness stories are in the text verses factual information. He concluded that the stories he had read in his research were an accurate representation of many of the symptoms. This is such an approachable way for students to get another perspective or find themselves in a more relatable way.
As the article discusses I think a common concern that teachers have doing this is they are scared of the conversations that may arise in the classroom about things like depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or ADHD. While I do understand this concern to want control over discussion and not wanting to disrupt the eb and flow, it can be beneficial to the class and students personally. This can be a chance for you to correct stigmas around things like this and facilitate a comfortable class. You do not need to be an expert like the article says to be able to make this a positive experience.
Literature to Confront Stigma of Mental Illness
This article had a different perspective than the previous one, focusing more on the wrong terminology constantly used to describe people with mental illnesses. This article showed how teachers can make an impact in a positive way through literature and classroom discussion. He broke down different ways teachers could teach this material to your class depending on what age range you were working with.
One example they spoke about was the overuse of the term OCD or bipolar disorder. You can always count on someone to claim someone else is “OCD” if they’re being too detail oriented or become frustrated if something is not done in a certain way etc. The article points out the issues with doing things like this and the harm it can have on people who are truly OCD and the harm is can have in educating people incorrectly. People also will call someone bipolar if they have frequent or sudden mood changes. While this can be a symptom of bipolar disorder calling people bipolar who aren’t truly bipolar, doing it so sporadically just to emphasis and make a point belittles those who do have this disorder.
The article also goes through different book titles and the different lessons it can teach students if teachers utilize it in the classroom.
Some interesting facts the article listed that I think are important to know when dealing with students in a lot of the age ranges listed and to know in general to understand you own feelings or be a source for others.
- 75 percent of lifetime cases of mental health conditions begin by age 24.
- One in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness.
- More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition within the past year.
- 64 percent of young adults who are no longer in college are not attending college because of a mental health related reason. Depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD are the primary diagnoses of these young adults.
- 31 percent of college students have felt so depressed in the past year that it was difficult to function and more than 50 percent have felt overwhelming anxiety, making it hard to succeed academically.
Understanding these facts and statistics and recognizing them as current issues your students may be facing now or in the future is the first step in choosing to have the dialogue about mental health conditions. I want to help my students the best I can and reading other narratives about mental health conditions has helped me grasp a greater understanding of the struggles and symptoms that are related to these disorders. But most importantly it helps me gain more grace to be a source in my classroom.