Christina Lee from www.write-brained.com is stopping by today for a guest post on stigma. You can read her guest post from last year's Psychtember here. Welcome back, Christina!
Based on some recent YA novels I’ve read, here’s a recap of what mental health looks like: a teen reluctantly trudges to the counselor/social worker/therapist’s office. Said therapist is bumbling idiot or really quirky or just plain stupid. Or at the very least, they ask really dumb questions. The teens slumps in the chair, mumbles, crosses their arms, thereby closing the therapist off. They refuse to fess up or be honest about their problems, which might be the symptoms to a real disorder like OCD, Bi-Polar, Anxiety, or Depression. The symptoms list could include: failing grades, no friends, anger, shouting matches with parents, breaking school and home rules, impulsivity, crying jags, or general unhappiness.
Now let’s swap the mental health disorder for a medical problem, like diabetes, celiac disease, or epilepsy. The above scenario looks totally ridiculous, no? No way would someone march into a doctor’s office and act that way. They’d want to help for their problem, STAT. They wouldn’t treat the doctor like crap, even if denial, anger and sadness came later.
So, it’s 2012 and mental health still has a bad rep. It’s definitely improved, more readily accepted, and people are diagnosed and getting help every day. But it’s still hidden, shameful, not something people willingly discuss—especially when it comes to kids, therapy, and meds. People still use words like crazy, psycho, schizo, and whack-a-doo in describing certain scenarios.
And yeah, teens are supposed to buck the system, refuse help, and hate adults. But not all teens, all the time. And maybe it’s just getting old and kind of gimmicky, but I am now seeking books that are not representative of the above scenario—I know they’re out there. And truth be told, I’m writing one myself. Because though you never ever want to get preachy in YA, you do want to show reality and growth (also known as character arc). And growth can be shown without the teen refusing help or getting off those “crazy” meds. There are living and breathing people walking around who will probably need help and/or meds their entire lifetime, just like a diabetic would. And that, my friends, is reality.
Christina Lee has been a social worker and a special education teacher (also, a dinosaur excavator, a Lego contractor, and a Thomas the Train conductor), and finally realized that she could turn her love of words into her DREAM of writing. She writes freelance and Young Adult fiction and blogs at www.write-brained.com . She also own a hand-stamped jewelry business called Tags-n-Stones, which requires her to stamp lots of letter and words onto pieces of silver. Notice a pattern here?
I agree — it has gotten somewhat better, but unfortunately stigma of mental health issues is still very much present. Thanks very much, Christina, for sharing your views on this issue!