The bright glow of the holidays is gone and we have a few more cold, dark months before the spring sun warms us. Unfortunately, it’s peak depression and anxiety time. Depression and anxiety are more common between the ages of 12 and 17 (Children’s Mental Health, 2022). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2021 more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year. Combine these stats with Seasonal Affective Disorder and the picture can be pretty bleak.
Luckily YA authors totally get that and are here to help. Here are a few titles that address mental health. These might help you find a light in the dark grey months of Kansas winter.
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
Turtles All The Way Down is a relatable story to anyone who has dealt with anxiety and depression, and realized others do not understand. It’s debilitating and to some the focus on “the spiral” might get old. However, for those who experience these feelings, the story resonates on a level we don’t often feel.
Aza Holmes is a 16-year-old girl who lives in Indianapolis. She deals with obsessive compulsive spirals and relationship issues. She and her best friend Daisy are hunting down a local billionaire on the run from the law to get the $100,000 reward.
Aza is trying her hardest to be a good daughter, friend, student, and potentially even detective. But she’s also living with her own thoughts that are ever-spiraling out of control.
Who Put This Song On by Morgan Parker
Morgan is an outsider stuck in therapy in sunny small-town suburbia. She’s often the only non-white person around. People tease Morgan for her “weird” outfits and that she’s not “really” black. But this summer she finds a crew of friends. Morgan decides she will always be herself, including the dark part of herself she’s told is a bad thing.
Parker does an excellent job of melding complicated relationships and school issues with important issues like race in a very funny way. Additionally the music is great! Parker perfectly captures the 2000s in a way that makes you feel like you can reach out and touch it.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Darius is half Persian and he’s dealing with A LOT. He gets picked on at school, can’t please his father and, to top it all off, is clinically depressed. To make matters worse, his family takes a sudden trip to Iran to visit his grandfather who has a brain tumor. In Iran Darius isn’t Persian enough. People make fun of him for being overweight and for taking his depression medication. An event with a friend sends Darius into a spiral. He constantly wonders why he’s not good enough and if he’ll ever be able to trust anyone.
This book does a good job of representing teens from interracial or intercultural families who feel like they don’t quite fit into either place. The author leaves a very honest explanation of his own experience with depression in the end notes.