Language and Symptoms of Mental Illness in YAL

This article by Dr. Kia Richards hit on some issues that I did not realize were prevalent in YA books, about mental illness. I have not read any of the “problem” books mentioned in the article. When I was reading the article initially I was a bit skeptical. I don’t think that these books should be censored. In the real world, people will use words like “crazy” even though they are not polite. So, I think there could be a place for them in novels about people suffering from mental illness.

However, I think that the presence of that type of language should be done with care. In one of the books I read this week, the main character who was struggling with an illness did call himself “the weird kid” a few times. He joked around with his condition, and I think that is how he coped. I could see a real life person coping this way as well. There were a few instances were his friends joked around about him being “crazy.” Those times were a little questionable, because the friends were joking around with that language. This is an issue of being close to someone different…but not different. A white person being friends with a black person does not give them the right to use the N-word. Therefore, being close to someone with a mental disorder doesn’t mean you can call them “crazy”.

This issue certainly isn’t black and white. Like I said, I think there is a place for that language, because these books are supposed to show the struggle of reality. However, once again, it should be done with care and meaning. They should teach a lesson, and not just be thrown in for comic relief or carelessly.

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