The statistics about teens and mental illness are staggering.
Below I did a bit of a literature review to learn about some of the research surrounding the positive effects of bibliotherapy on struggling children and teenagers. These same findings shown below can transcend to any age bracket, and further prove the invaluable use of books and character identification.
- To my mind, as both a soon-to-be librarian and a writer, the answer is a resounding yes. Fiction has a special magic to it—the ability to weave a world outside reality. To simulate experiences and outcomes. For someone who feels alone, a friend awaits within the pages—someone who says, “Yes, I’ve been there. Have gone through that. Am suffering along with you.”
- “Bibliotherapy can serve as an unobtrusive, non-threatening medium to help adolescents relieve their stress and increase their coping skills,” write Heidi L. Tussing and Deborah P. Valentine in their 2001 article “Helping Adolescents Cope with the Mental Illness of a Parent through Bibliotherapy,” published in Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. Tussing and Valentine write: “They (readers) gain insight, on the problem-solving and coping skills of the characters, subsequently applying this learning to their own lives.”
- Books offering insights into a peer’s condition are also beneficial, says David Rice, children, youth, and family services education coordinator at the Ch.O.I.C.E (Changing Our Ideas Concerning Education) Academy, an integrated transitional mental health facility and education center in Vermont. Rice cites an experience he had when his students read Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, a novel about a character who has Asperger’s syndrome. “Only one of the boys in class had Asperger’s, but the most profound aspect of the experience was what the other students learned about how his mind works, and how he corroborated with his peers what the character was feeling,” Rice says.
Bibliotherapeutic books can be fun and enjoyable, and do not have to be stigmatized as solely "bibliotherapy." Find below some great recommendations on the Carnegie website on a wide variety of physical, mental, and emotional issues that readers can relate to characters about such as:
- Physical Disabilities
The list could go on longer. My recommendation for this week is for each of you readers to find a book that you could use as bibliotherapy in your own lives. Whatever the issue is, finding solace in a book can often be the best medicine.