Tackling Our Students’ Mental Health Through Literature

As a secondary English teacher, mental health is a huge issue I’ve faced, both in and out of the classroom. I’ve also seen this in my personal life, with friends, siblings of friends, and people I’ve encountered who have battled depression and other mental illnesses.

These illnesses are disabling, their crippling, and they make a huge impact on the way we learn and approach the world.

That’s why awareness, understanding, and compassion are THE most important ways, as teachers, we can connect with our struggling students.

A few weeks ago, I came across this wonderful post about literature that deals with mental health.

I know there’s a double perspective surrounding this kind of thing:

Do we face it head on? Or is it better to keep these highly negative (and often too mature) novels out of the classroom?

I can’t say that it’s the same for every classroom, every teacher, and every group of students. But what I can (and will) say, is that it’s always better to face an issue, to discuss it, to have your classroom be an open forum, rather than avoid mental illness conversation altogether.

That doesn’t mean this literature is easy. That doesn’t mean it is age-appropriate or that your students can handle it. But it DOES mean that those who are struggling know they’re not alone.


The post talks about a librarian who encountered a student suffering from mental illness. She says this:

“I have often found that young people take refuge in our sacred walls and that stacks of books can be a fortress of solitude for those who need a place to rest.”

She’s right.

That’s why having this literature available (maybe not as a part of the curriculum if you don’t want it to be) is essential for the health and stability of these children. But even more important is your involvement as their teacher, mentor, and friend.

1511_Empathy-MentalHealthBksThe post discusses mental illness, ways we can help students, and recommended titles.

It’s a wonderful resource that I highly suggest you check out, HERE.

Remember: tackling mental illness isn’t easy, but it’s a part of our jobs to be support systems for our students, to guide them, to point them in the direction of counselors who can assist them, and most importantly, to show them that they’re never alone.



Image Credit: School Library Journal

Leave a Reply