Mental Illness in Fiction

One of the things I love most about reading books is that reading allows you to step into the mind and life of somebody else and, in a way, experience the world from a point of view that you might never get a chance to understand otherwise.

In law school, I spent 3 semesters as a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at my school. The clinic works with military veterans to help them get VA benefits, get their discharges upgraded, file lawsuits, etc. etc. Basically anything that a veteran could need legal help with, we did. One of the most fascinating aspects of the work is that many of the veterans the clinics helps have some kind of mental illness—PTSD, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, depression, etc. Until I began working with these clients, I don’t think I ever really understood what mental illness does to a person, how it can impair their functioning, and what it really means to live with something like PTSD or bipolar disorder.

In my reading over the past couple years, I’ve started to pay closer attention to books with characters who are struggling with some sort of mental illness. Through my literary journeys, I’ve uncovered several books that I enjoyed reading at least partly because they helped me understand and relate to mentally ill characters and, in turn, those real people in my own life that are struggling with their own illnesses day to day.

Here are a few books I’ve enjoyed that include characters struggling with mental illness in some way:

Mental Illness in Fiction


3 thoughts on “Mental Illness in Fiction

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is a wonderful book; I loved it. Sharp Objects, We Were Liars, and the Rosie Project are all on my to-read list. I had no idea that they featured Mental Illness, though. What a coincidence!

  2. I hope you enjoy them when you get around to reading them! They’re all great books. One of the things I found really interesting is that they didn’t scream “this character is mentally ill or has mental health issues.” They were just great books that happened to explore in some way how something like depression or other mental health issues can affect a persons’ life, and the lives of people around them. In books like We Were Liars and The Rosie Project, it’s a minor part of the story but affects how the characters perceive the world around them; in Sharp Objects, it’s part of the mystery!

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