Professional organizations organize mental health challenges into eight categories:
impulse control and addiction,
obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD),
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
If you don't think that our teens are affected by the above disorders, here's the research from a NIMH report on teens:
11 percent reported being severely impaired by a mood disorder
(e.g., depression or bipolar disorder);
10 percent reported being severely impaired by a behavior disorder,
such as attention deficit hyperactivity or conduct disorder;
8 percent reported being severely impaired by at least one type of anxiety disorder;
and about 40 percent of those who reported having a disorder also met criteria
for having at least one more.
A teen could be dealing with one or more of these without anyone realizing. And often the teen may not realize what is going on, he only knows that something is wrong. He is different. His feelings are off. Others shy away from him. He is labeled with any number of labels.
Even if it's suspected that a teen is dealing with issues that fall under one or more of these categories, it's often hard to know how to approach the subject. That's when books, paired with appropriate therapy, can help. Only in mild cases would a story alone be all the healing a reader needs. But the story may be the thing that encourages the teen to talk about what is going on and to seek help.
Stories are powerful, and they may help by:
Showing the reader he isn't alone in his feelings.
Providing a springboard for discussion.
Helping the teen verbalize what he is feeling.
Showing a resolution to the problem.
The problem is that many books don't offer real answers. Or the answers offered go against our values. I've found that true in many of the popular YA books such as All the Bright Places and 13 Reasons Why. But they do open up the door to discussion, and that's when we can provide real answers.