If you look up the word stigmatized, the first search results will probably revolve around the words ‘mental health’.
Those two six-letter words still face societal disapproval even though it is 2022 and you would think people would be more open towards it. However, the truth remains: the stigma around the topic of mental health has been around since the middle of the 20th century and has not shown signs of much progress – even though it is as important as it ever has been.
Three decades ago, the biggest public health threats to teenagers came from binge drinking, drunk driving, smoking, and teenage pregnancy. These threats have since greatly diminished and given way to a new public health threat: soaring rates of mental health disorders. The mental health situation now has even been described as "the worst it has ever been" with 1 in 5 young adults suffering from diseases related to their mental health.
It might seem like there is no solution to this 'mental health crisis' amongst teens, however, the answer to the problem can be found in exactly what you are doing at this very moment: reading.
Reading has been shown to relieve the symptoms of depression. In general, those suffering from depression often feel isolated from others and reading literature can reduce this intensity by helping them escape their own world and immerse themselves in the experiences of fictional characters. As C.S. Lewis said, "we read to know we are not alone.”
On top of that, reading can help you live a longer and healthier life. In one study carried out over 12 years, 3,635 participants were followed and the findings are startling, to say the least: those who read books regularly tend to live 2 years longer than those that do not. Even further, reading every day reduces the risk of developing dementia or other mental disorders by 32%.
It is often said that “losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation”, well as cliché as it sounds, it’s true. It has been revealed that just six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68%.
Along with this, reading regularly has been shown to enhance self-esteem. The knowledge you gain and things you experience when reading give you confidence and wisdom on how to deal with real-life situations more gracefully and wisely.
In the same way, books can enable you to take action in your life. The ability to read has been shown to increase individual participation in self-enriching goals. Even if you do not want to read a self-improvement book, any well-written book, like ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas or ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama, will most likely do the trick.
When I was sixteen years old I, myself, was struggling with my mental health. After I tried numerous ways to ‘fix’ things, I turned to reading (I had always been an enthusiastic consumer of books). I set myself the goal to read one book per week for 365 days. Now, a year later, I am a happy & healthy seventeen-year-old teenager who still, to this day, reads over 70 books a year. I am less stressed, my grades have improved and I have experienced generally increased happiness in all areas of life. So, from my personal experience: 5 out of 5 stars.
A good mental state is becoming more important than ever, and something needs to be done to stop this ‘mental health crisis’. It is no secret that our mental well-being impacts every area of our lives and ripples into everything we do.
So: read, read, read.
If you are not such a fanatical reader as I am, here are some (in my opinion) amazingly well-written books to help kick-start your reading journey:
- I`ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Floored by Sara Barnard, et al.
- The Heartstopper graphic-novel series by Alice Osemam
- Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Fay Ootes is a student at the European School Luxembourg I, where she is in the Dutch section. She is an intern at RTL Today for a week! She is currently studying Advanced English, Economy, History and Sociology, and aspires to pursue a career in social entrepreneurship. Fay loves storytelling in all formats (writing, movie-making and reading) and plays the bass guitar.
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