You may have noticed this as a child, but reading history books is not always very interesting. As informative and necessary as they are in the learning process, a simple statement of facts and dates is not enough for a person to understand just how significant a moment of time really is, especially in reflection of those who were living it.
A successful method of showing what life was like back then is by reading journal entries, stories, and other artistic pieces written in or about that era. For example, to best understand what it was like for farmers during the Great Depression, it may be wise to read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck in addition to reading a historical text about the event.
The combination of these learning materials does more than just teach you about the past, they can also help readers develop fuller understandings about certain concepts.
Mental Health in Narratives
One such concept that can be better understood through narratives and poems is that of mental health or illnesses. These conditions are common in society, but can be hard and traumatizing to manage. As a way to express themselves and spread the awareness of their conditions, writers often create stories depicting what it is like living with a mental disorder.
Some examples include “Child’s Play”, an excerpt of an interview with Eshed Marcus written by Laurie Scarborough on her Becoming Laurie blog. In the excerpt, she not only narrated what Eshed had said during the interview, but also the researched facts of what is known of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
As she was explaining the disorder with the direction of her dialogue, she was also describing her behavior, and utilizing that imagery to emphasize how someone with ADHD can act and why they would act in that manner.
At the beginning of the excerpt, for example, when she meets Eshed, he admits that he had just drank coffee to which he should not have because caffeine can excite them more than they already are. She then proceeds to say that “The caffeine buzz from a single cup has made his handshake”, and that “as [they] talk, Eshed often turns around in his seat to look at what’s happening behind him, which makes [Laurie] think he’s either distracted or bored”.
Not only does this method thoroughly explain the symptoms of ADHD, but it also shows them as well, providing a larger representation of the mental condition.
Mental Health in Poetry
Differing from narratives, poetry can cram a million sensational emotions in a seemingly simple yet elaborate form. This approach is ideal when portraying bipolar disorder, as Monica J. Abrica displays in her poem “Feeling”.
In Abrica’s work, she shows just how inconsistent the mind of someone with bipolar disorder can be, particularly with feelings and acting on them.
Failure now consumes my heart, hate and love tear me apart!
The feat and pain control my mind, the hate inside me leaves me blind.
The bit of love I feel, I fear, it’s for my boys, it’s why I’m here.
It’s for their love that I remain, although I fear I am insane!
As can be seen throughout most of the poem, she feels very strongly about hurting herself in the attempts to illogically ward off pain, the source of which is unknown. However, near the end, she triumphs over her raging emotions by acknowledging what is truly real and good about her life: her children.
While writing and sharing written works about mental health issues is proven to be therapeutic and informational, it will also be beneficial for those with mental conditions to speak with a professional such as those at BetterHelp.