Can books make you more mentally ill?

For my class on social inequality, I got to focus on a certain topic regarding inequality. Naturally, I picked mental health. Since I have two book reviews due, I have been trying to get through reading two particular books, titled “The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia became a black disease” and “Mental Health and Inequality.” In addition to those, I have several books scattered around me that have mental illness in the title (they’re being used for research for my thesis). My mother saw the books and cautioned me to stop reading so many books about mental illness all the time, because they can lead to the reader identifying so closely with the book’s subject that one can think that s/he is more ill than one really is.

I understand what my mom’s trying to say, in that I could so come to identify with characters like Esther in “The Bell Jar” or Suzanna in “Girl, Interrupted” that I might think that my life is more like what they portray them to be. But is it such an activity detriment to my well being to be reading books that are about mental illness, most of which are filled with a bunch of stats and research?

Well, Mom can give me advice about what to read, but the reality is that I have no choice but to read a bunch of these ‘crazy’ books.

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One Comment to “Can books make you more mentally ill?”

  1. Is it that she thinks reading about concert pianists might make you into a concert pianist? Or is it that she thinks mental illness is fiction — just a made-up story that is easily influenced by other stories?

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