John Corey Whaley is a National Book Award finalist for his 2014 young adult novel NOGGIN, the author of upcoming Highly Illogical Behavior, and a champion of mental health in the literary community.
BuzzFeed spoke to the author over email and learned about his experience with anxiety, how he hopes with mental illness, and what he thinks about mental health in YA literature. Here's what he had to say:
What’s one important lesson you’ve learned from dealing with mental illness?
John Corey Whaley: Dealing with chronic anxiety has taught me to better understand the nuances of mental illness and the very individual nature of it. It seems that everyone experiences it in his/her own unique way, and I think that's what contributes to its misunderstanding and stigma in the general public.
What are the benefits of speaking up about mental health issues?
JCW: I believe that one of the best ways to deal with mental illness is to talk about it, to learn to be as honest and open as possible with those you feel comfortable with, and beyond that if you can, because the more we talk about it, the better everyone will understand it and the more likely those who need treatment will seek it out and feel comfortable and safe doing so.
Is there a book or piece of writing that you would recommend that gets mental health right? Why?
JCW: I was thrilled when this year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature went to Neal Schusterman's Challenger Deep. This brilliant book takes you into the mind of a mentally ill teenager and deserves all the accolades it's received.
How do you cope with mental illness?
JCW: I've found that a combination of therapy and medication, along with lifestyle choices like eating better and exercising regularly, helps me cope well with my anxiety. I've also found that writing about my experience with mental illness has really helped me understand myself and my illness better and that has done wonders for my health.