Green Tries to Erase the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health: Background information when reading Turtles All the Way Down

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Turtles All the Way Down

by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green X
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
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  • Published:
    Oct 2017, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Szczechowski
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About this Book

Green Tries to Erase the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

This article relates to Turtles All the Way Down

Print Review

John Green has never shied away from weighty issues. From depression and potential suicide in his debut novel, Looking for Alaska, to terminal illness in The Fault in Our Stars, and now obsessive-compulsive disorder in his latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down, it seems that Green it is at his strongest when he is exploring such meaty and delicate topics.

In Turtles All the Way Down, Aza's obsessive-compulsive disorder affects every area of her life, and is constantly on her mind. Green has not been silent about his own struggles with OCD, and recently gave an interview with Time on writing about an issue so personal to him. "I had to write with enough distance from myself to make it OK, to make it feel safe. And so Aza has somewhat different focai of her obsessive concerns," he said, explaining that "it was really hard, especially at first, to write about this thing that's been such a big part of my life." The fact that Green writes in first person in this book allows the reader to be immersed in Aza's mind: experiencing a shadow of the weight of the obsessive concerns, worries, and panics that constantly cycle through her mind and continually make her argue with herself.

According to Break the Stigma, around 60-70 million Americans "suffer from a diagnosable mental health problem at any given time in their lives (a ratio of over one in five)." While more authors have been addressing mental illnesses in their books lately, the literature that discusses it still remains sparse, and stigma continues to be high. Many people still believe that having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of, or think they have to hide it, which leads to their not seeking help. This can be incredibly harmful, as "individuals with psychological disorders are at greater risk for decreased quality of life, educational difficulties, lowered productivity and poverty, social problems" and more.

Books like Turtles All the Way Down are important as the destigmatization of mental health disorders could be slowly spawned through discussions that educate, and lead to empathy and compassion. While the novel is not only about mental illness—it also includes mystery, romance, and the importance and nuance of friendship—Green's confrontation of his own personal challenges with mental health could spark discussions and contribute to the de-stigmatization of mental health.

This "beyond the book article" relates to Turtles All the Way Down. It first ran in the November 15, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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