Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Jonathan Bush

Second Advisor

Adrienne Redding


This creative research project discusses the importance and practice of implementing a unit on mental health in young adult literature in secondary-level ELA curriculum. The first portion of this thesis is an original short story, entitled “Beneath the Surface,” which portrays a middle-schooler, Leith, whose anxiety manifests itself as a monster. “Beneath the Surface” explores mental illness through a metaphor of the ocean, utilizing water imagery to depict Leith’s experiences with and symptoms of anxiety. Following the short story is an annotated bibliography describing mental health texts for students to read in an ELA unit on mental health as well as sources for educators to build their knowledge of mental health and mental illness. Both sets of literature were inspirations and influences in the crafting of “Beneath the Surface” as a text to be included in an ELA unit on mental illness in adolescent literature. Additionally, a

reflection is included on the process of composing “Beneath the Surface” and the implementation of a mental health unit in an ELA classroom. This portion argues that, as ELA curriculum frequently lacks literary diversity, students with a mental illness—and, indeed, of any other marginalized and minoritized identity group—would benefit from expanded representation in the literature they read. A unit on mental health in adolescent literature could begin to provide this representation, broadening and informing students’ perspectives on mental health and mental illness. The intention behind “Beneath the Surface” is to exemplify literary depiction of mental illness and exhibit many of the qualities argued for in the implementation of a mental health unit in a secondary ELA class. Finally, the thesis ends with recommendations for further research and resources for teachers seeking to develop their understanding and inclusion of mental health in young adult literature.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access