Strong Book Side Characters Who Struggle With Mental Illness

Most of us get a sense of the struggles main characters with mental illness trudge through, but what about the side characters who suffer as well?

Fiction Lifestyle Recommendations Wellness
A silhouette side profile of a head surrounded by balled up pieces of paper.

Accurate mental health representation in media is extremely important. While we predominantly see it presented in main characters, I think we should also take a look at the side characters who, too, grapple with mental issues. Their struggles are not only just as valid, but they also provide different perspectives and opportunities for characters to connect. Read on to learn more.

Johanna Mason From The Hunger Games

Johanna went through a lot. She had to fight to the death in the Hunger Games when she was 17, lost everyone she loved, went back into the arena at 21, was tortured by the Capital, and lost more friends, like Finnick. That’s a lot for anyone to experience, especially in such a short time. But she covered it up with harsh words and a prickly personality.

Johanna Mason sitting and looking off camera.
IMAGE VIA NETFLIX

It’s likely she suffered from multiple mental illnesses, but one that’s seen the most is PTSD. The Capital tortured her by soaking her in water and then electrocuting her. And when she was forced to swim in her training simulation, she had flashbacks and completely fell apart. Not to mention her inability to feel positive emotions, dependence on morphine, and trouble sleeping, accompanied by constant nightmares.

Gollum from Lord of the Rings

Originally a Hobbit named Smeagol, Gollum was corrupted by the ring early in his almost 600-year existence. When he and his cousin, Déagol, discovered the ring, he was immediately overtaken by it and strangled his cousin for it. He was then exiled, and he spent centuries alone with only the ring. Isolation, coupled with the twisting corruption of the ring, drove him mad.

Gollum in a cave looking up
IMAGE VIA HULU

The corruption and isolation led to a second emerging personality, the one known as Gollum. Gollum is entirely twisted and corrupted by the ring, while Smeagol, who doesn’t often emerge, still knows and seems capable of doing good. They argue and fight with each other, and ultimately, Gollum wins. It’s likely Gollum suffers from a host of issues, though since we don’t see him as much, it’s hard to say for certain.

The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland

The White Rabbit isn’t seen much, but he is known for always panicking about the time and running around everywhere. He always thinks of worst-case scenarios and is dreadfully worried about the Red Queen hurting him, especially after he brought Alice to Wonderland. He is rarely seen calm or relaxed, but he is always tense and ready to run at a moment’s notice.

A black and white photo of the White Rabbit looking at his pocket watch.
IMAGE VIA ALICE IN WONDERLAND

It’s pretty safe to say that the White Rabbit likely suffers from generalized anxiety disorder. Rabbits are susceptible to anxiety since they’re weak prey, so it makes sense. Couple that with the Red Queen’s influence, and it’s just a recipe for anxiety.

Eri from My Hero Academia

Activated at a young age, Eri’s Rewin Quirk accidentally reversed her father’s life to a point before he existed, thus erasing him entirely. Soon after, her mother gave her up, and Eri was then subjected to harsh experimental treatments seeking to draw power from her Quirk — only six years old.

Eri looking upset and her horn is glowing.
IMAGE VIA CRUNCHYROLL

Naturally, Eri became fearful of others. She also has a guilty conscience and believes that she is destined to only hurt others, likely leaving her with intense anxiety and depression. She has thankfully shown signs of improvement, but the psychological effects of her childhood still leave deep scars on her heart.

Kuragi Machi from Fruits Basket

Kuragi’s mother forced her to be nothing short of perfect, punishing her for not achieving perfection and ignoring her when she was perfect. Things only worsened after her baby brother was born, and her mother tossed her aside, calling her boring and plain. After falsely accusing Kuragi of trying to kill her brother, Kuragi was sent to live alone, abandoned by all her family.

Kuragi staring blankly with her head tilted.
IMAGE VIA CRUNCHYROLL

This led to Kuragui developing OCD, but against perfectionism. Perfection reminded her too much of her mother and what she was forced to go through, which led to intense negative emotions and thoughts. These thoughts and emotions led to compulsions to destroy anything perfect, from untouched snow to a brand-new box of chalk.

I hope to see more characters like them in the future.


For more articles on mental health, click here.

Check out Bookstr Team Recs on Bookstr’s Bookshop page.

FEATURED IMAGE VIA CANVA