The Hunger Games, Depression, Suicide and Sexual Abuse in Science Fiction/Fantasy

Have you read, “The Hunger Games?” Depression, suicide and yes, sexual abuse are themes in this bestselling trilogy. What happens to children and adults after they face stresses that cause mental breakdown? And what can be done for someone who is in fact, broken? What about guilt and redemption? Because you know, for every abuse there is an abuser. Can an abuser be redeemed? How about a murderer or a pedophile?

That is what is extraordinary about sci-fi and fantasy: nothing is off limits. Sacred cows are shot, taboo subjects are explored and skeletons are dragged from the closet – often in an exciting and adventurous way.

These human failings and issues fascinate us. Yet why are they so difficult to talk about in real life?

Shaun Farrell asked what my book was about. I told him (off the air) that is was about guilt and redemption, depression, sexual abuse and suicide. He said, “Really?” and I replied “Yes, but I don’t want to tell my readers that!”

Why not? Because if you ask people if they want to read a book about depression, sexual abuse and suicide they would reply not only, “No!” but “Hell no!”

“Wolf Dawn” is a sci-fi adventure and dark romantic fantasy. But it also envisions a future where one world has found a solution to the injured mind, the broken spirit and disturbed soul. “Wolf Dawn” is controversial because these themes are controversial. At least they are when people actually talk about them in the real world – which, to be fair – they generally don’t.

“The Hunger Games” is a young adult sci-fi novel that confronts hard truths. Thank you Suzanne Collins for addressing controversial issues and making them popular! Due to her endeavors maybe in the future more people will feel comfortable discussing such taboo subjects.  We may deny it, and certainly most avoid talking about it– but mental instability due to trauma is here right now folks – and not likely to go away anytime soon.

Perhaps it is a matter of nomenclature. Depressive characters can just be sad or upset. Many protagonists doubt themselves or their sanity. Some have been tortured or abused. But whether it is called mental health issues, or just living life issues, most good books – whether they say so or not, deal with human shortcomings.

Hands up if you have experienced a depressed mood. Sleeping difficulties? Always tired? Feel worthless? Experienced any thoughts of death lately? One in ten Americans report they are depressed. Not you? Okay then, what about a family member, colleague or friend?

How about suicide? Know anyone who killed themselves? It is the tenth leading cause of death in America. These are actual deaths, of course, and under-reported due to both religious and social pressures. These figures don’t account for attempted suicides or what is termed, “deliberate self-harm.” Know anyone who is so traumatized they cut themselves? Or perhaps jump in front of cars? Or off buildings?

Every two minutes, someone in America is sexually assaulted. Happily this statistic has fallen by 60% since 1993. However, it is estimated that there are 60 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse in America today. That is 19% of Americans. This is also an extremely under reported statistic. What is the real amount do you think? Thirty percent? Forty? But even at two people for every ten, surely you know someone who is affected by sexual abuse?

These issues have always been relevant. They are underlying themes of many bestselling novels. But should an author advertise the fact? Humm. Perhaps not.

“Wolf Dawn” addresses these issues not unlike the Hunger Games does. People suffer. People break, mentally, physically and spiritually. Luckily the people in my world have real solutions to this dissolution.

But if you prefer, call “Wolf Dawn” a Science Fiction Dark Romantic Fantasy Adventure! I do.

Incidentally, there is no sex or swear words in these books and thus they are classified for YA, ages 12 to 18.  What the Hunger Games novels do contain is horror, graphic torture and death. I myself suffered a bit of sleep disturbance with the violence in them and I used to nurse in jails! So here is a question for you: What do you suppose it says about a society that feels it is wrong for children to see a swear word or perhaps making out – yet okay for those same children to read the details of gruesome death and torture?

Susan Cartwright is a Registered Nurse. She has worked numerous areas including jails, emergency departments, and psychiatric emergency.