In the twentieth century, literature devoted to adult mental illness became increasingly popular; Ken Kesey's novel One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, which is set in an adult mental hospital, is perhaps the single most famous example. Working within this tradition, It's Kind of a Funny Story offers a uniquely honest look at a different yet related issue: the mental health of teenagers. Both Craig and his teen companions—Noelle, Nia, and even Aaron—face psychological and emotional problems that vary in nature, but that are of high urgency for both teens and parents in today's tense, rapidly changing world.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.8 million adolescents (ages 12-17) suffered depressive episodes in 2014; this figure represents over 11% of the 12-17 population, with more females than males exhibiting symptoms of depression. The factors behind such such widespread depressive tendencies are the same factors that explain Craig's depression: peer pressure, social anxiety, and high academic expectations. And mental health figures become even more disturbing when the high school population is more heavily weighted. Almost 20% of teens, according to depression and suicide outreach program I Need a Lighthouse, will suffer from some form of depression. Moreover, 10-15% of teens may be noticeably depressed.
Craig's symptoms are realistic, but so are the steps the he takes to address his issues. The 1-800-SUICIDE hotline is, in fact, still in operation today; organizations such as I Need a Lighthouse also offer services that allow at-risk youth to talk through their problems and arrive at options for treatment. As in Craig's case, the first step towards dealing with teen suicide or depression is to admit the severity of the problem. Then, a systematic and constructive plan can be developed.