Literature in the field of mental health?

I proposed that books offer the individual an opportunity to learn from their reading experiences and bibliotherapy to be the focus of therapy and self-reflection.
Photography was suggested as a tool for conveying emotion and channels for self-expression. Then, like a vision, I observed a review by Andrew Pettigrew, which combined both aspects together.


The premise of this work was a historical and cultural insight into the Second World War.   It demonstrates the power of literature as a deadly weapon during combat, and a War correspondent is still present in any civil or military conflict today.

Hitler’s vision board was the little black book he used to plan and aspire for World domination. He recognised only too well that books could stir patriotic feelings, encourage resistance, and could either aid or hinder the War effort.

This was the time before the mobile phone, television, and the birth of the personal computer were nothing more than a twinkle in your grandfather’s eye.

Newspapers played a crucial role during the Second World War in information dissemination and shaping public opinion. They were powerful communication mediums, serving as the primary news source for the general population.

My late mother told me how her big sister would walk her to school.  Ensuring she had all the essentials like her notebook, pencil case, lunch box containing jam sandwich and the compulsory Gas Mask before leaving the house.

I wonder what she would have thought about face covering during COVID-19; she probably had said, "I've seen it all before".

Meanwhile, the photograph of the bombed Holland House Library is particularly surreal. Amongst the devastation, there is hope. Are the suited gentlemen portraying the British stiff upper lip?

After all, the building could be replaced after the War, but the literature remains for those returning home from the frontline and trenches to admire. Even without words, it was able to shape public opinion.

If this photograph were taken today, would it show a different story, perhaps the librarian having a panic attack? - What do you think?

Historical records and documentation, such as photographs, diaries, letters, and official documents, also significantly preserve the memory of the War to honour those who sacrificed their lives to ensure Freedom. 

Ethnic cleansing

For example, the Holocaust is also passed down through generations in various ways, including first-hand accounts from survivors and their descendants. Historical records, and documentation, educational programs, commemorative events, and memorial sites retain those memories.

They are ensuring that the atrocities of the Holocaust are never forgotten or repeated and that future generations are educated about the importance of tolerance, understanding, and respect for all.

However, the effects of the Holocaust, including trauma and emotional distress, can be inherited through generations in a phenomenon referred to as trans-generational trauma or epigenetic inheritance.

Studies have shown that extreme stress and trauma experienced by individuals can induce changes in gene expression that can be passed on to future generations. These changes can affect the stress response system, increasing vulnerability to stress-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

Let’s now start by looking at literature written in the 19th Century; what could we possibly learn from that?

Jane Eyre, Madwoman in the Attic: (1847 Victorian Gothic novel).

In Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Bertha Antoinette Mason, referred to as the “madwoman in the attic” is a significant portrayal of mental health issues, thus revealing the treatment of neuropsychiatric disease in Victorian England. 

The Rochester family hid his first wife, Bertha, in the attic of Thornfield Hall from society to protect their name due to her mental instability, which starkly contrasted with the cultural tendency towards sending people to asylums; they were identified as “prisons or dungeons”, as shown by an 1841 report by Parliament.

Mr. Rochester's wife, Bertha, represents the societal suppression and mistreatment of individuals with mental illnesses during the 19th Century.   Her presence in the attic is a haunting reminder of the consequences of neglecting mental health and stigmatising those who suffer from it. 

While the protagonist Jane Eyre does not explicitly face mental health challenges in the novel, her journey towards self-discovery and independence can be seen as a symbolic triumph over societal expectations and restrictions that often contribute to poor mental well-being in the Victorian era.

Jane Eyre leaves Mr. Rochester's house due to a series of events and personal reasons. Jane refuses to become his mistress and chooses to leave Thornfield Hall. Despite strong feelings for Mr. Rochester, Jane values her moral principles and self-respect, making the decision to leave and seek independence.

Therefore, she bravely departs, from this toxic relationship, embarking on a journey that ultimately leads to her finding her true self and attaining a fulfilling life.

By exploring themes of madness, confinement, and autonomy through Bertha’s character, who has mental health issues that deteriorate to madness and is then a burden to the misogynistic and male-dominating Mr Rochester. 

Mr. Rochester's behaviour exhibits narcissistic traits. He often displays a sense of superiority and self-importance, expecting others to conform to his wishes and desires. He manipulates those around him, including Jane, to ensure his own satisfaction and fulfilment. This sense of entitlement and self-centredness is indicative of narcissistic tendencies.

Additionally, Mr. Rochester's desire for Jane Eyre to be submissive and dependent on him can also be attributed to the patriarchal norms of the time. He seeks a woman who will conform to societal expectations of femininity and who will rely on him for protection and support. This desire for dominance and control over women is a characteristic of the patriarchal system.

Brontë: The author highlights the importance of acknowledging and addressing societal mental health issues. This enduring message resonates with readers even today, advocating that the mentally ill be treated with more dignity than they were often given in the Victorian period.

When Rochester introduces his West-Indian-born wife Bertha to Jane after a thwarted attempt to marry her, she writes, “It grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal” (Brontë 285). Bertha’s motions and noises indicate that she has a mental illness, which persists until her suicide. Bertha is described in a way that makes her seem inhuman to justify Mr. Rochester infidelity.

Rüggemeier suggests that Bertha’s condition is influenced by the male medical discourse of the time, which often associated femininity with hysteria and madness. These sermons served to control and marginalise women who deviated from societal norms and expectations, and the implications this had for female characters in the novel.

Brontë depicted Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, as a woman suffering from a familial disorder with the prominent behavioural and cognitive decline with violent movements, likely culminating in suicide, which had striking similarities to the features of Huntington’s disease.

Brontë fictional psychotic character has continually captured bibliophiles’ attention and sparked discussion over her possible diagnosis and the treatment of patients with neuropsychiatric disorders such as Huntington’s disease

Conclusion: Brontë’s characterisation within her novel may have increased awareness of the treatment of neuropsychiatric patients in the Victorian era. This act of adultery is also a central conflict in the novel. 

Mr Rochester is already married to Bertha, whom he keeps hidden in the attic of Thornfield Hall for ten years. His relationship with Jane Eyre, begins with him concealing his marriage and engaging in a romantic involvement with her.

Overall, by portraying a Mistress to Mr. Rochester's adultery and evidence of narcissism in "Jane Eyre." Charlotte Brontë explores themes of morality, personal responsibility, trust and the consequences of selfish actions.


Rüggemeier, Anne. “Female Mental Illness, Monstrosity, and Male Medical Discourses: Revisiting Jane Eyre.” Monsters and Monstrosity in 19th-Century Anglophone Literature, special section of Anglistik, vol. 30, no. 3, Winter 2019, pp. 73–88. MLA


  • […] previous article briefly discussed how the power of literature was a deadly weapon through newspapers, radio, and other media outlets, used in antisemitic propaganda by Adolf Hitler […]

  • >