Mental health in the 1950s was just starting to be acknowledged for adults. For teenagers with mental health they were just thought of as being delinquent and were not been given much support.
This cultural assumption is demonstrated in the novel through language techniques. Holden Caulfield repeatedly uses words like worried, nervous, and depressed. A specific link from the text is "…..but I was feeling so depressed I didn’t even think. That the whole trouble when you feel depressed you can't think" This sums up Holden's attitudes that he was feeling down and he may be mentally unwell.
Salinger challenges this assumption of Holden not being a delinquent but having mental health issue as through the structure of the novel as Holden is always alone. Although he meets up with people throughout the book majority of the time he was alone this this shown through 'I didn't feel much like being all alone.' Even when he goes home his parents are not there 'They won't be home till very late, Mother said. They went to a party in Norwalk, Connecticut' this is Holden's little sister who is home alone telling Holden his parents are not home. This must have been hard for teenagers like this, who never see their families and are always being shipped off to boarding schools. This is challenging mental health by saying that maybe teenagers lack of love and support from there family and being alone may eventually take toll on teenagers health.