Day: January 21, 2018

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Understanding Mental and Developmental Disorders

Understanding Mental and Developmental Disorders

By Mary Wahlmeier, Adult Services Assistant

Mental illness has had its fair share of time in the limelight in recent years, but its accompanying stigma lurks in the shadows as well. The following titles include fascinating personal accounts, groundbreaking research, and professional viewpoints of just a few commonly misunderstood mental and developmental disorders. With the hope of greater understanding to come, read on.

A gripping graphic novel that I couldn’t put down, Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green primarily chronicles the author’s struggles with anorexia, but also features her experiences with binge eating disorder and dissociative amnesia. Green’s story, which is both elegant and deeply personal, illuminates the internal struggles of living with mental illness. Another autobiographical work, Scared Selfless: My Journey from Abuse and Madness to Surviving and Thriving by Michelle Stevens, is captivating and ultimately triumphant, although the story is difficult to read. Stevens splits her narrative into two parts – the first is an account of the horrendous sexual abuse she suffered as a child, the second detailing her journey to recovery. Dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder), depression, and anxiety are some of the ailments Michelle experienced during her recovery. All are interesting to read about, especially for those who wish to learn more about mental illness.

Drawing Autism by Jill Mullin illustrates the artistic talents of people with autism spectrum disorder and includes intriguing interviews with the artists. Whether or not you are intrigued by the art itself, you will learn something about the unique individuals who created it and the condition they share. The humanity inside the artwork and the words of the contributors are breathtaking. For those looking for a wordier look at autism, check out Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry M. Prizant and Tom Fields-Meyer. Prizant’s method discourages the long-accepted approach of preventing undesirable behaviors typical of people with autism, instead suggesting that the caregivers of people with autism do the changing. He claims that the characteristic behaviors of people with autism are coping strategies for facing an overstimulating world; therefore, they should not be inhibited. In this groundbreaking book, Prizant explains how people can change their attitudes, their behaviors, and the support they provide in order to encourage more desirable behaviors and to best help people with autism thrive.

Falling into the Fire: A Psychiatrist’s Encounters with the Mind in Crisis by Christine Montross explores the difficult questions which arose for the author throughout her budding career as a psychiatrist. She elaborates upon these questions by recounting stories of the patients who inspired them – patients who intentionally harm themselves or have distorted views of their bodies, patients who must be admitted or medicated against their will, patients who face the fear of misdiagnosis, and many more enigmatic and captivating accounts. Also written by a mental health professional, but with a familial narrative, Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness by Stephen P. Hinshaw aims to reduce the stigmatization of mental illness. An accomplished professor of psychology and psychiatry, Hinshaw here relays the story of his father’s severe mental illness, which he kept secret from his son for many years. Through family history and shocking statistics, Hinshaw discusses the reality that people with mental illness experience shame and discrimination and that the destigmatization of mental illness is imperative. Written with grace and understanding, Hinshaw’s book has been acclaimed by many.

If you long to learn more about mental and developmental disorders, Manhattan Public Library is a great place to start. Our collection houses resources appropriate for readers of all levels of understanding, from lighthearted memoirs to even a few professional reference titles. You can search our catalog at or ask for a recommendation at the Reference Desk.