Mental Health Awareness and Books
By Mary Swabb, Learning and Information Services Supervisor
Nationally, Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in May and has been since 1949 (mentalhealthamerica.net). MentalHealth.gov states, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” Over the past seventy years, mental health has become a prevalent issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “problems with mental health are very common in the United States, with an estimated 50% of all Americans diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.” The chronicity of mental illness has made many people more mindful of the need for mental health services. During May, national and local organizations increase their outreach to help garner awareness of mental health issues, and emphasize various ways people can reach out to gain assistance. In Manhattan, Pawnee Mental Health Services (www.pawnee.org), Ascension Via Christi Behavioral Health (www.viachristi.org) and Katie’s Way (www.katieswaymanhattan.com) are three organizations that offer a wide range of outpatient services for children, adolescents, and adults seeking assistance with their mental health. While Manhattan Public Library does not offer outpatient services, its collection contains a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction materials on mental health and mental illness for children, adolescents, and adults.
Books about mental health for children and juveniles:
In “The Princess and the Fog”, Lloyd Jones utilizes the classic fairy tale and humor as vehicles to create a relatable and enjoyable story that describes symptoms of childhood depression. This book helps children learn about depression and the many ways they can deal with difficult feelings. It’s also a wonderful starting point for explaining this topic to children who may have a parent or close family member who struggles with depression.
Pilar, the protagonist of “Pilar’s Worries” by Victoria M. Sanchez, utilizes coping techniques, like positive thinking and talking with her friends, to overcome her fears and feelings of anxiety surrounding tryouts for her favorite ballet.
In “My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope” by Diane Guerrero and Erica Moroz, Guerrero shares her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts in the wake of her parent’s deportation. This book is both heartbreaking and hopeful.
Finley Hart, the protagonist of “Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand, goes to live with her grandparents and cousins while her parents work out their marital differences. Finley copes with her intensifying depression by escaping to Everwood, a fantasy kingdom, that at one point only existed in her notebook, but becomes a real physical space to her and her cousins.
Books about mental health for young adults & adults:
In “The Weight of Our Sky” by Hanna Alkaf, sixteen-year-old Melati Ahmad battles with her obsessive-compulsive disorder while she searches for her mother during the historic race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Shaun David Hutchinson courageously shares his struggle with being depressed and gay in “Brave Face: A Memoir.” Hutchinson’s memoir highlights his struggle to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. He provides a candid, good-humored recollection of depression, self-loathing, and eventual self-respect.
In “Sparrow” by Sarah Moon, a young girl who struggles to make friends attempts suicide after her favorite teacher, Mrs. Wexler, is killed in a freak car accident. With the help of her therapist, Sparrow discovers an outlet in rock and roll music. Moon does an excellent job of conveying the isolation people sometimes feel, and illustrating how beneficial therapy can be.
“Everything Here Is Beautiful” by Mira T. Lee evocatively illuminates the tumultuous relationship between Miranda and her younger sister Lucia, a brilliant journalist who struggles with periodic descents into severe psychosis. The book explores numerous topics such as the helplessness of family members wishing to fix distressing situations, and the difficulty surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses like schizoaffective disorder.
These are just a few of the titles featuring mental health and mental illness that Manhattan Public Library has to offer. Please feel free to visit us online at www.mhklibrary.org or come in and stop by a service desk to ask for alternative suggestions.