8 Books to Rethink Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Edited by Jensen, Kelly

What does it mean to be crazy? Is using the word crazy offensive? What happens when such a label gets attached to your everyday experiences? In order to understand mental health, we need to talk openly about it. Because there's no single definition of crazy, there's no single experience that embodies it, and the word itself means different things -- wild? extreme? disturbed? passionate? -- to different people. (Don't) Call Me Crazy is a conversation starter and guide to better understanding how our mental health affects us every day. Thirty-three writers, athletes, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore their personal experiences with mental illness, how we do and do not talk about mental health, help for better understanding how every person's brain is wired differently, and what, exactly, might make someone crazy. If you've ever struggled with your mental health, or know someone who has, come on in, turn the pages, and let's get talking.

Carpenter, Nora

After a chance encounter, loner photographer Len and volleyball star Sage develop an unlikely friendship that enables them to begin facing their inner demons.

Awada, Dounya

Dounya Awada is a 24-year-old, devout Muslim, happy, healthy, and very much alive. But just a few years before, she nearly starved to death. Her struggle began when she was six years old. Little Dounya wanted nothing less than to be perfect, like her mother. She pushed herself hard every day, excelling in schoolwork and at home. She had to be the cutest, prettiest, smartest girl in the room. The slightest hint of imperfection led to meltdowns and uncontrollable tantrums. Her parents loved her fiercely but were unable to understand what was happening to their little girl. Being perfect all the time was exhausting. In Dounya's culture, food is nearly synonymous with love. Food is nourishment, nourishment is love, love is life. Dounya began to eat to fill the growing need within her. She grew in size, eventually hitting over 200 pounds at just age 15. Food became her only friend. Her peers mocked her. She felt utterly alone. As is the case for someone with dysmorphia, Dounya's obsession with food did a turnabout, and she began rigorous exercising and dieting. But even a substantial weight loss didn't satisfy her. She looked in the mirror and still saw the fat girl she used to be. She began the ugly cycle of bingeing and purging, eventually hitting a low weight of just 73 pounds. Dounya's horrific struggle with eating disorders has led her to advocate for boys and girls facing the same hurdles with which she struggled. She is now studying clinical psychology, and hopes to open an eating and dysmorphia disorder facility in Las Vegas for boys and girls with her disorder. If her story helps just one person to recognize the beauty of their imperfection, then her pain will have been worthwhile. Zuiker Press is proud to publish stories about important current topics for kids and adolescents, written by their peers, that will help them cope with the challenges they face in today's troubled world.

Crossan, Sarah

Allison runs away and, in what she thinks is an abandoned house, finds a home with Marla, an elderly woman with dementia who believes her to be an old friend named Toffee.

Jean, Emiko

Haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe is in a mental ward when, with support from fellow patient Chase, she begins to confront hidden truths in a journal, including that the only person she trusts may be telling her only half of the story.

Kaufman, Caroline

Kaufman explores the shock, wonder, and beauty of an uncertain future. The poems provide a vivid account of trying to find a path forward while reckoning with the pain of the past, embracing imperfection, and unlearning the language of self-criticism. 

Scott, Ceylan

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric ward for teenagers, where the psychologists ask her endless questions. How did the self-harming start? Will you tell us what happened? How do you feel, on a scale of one to ten? But there's one question Tamar can't - won't - answer: What happened to her friend Iris? A uniquely powerful, devastating novel of friendship, fragility and forgiveness. Contains scenes of suicide and self-harm that some readers may find upsetting.

White, Tracy.

How do you know if you're on the verge of a nervous breakdown? For seventeen-year-old Stacy Black, it all begins with the smashing of a window. After putting her fist through the glass, she checks into a mental hospital. Stacy hates it there but despite herself slowly realizes she has to face the reasons for her depression to stop from self-destructing. Based on the author's experiences, How I Made it to Eighteen is a frank portrait of what it's like to struggle with self-esteem, body image issues, drug addiction, and anxiety.

Summaries provided by DPL's catalog unless otherwise noted. Click on each title to view more information.