You may be familiar with YA fiction books that deal with mental health issues, but in honor of it being Mental Health Month, I’m highlighting mostly nonfiction YA resources (with a few new or forthcoming fiction titles). When colleagues ask me for nonfiction books to recommend to teens to help them cope with mental health issues, I don’t find many. Sure, there are those written that will be useful for class reports, but not many nonfiction titles that offer real, practical, how-to advice. Most of the helpful resources I have found are online in the form of blogs, articles, brochures, or pamphlets since that’s what’s easiest to keep up-to-date.
Youth Mental Health Resources – Online Resources
Medlineplus, that has health information from the National Library of Medicine, includes a teen mental health section on its database, that’s free to access.
KidsHealth is part of the KidsHealth family of websites. These sites, run by the nonprofit Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media, provide accurate, up-to-date health information that’s free of “doctor speak.” Their site has very understandable and helpful information for teens on a variety of topics, including teen suicide.
TeensHealth has information about health related to teens, such as information about body, mind, sexual health, food & fitness, diseases & conditions, infections, school & jobs, drugs & alcohol, and staying safe.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has information that will help teens learn more about suicide, how to prevent it, cope with a suicide loss, research, and ways to get involved in suicide prevention, such as Out of the Darkness Walks. If you are a teen in crisis, resources are available online on this site for you.
Apps for Youth that Provide Mental Health Assistance –Many of these apps focus on crisis intervention, including:
DoSomething.org’s Crisis Text Line –Provides teens with free, round-the-clock access to trained counseling and referrals.
Mood 24/7 – This app allows users, including teens, to send a daily text message about how they feel to a doctor, a therapist or loved one.
CodeBlue – This project by Melon Health, scheduled to launch spring of 2016, is designed to help teens alert members of a designated support network with a text message whenever they feel acutely depressed. It is designed to provide teenagers struggling from depression or bullying with support when they need it. Users can choose several contacts to be part of their support group. With just a few taps, the app will alert the support group that the user needs immediate help. Members of the support group can then text or call the user. The app can also share the user’s location with the support group, and members can indicate that they are on their way to see the user in person. Code Blue will be free on both iOS and Android.
BoosterBuddy –This Canadian app provides teens with a list of coping mechanisms, tips for controlled breathing exercises, types of mental health concerns, and ways to manage symptoms. BoosterBuddy was created by Calgary-based developers Robots & Pencils, Island Health, Victoria Hospitals Foundation and a $150,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings. The app helps teens do the following:
- Check-in with how you are feeling each day
- Use coping skills
- Keep track of appointments and medications
- Get started on tasks
- Follow self-care routines
- Increase real-life socialization
Articles or Blogs for Teens on Mental Health Topics
OK2TALK: The goal of OK2TALK is to create a community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems and encourage them to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope. Anyone can add their voice by sharing creative content such as poetry, inspirational quotes, photos, videos, song lyrics and messages of support in a safe, moderated space. The creators hope this is the first step towards getting help and feeling better.
The #MHYALit Discussion Hub– Mental Health in Young Adult Literature posted by TeenLibrarianToolbox on School Library Journal’s online site has regular posts on mental health topics for teens.
An example: #MHYALit: Fight the Stigma, Ask for Help, a guest post by Heather Marie, April 5, 2016
These resources are really helpful but sometimes actually seeing and hearing about a person’s struggle to cope with a mental health issue has more impact than any article or blog post. Kevin Hines, a suicide survivor and speaker and author on bipolar disorder and mental health issues, has created a video entitled, “I Jumped Off the Golden Gate Bridge” that’s unforgettable.
This is the striking story of survival of author Hines, who at age nineteen jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. The fall didn’t end his life; it began a chronicle of facing mental illness – bipolar disorder – and a series of breakdowns that challenged the author’s desire to live mentally well. His is a powerful saga that offers many insights to those struggling with life after a suicide attempt; from living daily with mental illness to navigating the world and discovering keys to better living.
Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson and Dr. Olivia Hewitt (2016) (Nonfiction)
James Dawson, now writing as Juno Dawson has written a frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. The book covers topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders. Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them. With real-life stories from young people around the world and witty illustrations from Gemma Correll.
This co-authored, mother-daughter memoir recounts daughter Elena’s five-year struggle to overcome anorexia nervosa after her diagnosis at 17. Elena’s memories often highlight the interwoven nature of her relationship with food to traumatic events in her life, from childhood feelings of maternal abandonment to a rape at age 13. Ultimately, this memoir illustrates how Elena found her own path out from this illness, and the treatment she received.
(And a few new, forthcoming fiction books, because I couldn’t resist):
For sixteen-year-old Mel Hannigan, bipolar disorder makes life unpredictable. Her latest struggle is balancing her growing feelings in a new relationship with her instinct to conceal her diagnosis by keeping everyone at arm’s length. But when a former friend confronts Mel with the truth about the way their relationship ended, deeply buried secrets threaten to come out and upend her shaky equilibrium.
Seventeen-year-old Bo attends Berkshire Academy, which he believes is a school for kids with superpowers, and struggles in the aftermath of his girlfriend, Sofia’s, suicide. Convinced he can travel through time, Bo refuses to believe Sofia died. Instead, he’s certain she’s trapped in the year 1692.
The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes (May 2016)
At Pembroke, a tiny East Coast boarding school, Willa doesn’t care about being the poor, rural weirdo among the wealthy elite, because she plans to commit suicide—until she meets the mysterious, charismatic Remy.
These are just a few of the many resources available to help teens who might be struggling with mental health issues or who may be in crisis. I hope teens, or those of you who work with them, will find them useful.
–Sharon Rawlins, currently listening to The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury and reading A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard
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