#ChasingStigma in May

May is Mental Health Awareness month and I am excited to be putting together several blog posts, videos, resource lists and more centered on the theme of mental illness.

As many of you know, my book, Chasing the Milky Way comes out in June. It is about a young girl named Lucy Peevey who is saving money for a robot competition in hopes that the prize money will get her out of Sunnyside Trailer Park and into a better life. Unfortunately, things aren’t as easy as they seem, and when the big weekend draws near and her Mama, who suffers from a mixed diagnosis of Bipolar and Schizoaffective Disorder, starts to spiral into an episode, things get even worse.

As I was writing this book, I did a lot of research, so I will be sharing a bunch of those resources day in and day out in the month of May. But I also will be doing lots of book reviews. Why? As it turns out, I am also a teen librarian at the Derry Public Library in NH. I find that when kids are looking for stories about mental illness, they often cannot find one. It’s not that they don’t exist, it is that they can be difficult to locate. Books aren’t always categorized by their diagnoses, especially in the fiction section. So this month, I hope to highlight some great books about mental illness.

Why books? Why mostly fiction books? Well, the obvious reason is that I am an author and librarian and love books. The less obvious reason is because story immersion is an empathetic endeavor. Hearing and reading stories is our very best chance at simulating life outside of our own experience. In this way, books and stories are able to reaffirm life experience, but also widen perspective. I hope highlighting these books will give people a reason to read, learn and better understand mental illness (and its universality) and in doing so, fight the stigma that surrounds it. I will be categorizing these resources and book talks under #ChasingStigma on Tumblr, Twitter and FB, so hopefully they will be easier to find.

And away we go!

A review of “Chasing the Milky Way” will be in the May issue of SLJ. They say, “Few Middle Grade books depict a parent’s mental illness as well as this one…Just like Mrs. Peevey’s Manic-Depressive disorder, Chasing the Milky Way takes readers on the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A much-needed addition.”

I’m giving away two hardcover copies over on goodreads, so if you’re interested, check it out! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18371361-chasing-the-milky-way

In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ll be posting several book reviews. This one is of a nonfiction book called “Out of Order: The Young Adult Manual of Mental Illness and Recovery.” It is chock full of info on mental illness, including, signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. It also includes lots of interesting personal stories and artwork. Valuable screening tests, websites, hotlines and nonfiction titles can be found in the back of the book.

Sam/Jack is a high school senior with Tourette’s Syndrome. During his graduation ceremony, despite his best efforts, he has a really bad episode resulting in him running from the event. He ends up in a quiet garden owned by a peculiar old man, known by the area kids as the “Old Coot.” As it turns out, the Old Coot knew Sam/Jack’s real dad. And as it turns out, the Old Coot also needs a boarder to help with his gardening business for the summer. This starts Jack on a journey to family history and self discovery. A great voice, quirky/flawed characters and a hint of romance make this a fantastic read. Winner of the 2009 Schneider Family Book Award.

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#ChasingStigma Weekly Roundup. This week we talked about three great books: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Out of Order by Dale Carlson and Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones.

Mental Health Links:
National Alliance on Mental Illness: www.nami.org
Youth community support forum: www.strengthofus.org
The Depression and Bipolar Alliance: www.dbsalliance.org
Mental Health America: www.mentalhealthamerica.net

Author Websites:
Evan Roskos: www.evanroskos.com
Dale Carlson: www.bickpubhouse.com
Sonya Sones: www.sonyasones.com

#ChasingStigma Vlog 3: “Stop Pretending” by Sonya Sones. Stop Pretending is a beautiful novel in verse. The poems are written from a younger sister’s perspective as her older sister suffers a mental breakdown and ends up in the mental hospital. The tangle of emotions, memory, love and frustration are heartfelt and authentic. The author’s note provides further context. Some of the resources listed are out of date due to this edition’s publication date. Updated links are posted at the end of the video.

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