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Reading Challenges > July 2017 Challenge: Mental Health

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message 1: by Kristen (last edited Jul 01, 2017 10:12AM) (new)

Kristen | 5 comments Mod
This month we are reading books about mental health. At least 1 in every 5 people will have a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. This means that countless more will watch as a friend or loved one deals with one of these medical conditions. These are chronic health conditions that many people bravely manage throughout their lives. But unlike other chronic medical conditions, mental illness is unjustly stigmatized. The undue shame associated with mental health conditions can force people suffering from these conditions into the shadows. Because of this stigma, some people may even avoid seeking treatment for mental illness. This is unfortunate because it is possible – and common – to live a normal life with mental illness.

A book I am tackling this month is The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks, a successful law professor and Yale Law graduate who has suffered from schizophrenia since the age of eight. She talks about the stigma she herself faced, including from her professional colleagues. Her story is inspiring and touches on the struggles of dealing with a mental illness while trying to live a normal life.

One way to fight the stigma is to change the words we use. Disability Rights California states that "Harmful words are the driving force behind stigma. Some words can be hurtful and limit a person’s full potential. Words can leave a person feeling rejected and alone. The stigma created by certain words and phrases can impact how you live your life by making you feel that you are not 'good enough' or that you are 'less than' others.

Some words are still used today that reflect false beliefs about people with mental health life experiences. False beliefs can cause low self-esteem and may affect your everyday activities."

They suggest avoiding words like "crazy", "psycho", “loony”, and “disturbed." Instead try using phrases like "He/she is experiencing a mental health issue" or "He/she has a mental health disability."

While attending a library conference this year, I had the opportunity to attend a session put on by Change Direction NH and heard former NH chief Justice John Broderick speak about his family's own experience with mental illness. His family's was a tragic story that could have been prevented if the symptoms of mental illness were more widely known. This organization is working to make the symptoms of mental illness as widely known as the symptoms of illnesses like a stroke or a heart attack. Learn more by visiting

We can fight the stigma! So, this month pick up a book about mental health on our display. Learn about what it's like to live with a condition, or learn about how you can help loved ones suffering from mental illness. Join us at the library on July 25th at 7PM for a presentation from the National Alliance on Mental Illness on living with mental illness.

message 2: by Kersten (new)

Kersten (Herzelode) | 41 comments Mod
I'm reminded of Allie Brosh's two (essays? pieces? graphic essays?) “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which can be found in her book, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. Great book - my son and I both read it a couple years ago and still talk about some of the stories.

message 3: by Marita (new)

Marita | 105 comments Mod
Kersten, I agree, "Hyperbole and a Half" is really great! Mental is an important if difficult subject, but I think there are many great memoirs that touch on it. The works of the late, great Carrie Fisher spring immediately to my mind.

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