Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Reading Suggestions: Examining Mental Illness in Middle Grades
Everyone knows that mental illness exists; everyone knows the devastating effect that it can have, both on the people suffering from it and their friends and families. This is not new information – it’s something that we’ve known forever and ever. But the hush-hush way we’ve developed of discussing it and dealing with it clearly aren’t working. So let’s finally start talking about it, because that’s the only chance that we have of beating it.” — from Airing My Dirty Laundry by Anne Theriault
Talking about mental illness can be hard, especially when misconceptions are rampant in middle school. It almost feels like a taboo subject at times. The term "mental health" is loaded with meanings for different people. It could suggest a call for taking deep breaths or reducing stress or, on the other extreme, concern about one’s mental stability and the possibility that it may lead to violent or extreme choices. For our middle schoolers, I tried to focus this list on issues like anxiety, OCD, depression, and ADD/ADHD, which are relevant for many.
Reading books that tackle the topic of mental health helps students feel more at ease with whatever social/emotional/mental struggles they may be dealing with at school or at home. For others, it’s a great way to connect with a character that is experiencing the actual mental health challenge they face every day. Others may find inspiration from reading sad but hopeful books where the lead character perseveres and succeeds despite any mental health issues and trials that life throws at them. Ultimately, I hope this list showcases a mirror for those who need it and a window for others to become more empathetic towards those who struggle with mental health.
The Youth Suicide Prevention Program lists the following signs that may indicate that someone is thinking of suicide:
So, if a friend or child or sibling or student mentions suicide or shows one (even many) of the warning signs take it seriously. Get help immediately. Do not leave the person alone. At the same time, show the person you care by sharing your concerns and listening carefully to their feelings.
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