Mental illness touches all families. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teen-agers. The right book at the right time in a child's life can help normalize the experience of struggling with mental illness, diminish the stigma and help to begin a healing conversation. Children’s books have finally broken the silence that shrouds many “forbidden topics,” including mental illness, making it possible for a reader to reach out with hope that someone will listen, not judge, and offer help.
We will describe several books which present mental illness in an age-appropriate, realistic and hopeful way, including picture books, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and informational books. We will describe effective uses of picture books with adult clients, and discuss several exciting, boundary-breaking books (First One Step then Another, by Tomi dePaolo; After the Fall, How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat; Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley; and It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini). After analyzing what makes these books “work,” we will offer suggestions for use of books as part of bibliotherapy and also as “shared platforms” to encourage discussions about mental illness, family dynamics, and personal responses.