#BreakTheStigma: 14 Nonfiction Mental Health Books for Children, Tweens, and Teens

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. The purpose of this movement is to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help #BreakTheStigma. These nonfiction books not only provide support but will educate children, tweens, and teens.

 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. Established in 1949, the goal of this month is to support people with mental illness, educate the public on mental health, advocate for support, and break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. One way to do this is through literature, particularly books and resources for children, tweens, and teens. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “one in six U.S. youth aged 6–17 experiences a mental health disorder each year.” In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the rate of suicide deaths for 10– to 24-year-olds had increased by 56 percent from 2007 to 2017.

If mental health education begins at a young age, individuals can become better informed and possibly gain a better understanding of mental health. Children and teens should be aware that there are different types of mental illness, which come with varied experiences.

It should also be noted that mindfulness (the practice of being fully aware of the present moment) is becoming a more integral part of the mental health experience. This practice of conscious awareness can be beneficial to people of all ages. Many publishers have started to provide books that teach mindfulness to young children.

These nonfiction titles offer a great jumping-off point for elementary, middle, and high school readers. These works include personal essay collections, educated guides, informative picture books, and workbooks.


Preschool and Early Elementary

Alber, Diane. A Little SPOT of Anxiety: A Story About Calming Your Worries. illus. by Diane Alber. Diane Alber Art. May 2020. ISBN 9781951287160.
Gr PreK-2–Part of Alber's series on emotions, this picture book educates children on anxiety. The book’s narrator, Peaceful Spot, introduces readers to Anxiety Spot and how it can incite uncomfortable emotions. Peaceful Spot explains that some small anxiety spots are okay, but the trouble is when the emotion becomes undeniably overwhelming. An excellent introduction to anxiety that provides easy tips and exercises to help ease a kid's anxiety.

 

Willey, Kira. Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids To Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere. illus. Anni Betts. Rodale. Dec. 2017. ISBN 9781623368838.
Gr PreK-3 –This beautifully illustrated picture book provides mindful exercises for children to practice. These activities encourage children to be calm, gain focus, and get energized. Children can practice breathing like a bear in hibernation, pretend to be a buzzing, flying bumblebee, and imagine what type of cloud they are, among other excellent lessons. Though these activities are geared towards young children, people of all ages can benefit from them.

 

Elementary

Duhig, Holly. A Book About ADHD. ISBN 9781725314566.
––––. A Book About Anxiety. ISBN 9781725314603.
––––. A Book About Depression. ISBN 9781725314641.
––––. A Book About OCD. ISBN 9781725314689.
(Healthy Minds). Rosen/Powerkids. Jan. 2020.
Gr 4-6–This four-book series focuses on different mental conditions and disorders. Each title details the mental illness or mental health condition with an overview and the symptoms. Each text also features case studies of kids living with a particular mental health condition or illness.

 

Khanna, Muniya S., & Deborah Roth Ledley. The Worry Workbook for Kids: Helping Children to Overcome Anxiety and the Fear of Uncertainty. New Harbinger/Instant Help. Jun. 2018 ISBN 9781626259638.
Gr 3-6–Part workbook, part informational guide, this easy-to-follow resource is excellent for older children with or without an adult’s guidance. Readers will gain an understanding of what anxiety is and what their feelings mean. The text offers simple, age-appropriate exercises to strengthen comprehension. The book’s page count isn’t intimidating but is long enough to offer comprehensive knowledge and serviceable exercises.

 

Reuter, Tyson. Standing Up to OCD Workbook for Kids: 40 Activities To Help Children Stop Unwanted Thoughts, Control Compulsive Behaviors, and Overcome Anxiety. illus. by Sarah Rebar. Rockridge. Nov. 2019. ISBN 9781641527972.
Gr 3-5–This workbook, which features a separate introduction for children and adults, is meant to be used with an adult’s support. Each activity contains information about OCD to help guide readers through the exercise. Activities include drawing one’s OCD, examining fictional OCD stories, and engaging exercises.


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Middle School and High School

Battistin, Jennie Marie. Mindfulness for Teens in 10 Minutes a Day: Exercises To Feel Calm, Stay Focused & Be Your Best Self. Rockridge. Sep. 2019. ISBN 9781641524377.
Gr 7 & Up–Mindfulness can be beneficial for people of all ages, and this book aims to show teens how to engage in this practice. Teens will learn what mindfulness is and how it can help them. The text also features mindfulness exercises, which include mindful eating, dealing with emotions, and different types of breathing. Activities are labeled clearly with an overview and step-by-step instructions.

 

Burkhart, Jessica, ed. Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. S.&S./Simon Pulse. Apr. 2018. ISBN 9781481494649.
Gr. 9 & Up–In this essay collection edited by Burkhart, 31 young adult authors share their experiences with mental health. These stories include the author’s personal insight into a mental health crisis or an experience with someone close to them. The mental illnesses discussed include depression, anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Readers will recognize names such as Ellen Hopkins, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Oliver, and Sara Zarr. A compelling collection that will show teens they aren’t alone and that no two people have the same experience with the same mental illness.

 

Hurt, Avery Elizabeth. Coping with Depression. Rosen/Rosen Young Adult. Aug. 2019. ISBN 9781508187271.
Gr 7 & Up–Part of the “Coping” series, this easy-to-read title examines depression. Readers will walk away with an overview of the mental illness and an understanding of the topic. A glossary and a list of additional resources are included in the back matter. Other titles in the series include Coping with Bipolar Disorder, Coping with ADD/ADHD and ODD, Coping with Eating Disorders, and Coping with Stress.

 

Jensen, Kelly, ed. (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health. Algonquin. Oct. 2018. ISBN 9781616207816.
Gr 7 & Up–Authors and celebrities share their mental health experiences in this honest collection. Topics include autism, bipolar disorder, body dysmorphia, depression, and emotional healing. Contributors include Frozen actress Kristen Bell, YA authors Adam Silvera and Libba Bray, former figure skater and Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan, and Modern Family actor Reid Ewing. Every story in this collection may not be for every reader, but many teens may see their own experiences reflected in these essays.

 

Siebert, Melanie. Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health. illus. by Belle Wuthrich. Orca. Apr. 2020. ISBN 9781459819115.
Gr 7 & Up–This accessible book offers an overview of mental health. The text details different types of mental illnesses, the history of mental health, treatment methods of the past, and how professionals treat mental health today. A glossary of essential words, several resources, and information for those in crisis are included. A relevant handbook filled with insightful information for teens.

 

Turrell, Sheri L. & others. The Mindfulness And Acceptance Workbook For Teen Anxiety. New Harbinger/Instant Help. Sep. 2018. ISBN 9781684031153.
Gr. 7 & Up–In this age-appropriate workbook, teens can learn to understand and cope with their anxiety and emotions using mindful exercises. Readers will study the stories of teens just like them and gain awareness of small but useful practices. A great tool for teens struggling with anxiety.


Reviewed by Amanda Borgia, Uniondale Public Library, NY

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