CHC in the Press: ‘Breaking the Silence’ on Youth Mental Health
“There is so much I wish someone had told you.”
This quote, from an anonymous teenager directed to her future self, is from a new book a group of local teenagers wrote to address their sense that there is a lack of guidance to help young people cope with mental health issues. An unfiltered view of the experiences of local teens, the book aims to help any reader, young or old, better understand mental illness.
Nineteen students from 12 Bay Area high schools who serve on Palo Alto nonprofit Children’s Health Council’s Teen Wellness Committee came up with the idea for Just a Thought: Uncensored Narratives of Teen Mental Health, which will be released on Wednesday. They wanted to create a book that would document advice and anecdotes on mental health from both themselves and the broader youth community. The book includes letters written by the committee members and quotes from close to 100 teens who responded to a survey they issued to solicit more stories.
Just a Thought is split into four sections, each addressed to a different segment of the community: friends, parents, educators and “me.” The sections explore why and why not teens choose to reach out for help, both helpful and unhelpful responses from parents and how conversations around mental health play out at their schools, among other issues.
Throughout the book, powerful quotes are brought to life in colorful illustrations. In one, a girl wears a smiling paper bag over her head next to the text, “#mentalillness feels like I have to wear a mask every day.”
Katherine Reeves, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at the Children’s Health Council, described the book’s value in an introduction.
“We are confronted daily with reasons teens may hide their experiences with mental illness. The comments in this book break that barrier,” she wrote. “They are raw, unfiltered, and allow the reader to appreciate both the strengths and gaping holes in the health and education systems responsible for taking care of these kids. Teens tell us in this book, in their own words, how we might help.”