According to the Child Mind Institute’s 2018 Children’s Mental Health Report, anxiety affects 30% of children and adolescents, but 80% never get help. Untreated anxiety disorders, which typically manifest between ages 11-14, increase the risk for depression, school failure, substance abuse and suicide. What can we, as librarians, do to assist young people and their caregivers in recognizing and dealing with mental health conditions?
Being aware of the myriad mental health resources available is a great first step. In addition to the Child Mind Institute, which provides resources ranging from back-to-school tips to parent/caregiver guides on a plethora of topics, the following websites offer a wide range of information to support the mental health of young people:
The APA’s page on children’s mental health includes a toll-free phone number as well as an online psychologist locator to help caregivers find the right fit for their child.
The CDC provides data and statistics, as well as symptoms and treatment recommendations for a variety of conditions (including anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder). Additionally, they offer a variety of free materials related to developmental milestones and screening.
The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, NAMI provides basic information on as well as support for a variety of mental health conditions. Information is broken down by condition, but caregivers seeking information specific to children or teens can find what they’re looking for under the “Find Support” tab.
One of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health, NIMH offers resources similar to the CDC and NAMI, with additional information about participating in research studies and clinical trials.
Another way we can serve patrons in regard to mental health is through book recommendations. In preparation for World Mental Health Day (October 10th), check out these fantastic children’s titles – and maybe even put together a special display:
When Norris the crocodile meets Elba in the park one day, he knows they’re going to be the best of friends. But Elba doesn’t feel like joining Norris in any of his favorite activities. In fact, she doesn’t feel like doing anything besides sitting with the very heavy block she carries with her everywhere. A tender look at grief and loss, as well as the power of friendship and empathy. (Ages 4-7)
Alfie worries about party games, races – and, most importantly, the upcoming dress-up parade. After a nightmare makes putting on his “Captain Starfish” costume and going to school unbearable, Alfie’s mother brings him to the aquarium where he meets a shy clownfish. While Alfie’s anxieties lead him to miss this year’s parade, understanding caregivers help him realize he can try again next year. (Ages 4-7)
For just a second, Taylor has created the most magnificent block tower to ever exist – and then a flock of birds swoop in, knocking the whole thing over. A whole host of animal friends attempt to help Taylor through this devastating loss, but nothing – talking, laughing, screaming – seems like it will help. Until the rabbit comes to listen. A universal take on the impact empathy can have on mental health. (Ages 4-7)
Big, small, and everything in between – Wemberly worried about it all. And then it was time to start school, the most worrisome thing of all. While no direct, easy solution to Wemberly’s anxieties is offered, meeting a kindred spirit at school – and having the loving support of her parents – seems to help. (Ages 4-8)
A calming, lovely introduction to mindfulness, A World of Pausabilities encourages children to stop, breathe, and take a moment for themselves – a lesson even caregivers could benefit from. (Ages 4-8)
A beautiful lesson on destigmatizing “bad” feelings, When Sadness is at Your Door treats sadness as a guest with whom you might sit quietly or go for a walk. Rather than suggesting the child in the story “get over it” or “fix” something – which could create anxiety around the emotion – Eland’s approach encourages respect for feelings. (Ages 4-10)
Good Enough is the story of twelve-year-old Riley’s two-month long stay in the hospital, where she’s being treated for an eating disorder. Facing insecurities brought on by envy of her “perfect” younger sister and bullying by classmates, Riley nevertheless learns to believe in herself and her inner healthy voice. Petro-Roy is an eating disorder survivor, and her personal knowledge and understanding shine through in Riley’s tale. (Ages 8-12)
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, The Cardboard Kingdom chronicles the story of one group of neighborhood kids who create an entire world – complete with alter egos – out of cardboard. But while their cardboard kingdom is (nearly) perfect, their real lives are anything but. Dealing with big subjects like identity, divorce, and bullying, The Cardboard Kingdom is a great jumping-off point for caregivers seeking to discuss these “tough topics.” (Ages 8-12)
Suffering from severe OCD brought on by the in utero loss of his baby brother, Matthew Corbin hasn’t been to school in weeks; in fact, he’s hardly left his room. It’s much safer to observe the outside world from his sterile home. But when his neighbor’s grandson goes missing, Matthew may hold the key to figuring out what happened. One part mystery, one part emotional examination of the ways in which unexamined grief can impact our lives. (Ages 8-12)
A lonely young boy suffering from anxiety is slowly consumed by tiny monsters in this wordless graphic novel by Mel Tregonning and Shaun Tan. While parents and teachers remain oblivious to his struggle, the boy’s sister eventually approaches him and reveals she’s missing pieces of herself as well. A moving look at depression and anxiety. (Ages 8-12)
Finally, if you have some free time tomorrow (9/25) at 4PM ET, check out Lee & Low’s Trauma-Informed Education and Booklist Webinar.
Interested in finding other ways you can support children and caregivers dealing with mental health conditions? Check out this Mental Health Awareness Month ALSC post from blogger Renee Grassi.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials