Now that it’s May, it’s time to talk about teen mental health. While mental health should be discussed every day, May is the official month where mental health organizations from all over the country put out a call for mental health education. According to Mental Health America:
Since 1949, Mental Health America and our affiliates across the country have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. We welcome other organizations to join us in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities.
For more information about Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may
Here is a list of organizations that provide a wealth information about mental health awareness:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Mental Health America (MHA)
National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH)
American Psychological Association (APA)
National Council for Mental Health (NCMH)
Teen mental health has become an important topic all over the country as teens are facing extraordinary challenges causing teens to develop serious mental disorders such as Depression, Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study that stated “[e]ver having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.” As these numbers continue to rise, teens have taken it up themselves to advocate for their own mental health and the library can assist them along the way.
Teen Mental Health Programming for the Community
As an information specialist, there is a lot you can do to help teens learn about mental health and wellness. For example, theme your monthly programming for the month of May to revolve around mental health. Also, invite your local mental health organizations to come into the library to talk to teens about mental health. Another great idea will be to contact a certified Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainer to give an informal presentation about assisting a friend or family member experiencing a mental health crisis. In fact, the organization that created the Youth Mental Health First Aid training (Mental Health First Aid USA) is launching a pilot program called teen Mental Health First Aid where adult trainers “[teach] teenagers the skills they need to be recognize and help their friends with mental health and substance use problems and crisis and how to get the help of an adult quickly.” Here are some articles worth taking a look at if your library is interested in either hosting or providing the training to teen volunteers and/or students:
- Local teens get ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training thanks to Lady Gaga foundation <http://www.fox32chicago.com/news/local/local-teens-get-mental-health-first-aid-training-thanks-to-lady-gaga-foundation>
- Charlottesville High School one of two Virginia schools to participate in Teen Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) pilot program<https://wina.com/news/064460-charlottesville-high-school-one-of-two-virginia-schools-to-participate-in-teen-mental-health-first-aid-mhfa-pilot-program/>
- Jefferson High mental health first aid program <https://www.abcfoxmontana.com/missoula/jefferson-high-mental-health-first-aid-program/video_cf9964ad-a413-536a-93f7-e085305d6218.html>
- In mental health pilot program, CHS students learn to reach out<https://www.dailyprogress.com/news/education/in-mental-health-pilot-program-chs-students-learn-to-reach/article_f505f3ac-66f9-11e9-8c1a-cb533ee31206.html>
In addition to programming, think about beefing up your collection by adding more fiction and nonfiction titles about mental health. Here are some great lists to consult:
- Authors Whose YA Books About Mental Illness Get It Right <https://www.epicreads.com/blog/authors-ya-books-mental-illness/>
- The Buzz…About Booksà Books about Mental Health: Staff Picks for the 2019 Reading Challenge<https://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/bookbuzz/2019/01/books-about-mental-health-staff-picks-for-the-2019-reading-challenge.html>
- 50 MUST-READ YA BOOKS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS (PLUS A FEW MORE)<https://bookriot.com/2018/10/02/ya-books-about-mental-illness/>
- YA Mental Health Resources<http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2016/05/24/ya-mental-health-resources/>
Provide Teens Access to Mental Health Information and Services
Another great way to assist teens in their mental health journey is to provide them a list of resources and services in the event they are looking into mental health care or support groups. If you don’t have many services, or resources, in your city, you can always contact any of the national associations listed above to see if they can send you any materials or handouts.
If you are on a tight budget, and are unable to purchase and/or print these materials, make them available online in a weblinks collection on your website. Here is what the Pasadena Public Library offers teens in the City of Pasadena, CA:
Pasadena Public Library Teen Webguide:
If you are based in, or near, the Los Angeles area, there is a great nonprofit organization called Teen Line that provides a product called Youth Yellow Pages that can be accessed online, their app, or you can order some to give out to teen patrons. Also, the National Institute on Mental Health has a lot of information that you can printout, or order, to put in your teens areas.
Start the Conversation
If you decide to host mental health themed programming or put out a couple of flyers with resources and services, you are continuing the conversation that needs to happen. Mental health continues to be shrouded by stigma that not only prevents teens from talking about mental health but prevent them from treatment. Mental disorders like Depression and Anxiety are not any different than Diabetes or Blood pressure so let your teens know that they are not alone and they can help to manage their signs and symptoms to live a successful and happy life.
 “Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed on May 2, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
 “Frequently Asked Questions.” Teen Mental Health First Aid USA. Accessed on May 2, 2019. https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/teen-Mental-Health-First-Aid_FAQ-Final.pdf