CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 40. . . .June 13, 2014
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders, and Depression and Other Mood Disorders are new titles in the “Understanding Mental Health” series from Crabtree Publishing. These books seek to provide age-appropriate information to younger teens that either have a disorder or mental illness or who know someone who does.
Each title has several features in common: it defines the disorder, explains treatment and diagnosis, describes possible stigmas in school and the rest of society, explores relations when a family member or good friend is diagnosed, and finishes with a toolkit section to provide concrete strategies for affected teens.
Several important points are highlighted throughout the series: patients cannot just think positive thoughts to get rid of their symptoms, gossiping about these topics is inappropriate, and anyone can suffer from a mental illness or disorder.
The overall quality of these books is high. They are organized with clear headings, a table of contents and glossary. The latter is used to define words that teens might not know, such as ‘romanticized,’ but important medical terms are defined in the text and are not included. The books use photographs and some diagrams to help break up the text and create diverse images to ensure that all types of people are represented. Text boxes are used to include the voices of teens.
One weak spot of the series is its broad audience. It wants to reach those diagnosed, to encourage the undiagnosed to seek treatment, and to support the friends and family of patients. This wide audience leads to a scattered text, switching from third person to second person. Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders maintains the series’ emphasis on reducing stigma and encouraging those with symptoms to seek treatment. There are a couple of sections of text where the explanations are complicated simply due to the challenging material, but this should not preclude younger readers benefitting from the book. Overall, the text does a good job of clearly explaining these illnesses.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is probably the weakest title in the series, only because it struggles to find an audience. People on the spectrum are often diagnosed at a young age or are high-functioning if they are diagnosed later. The rest of the series focuses on changes that happen to teenagers as their brains develop and possible mental illnesses start to emerge, but this book is dealing with an illness that exhibits its symptoms on a different timeline. The information is age appropriate and clearly explained, but it is hard to pinpoint the best audience for it.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder places an emphasis on the difficulties individuals with this disorder have making decisions, particularly ones related to school life. The authors explain the strategies people with FASD need to understand abstract concepts, such as time, consequences and money. They stress that people with FASD can learn with support. The book deals sensitively with the fact that FASD is preventable.
Depression and Other Mood Disorders explores the distinction between feeling sad over a particular incident and feeling down for a prolonged period for no particular reason. This section is particularly well done and emphasizes that it can be normal for teens to have some mood swings. The title describes medications available and the benefits of seeking counseling. Bipolar disorder is including in this title.
These recommended titles would be a good addition to school libraries, public libraries and counseling offices.
Sophia Hunter is a teacher-librarian at Crofton House Junior School in Vancouver, BC.
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