September is National Suicide Prevention Month and a time to share stories and resources to those impacted by suicide.
By sharing stories and resources, we work toward breaking the stigma against talking about mental health and getting closer to a world in which more people are willing to ask for and receive support.
Young adults are among the most likely to be impacted by suicide or thoughts of self-harm, so it is especially important to have these conversations regularly during adolescence so they know they are not alone. Sharing stories is an easy way to approach the topic and explore new perspectives, so check out one of the following books to prompt discussion with a teenager in your life.
“Darius the Great is Not Okay” (Dial Books, 2018) by Adib Khorram
Although Darius Kellner is half-Persian, he has never felt as connected to that side of his culture as much as he wants to be. When his parents decide they are all going to visit Iran, Darius isn’t sure if he is as excited as he is overwhelmed. He just knows he isn’t going to fit in in Iran, just like he doesn’t fit in anywhere at home.
With his clinical depression and daily medication, Darius is sure nobody will take the time to really get to know him. But then he meets Sohrab, the boy who lives next door. Darius, for the first time, has found someone who seems to really see and care about him just as he is. The longer they stay in Iran, the more Darius gets to know his family and his culture, and he starts to realize that more people care about him than he ever realized.
“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017) by Erika L. Sánchez
Julia has never been able to live up to her immigrant parents’ expectations for her to be the “perfect Mexican daughter.” They want her to be just like her sister Olga, who gets good grades, helps around the house and works hard.
When Olga dies in a tragic traffic accident, Julia’s parents are even more disappointed in her. All Julia wants is a little privacy and independence, and to one day go to college and become a writer. But when all of the negativity keeps piling up and she doesn’t feel like anyone understands her, Julia starts to feel more hopeless. When her depression reaches an all-time low, Julia finally gets some outside support. Will her parents finally be able to accept her for who she is?
“The Astonishing Color of After” (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018) by Emily X.R. Pan
Leigh is not mourning the death of her mother the same way her father is — she knows that her mother turned into a bird the day she committed suicide.
She knows this because the night before the funeral, Leigh is visited by a large, beautiful red bird and she just knows it’s her mother coming to visit her. In an attempt to locate the bird and reconnect with her culture, Leigh travels to Taiwan to visit her grandparents for the first time. She knows that if she can locate the bird, she can get to the bottom of what happened to her mother.
As Leigh uncovers things she never knew about her family, she embarks on a surreal journey that teaches her how to grieve, grow, and forgive.
You can access these books and more at your local bookstores and libraries, but be sure to follow up with a mental health professional if you need additional support. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of self-harm, call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to the Crisis Text Line and a free, trained crisis counselor through the National Alliance of Mental Illness.