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Alison Gowans
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May 28, 2024 – May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and many organizations are raising awareness of the 988 Lifeline, which provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call or text 988 or chat at

Locally, the Linn County Mental Health Access Center, provides crisis care for adults experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis that requires immediate attention. Call them at (319) 892-5612. The Mental Health Access Center is also open for walk-ins 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 501 13th St. NW. No appointment is necessary.

"National Mental Health Awareness Month aims to raise awareness about mental health issues and promote understanding, acceptance, and support for those affected, said Materials Librarian Allison Zordell.

She curated a book list of recently published mental health resources and memoirs available through the Metro Library Network.

"These books provide diverse perspectives and valuable insights into the complexities of mental health, offering hope, understanding, and support to those affected by mental illness," she said.

Browse the books below, and click on their covers to put them on hold in our catalog. Book descriptions are excerpted from the catalog, which pulls from information provided by publishers.

"Mind Over Monsters: Supporting Youth Mental Health with Compassionate Challenge" by Sarah Rose Cavanagh (2023)

An investigation into the mental health crisis affecting young adults today, and an impassioned argument for creating learning environments characterized both by compassion and challenge.

"The Burden of Sports: How and Why Athletes Struggle with Mental Health" by John Parry (2024)

This book looks at how sports negatively impact the mental health and emotional well-being of athletes as well as the reactions of spectators and media to these athletes' struggles.

"I See You, Survivor: Life Inside (and Outside) the Totally F*cked up Troubled-Teen Industry" by Liz Ianelli (2023)

There was a huge public outpouring to the recent articles in The New York Times about Family Foundation School, a last-resort institution for troubled teens in upstate New York. It described the near 50% death rate of alumni – including many by suicide – and how the survivors lived with their trauma in the years after leaving the school. A follow-up piece this January covered the shocking facts that came to light through multiple lawsuits and the continuing fight for justice on behalf of the survivors. No one would know this story without Liz, known around the world as Survivor993, and this searing memoir shares the story of her years at Family Foundation, and her rage and recovery in the years after she left. Liz refused to live a quiet life after what she had been through; this is her story of pointing fingers and fighting back.

"While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence" by Meg Kissinger (2023)

Growing up in the 1960s in the suburbs of Chicago, Meg Kissinger's family seemed to live a charmed life. With eight kids and two loving parents, the Kissingers radiated a warm, boisterous energy. But behind closed doors, a harsher reality was unfolding: a heavily-medicated mother hospitalized for anxiety and depression, a manic father prone to violence, and children in the throes of bipolar disorder and depression, two of whom would take their own lives. Through it all, the Kissingers faced the world with their signature dark humor and the unspoken family rule – never talk about it. This memoir begins as the personal story of one family's struggles, then opens outward as Kissinger details how childhood tragedy catalyzed a journalism career focused on exposing our country's flawed mental health care.

"And Then We Rise: A Guide to Loving and Taking Care of Self" by Common (2024)

Common has achieved success in many facets of his life and career, from music to acting to writing. But for a long time, he didn't feel that he had found fulfillment in his body and spirit. "And Then We Rise" is about Common's journey to wellness as a vital element of his success. A testimony to the benefits of self-care, this book is composed of four different sections, each with its own important lessons: 'The Food' focuses on nutrition, 'The Body' focuses on fitness, 'The Mind' focuses on mental health, and 'The Soul' focuses on perhaps the most profound thing of all – spiritual well-being. Common's personal stories act as the backbone of his book, but he also wants to give his readers the gift of professional expertise. Here, he acts as the liaison to his own nutritionist and chef, his own physical trainer, and his own therapist, as well as to those who act as his spiritual influences.

"Girls and Their Monsters: the Genain Quadruplets and the Making of Madness in America" by Audrey Clare Farley (2023)

In 1954, researchers at the newly formed National Institute of Mental Health set out to study the genetics of schizophrenia. When they got word that four 24-year-old identical quadruplets in Lansing, Michigan, had all been diagnosed with the mental illness, they could hardly believe their ears. Here was incontrovertible proof of hereditary transmission and, thus, a chance to bring international fame to their fledgling institution. The case of the pseudonymous Genain quadruplets, they soon found, was hardly so straightforward. Contrary to fawning media portrayals of a picture-perfect Christian family, the sisters had endured the stuff of nightmares. Behind closed doors, their parents had taken shocking measures to preserve their innocence while sowing fears of sex and the outside world. In public, the quadruplets were treated as communal property, as townsfolk and members of the press had long ago projected their own paranoid fantasies about the rapidly diversifying American landscape onto the fair-skinned, ribbon-wearing quartet who danced and sang about Christopher Columbus. Even as the sisters' erratic behaviors became impossible to ignore and the NIMH whisked the women off for study, their sterling image did not falter.

"The Autists: Women on the Spectrum" by Clara Törnvall (2023)

An incisive and deeply candid account that explores autistic women in culture, myth, and society through the prism of the author's own diagnosis. Until the 1980s, autism was regarded as a condition found mostly in boys. Even in our time, autistic girls and women have largely remained invisible. When portrayed in popular culture, women on the spectrum often appear simply as copies of their male counterparts – talented and socially awkward. Yet autistic women exist, and always have. They are varied in their interests and in their experiences. Autism may be relatively new as a term and a diagnosis, but not as a way of being and functioning in the world. It has always been part of the human condition. So who are these women, and what does it mean to see the world through their eyes? In "The Autists," Clara Törnvall reclaims the language to describe autism and explores the autistic experience in arts and culture throughout history. From popular culture, films, and photography to literature, opera, and ballet, she dares to ask what it might mean to re-read these works through an autistic lens – what we might discover if we allow perspectives beyond the neurotypical to take center stage.

"Are u ok?: A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health – How to Know if You Need Help & Where to Find It" by Kati Morton (2018)

A licensed family therapist and YouTube personality clarifies the difference between mental health and mental illness, answering common questions to reduce stigmas while offering advice on how to pursue beneficial therapy.

"Balanced Brain: The Science of Mental Health" by Camilla Nord (2023)

There are many routes to mental well-being. In this groundbreaking book, neuroscientist Camilla Nord offers a fascinating tour of the scientific developments that are revolutionizing the way we think about mental health, showing why and how events – and treatments – can affect people in such different ways. Nord explains how our brain constructs our sense of mental health – actively striving to maintain balance in response to our changing circumstances. While a mentally healthy brain deals well with life's turbulence, poor mental health results when the brain struggles with disruption. But just what is the brain trying to balance? Nord describes the foundations of mental health in the brain – from the neurobiology of pleasure, pain and desire to the role of mood-mediating chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and opioids. She then pivots to interventions, revealing how antidepressants, placebos and even recreational drugs work; how psychotherapy changes brain chemistry; and how the brain and body interact to make us feel physically (as well as mentally) healthy.

"What's Eating Us: Women, Food, and the Epidemic of Body Anxiety" by Cole Kazdin (2023)

Women of all ages struggle with disordered eating, preoccupation with food, and body anxiety. Journalist Cole Kazdin was one such woman, and she set out to see if the impossibility of her own full recovery from an eating disorder was all in her head. Interviewing women across the country as well as the world's most renowned researchers, she discovered that most people with eating disorders never receive treatment – the fact that she did made her one of the lucky ones. Kazdin takes us to the doorstep of the diet industry and research community, exposing the flawed systems that claim to be helping us, and revealing disordered eating for the crisis that it is: a mental illness with the second highest mortality rate (after opioid-related deaths) that no one wants to talk about. Along the way, she identifies new treatments not yet available to the general public, grassroots movements to correct racial disparities in care, and strategies for navigating true health while still living in a dysfunctional world. 

"The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma" by Bessel A. Van der Kolk (2014)

Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In "The Body Keeps the Score," he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments – from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga – that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, "The Body Keeps the Score" exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal – and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.