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GoodReflections: Staff Picks for Mental Health Awareness

Published: May 25, 2022

For Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we put out a call to staff asking for their recommendations for good reads and reflections on the topic of mental health and wellness. Below, you’ll find some of our staff picks highlighting works of fiction, non-fiction, drama and film that address aspects of individual and community wellness. Within these, we hope you’ll discover some of the points that stuck with us, from the importance of empathy, humor and understanding to the way shared reading can bring us closer, wherever we are. 

Speaking of which, take time now to draw close and learn more about our staff picks: 

Short Animations

How to Belong Be Alone by Pádraig Ó Tuama

This poem by Pádraig Ó Tuama—nicely illustrated and narrated—is about keeping oneself company. ”There is a you telling you another story of you. Listen to her.”

Caldera by Evan Viera  

There are no words in this short film, but it speaks volumes about isolation, fear and discovery. Inspired by his father’s struggle with schizoaffective disorder, the director does a really effective job of conveying a sense of marginalization and personal journey. As someone who grew up with siblings impacted by schizophrenia, this reminded me of some of the extraordinary challenges they have faced in life, and of their resilience. 

Books

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine 

It’s for young readers. It’s about a young girl with autism whose world is black and white, who discovers that life is full of colors, messy and beautiful.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson fills this memoir with candid, sly, screamingly funny, and ultimately deeply tender observations on her struggle with a whole host of mental illnesses. She observes, “I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

My daughter gifted this to me and my other daughter this last year. It’s in my stack of books to read. My other daughter read her copy and highly recommended it. Sharing books like this is a great way to stay connected with eachother, since we live in various parts of the world. 

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosch

In this collection of essays, illustrated in a distinctive spindly, MS-Paint style, Allie Brosch shares side-splittingly funny tales of her childhood, adulthood, pets, family, mental health, grief, loss, and the fundamental unfairness of life. A rare book that evokes tears of sorrow and laughter simultaneously. 

 

Drama and Film

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This one is well-known, and has become an award-winning play on Broadway. Seeing life through the eyes of a boy who perceives the world literally without emotion is fascinating, poignant and heart-wrenching. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things directed by Charlie Kaufman

Based on a book by Iain Reid, this film toys with concepts of time, aging, family, isolation and the blurring of selfhood. Mesmerizing, thought-provoking and sometimes difficult to follow, you feel as if you’re muddling through a fog of shifting time and reality alongside these very authentic and likeable characters. 

The Science of Sleep directed by Michel Gondry

This is one of the most visually beautiful films I have ever seen, but also an empathetic look at how loss and disconnection leaves the main character - Stéphane - feeling challenged to differentiate between dream and reality. Evidently the plot originally comes from a bedtime story written by a ten-year old, which makes me even fonder of it.

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life directed by Ric Burns

Oliver Sacks understood how important it was to be storied, to be understood. He said, “Much of my life has been spent trying to imagine what it’s like to be another human being.” Facing a terminal illness, he made a movie reflecting back on his life and what he’s learned, through experience, through therapy and by seeing his own patients as people rather than as a disease. 

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