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Library News

By: Rose Boerner, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: October 2, 2009

Mental Health Resources at Library

Do you or someone you know have a mental illness?  Are you familiar with the symptoms and warning signs of mental illness?

The World Health Organization has reported that four of the ten leading causes of disability in the U.S. and other developed countries are mental disorders.  The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in four adults – approximately 57.7 million Americans – experience a mental health disorder in a given year. 

If you would like to learn more about mental illnesses, the Sedona Public Library has an impressive collection of books on this subject.  These books are an excellent resource for people who want to learn more about mental disorders such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), dissociative disorders, eating disorders, schizoaffective disorder….the list goes on and on. 

Some of these books will be on display at the Library the week of October 4-10, 2009, which is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW).  Established by Congress and now in its 19th year, MIAW takes place the first week of October each year, and recognizes the efforts of mental health advocates all over the country to raise mental illness awareness, promote early detection and accurate diagnosis, and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.  As a resource to the community, the Library, together with the local NAMI organization (National Alliance on Mental Illness), will have a display of books and other educational materials regarding mental illness during MIAW.

By reading about mental illnesses you’ll learn that there are mental health conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. These disorders usually strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood and can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. 

I searched the Library catalog for books on mental illness in general and specific mental disorders and I found an extensive selection.  Many of them are available at the Library and all the ones I mention in this column are at SPL.  For example, a search for the terms “mental illness” and “depression” produced over 500 results. For general mental illness symptoms, a good book to read is Fifty Signs of Mental Illness: A Guide to Understanding Mental Health by James Whitney Hicks.  The text is organized alphabetically by symptom and each chapter begins with a story or character study, wasting no words and providing more than one might expect without getting technical. 

A good book to read if you want to help someone who has no awareness of his mental illness is I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help!: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment by Dr. Xavier Amador.  This book addresses the nature of patients’ unawareness of their illness (called anosognosia) and provides a practical approach to getting a severely ill person to accept needed treatment.

When I searched the catalog for Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as manic depression), a list of more than 100 books appeared.  The 16 books that are available at SPL offer different perspectives.  Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families by Dr. Frank Mondimore offers a comprehensive and practical guide to the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and causes of this illness. For each of the various treatment options, Dr. Mondimore discusses advantages, disadvantages, side effects, and other information to help patients make informed decisions.

Regarding schizophrenia, my search produced 138 results.  Two recently published books that are available at SPL are:  Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of my Family's Schizophrenia, by Patrick Austin Tracey.  In this book, the author looks at his family's battle with the scourge of schizophrenia, tracing the origins of the disease through earlier generations of his family against the backdrop of Irish history to reveal Ireland's long link to mental illness.  The Soloist – a Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez is the true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who develops schizophrenia and becomes homeless, and his friendship with Steve Lopez, the Los Angeles columnist who discovers and writes about him in the newspaper. The recent movie The Soloist is based on this book.

Another book on schizophrenia that was published several years ago and was also made into a movie, A Beautiful Mind: the Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash, is the true story of Nash, who was a legend by age 30 when he slipped into madness, and who – thanks to his wife’s selflessness and the loyalty of the mathematics community – emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim.
Space limitations prevent me from providing details on more books.  However, if you are looking for a title or author regarding a particular mental illness, just go to the SPL homepage and under Find Books and More, click on Search Catalog which will bring you to the Basic Search page.

The main message your research will provide is that mental illnesses are treatable.  With appropriate effective medication and professional intervention, most people with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence.  Also, you’ll discover that people with mental illnesses enrich our lives – take a look at this list:  Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Buzz Aldrin, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Sylvia Plath, Carrie Fisher, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Michelangelo, Brian Wilson, John Keats, Vincent van Gogh, Jane Pauley, Patty Duke, Beethoven, Isaac Newton, Tennessee Williams, Mike Wallace, Tipper Gore. 

A final thought:  perhaps you may agree with one of the “House-isms” uttered by the star of the Fox TV show House:  “Normal’s overrated.”

Rose Boerner
Rose Boerner, author of this week's article,
is Secretary of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Nominating Committee of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.