Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Hello, I’m Erin Kernohan-Berning from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
Although there seems to be more awareness about mental health than ever before, because difficulties with our mental health affect us in such a personal way, we can still be reluctant to talk about it with others, and may even feel that we are alone in our struggles. This is where, along with proper professional care, books can be very helpful. Whether fiction or nonfiction, memoir or self-help, there are a great many books surrounding the topic of mental health. And whether you are curious about a specific mental illness, or are just wanting to find ways to keep your mental health in good shape, taking some quiet time for yourself with a book can help you reflect on yourself while relating to others who may have shared your situation.
Today on Library Moments, Sherrill Sherwood and I will talk about some books about mental health that you can get at Haliburton County Public Library.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collection Development Coordinator: Before I talk about books, I want to mention that the people of Haliburton County are so lucky to have in our very own community a thirteen week mindfulness program available through the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team, run by Social Worker Barb Fraser. Attendees of the Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management Programme learn the principles of mindfulness meditation, the importance of living in the moment and the power of now, and how these relate to suffering less pain. Mindfulness assists in remaining calmer and more pain controlled despite the challenges of everyday life, such as when interacting with family, friends, colleagues, employers and insurers. This can change the intensity of pain suffering, both emotional and physical, in a very positive way. In addition to receiving professional care such as this, there are a variety of mindfulness titles in the library’s collection to read to further understand the practice. One such book, The Mindful Path To Self-Compassion: freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions by Dr. Christopher Germer answers the question; What would happen if, instead of fighting difficult emotions, we accepted them? Over his decades of experience as a therapist and mindfulness meditation practitioner, Dr. Germer has learned an important lesson: We all want to avoid pain, but letting it in–and responding compassionately to our own imperfections, without judgment or self-blame–are essential steps to healing. Dr. Germer realizes that it sounds backwards for people to turn toward their emotional pain instead of running from it, and that any thinking person is likely to ask “Why would I want to do that?” The first chapter of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion is dedicated to making you understand why it’s often the best thing to do. The rest of the book will show you how to accomplish this task. First you’ll learn how to bring mindful awareness to what’s bothering you. Then you’ll discover how to bring kindness to yourself, especially when you’re feeling really bad. That combination — mindfulness and self-compassion – can transform even the worst times of our lives.
Erin: There are many fiction books in our collection that feature protagonists who are dealing with mental health challenges while navigating challenges of everyday life. Fiction, in general, has the ability to increase empathy and understanding – possibly to a greater extent than nonfiction. There’s something about a fictional character that lets us put ourselves in their shoes and experience what they are experiencing more than reading a book about a real person. In Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, 17 year old Aza Holmes has multiple anxiety disorders, and is prone to getting trapped in spirals of unwanted thoughts. All the while she is doing her best to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student… oh and trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of a billionaire with a $100,000 reward on the line, while navigating a crush on that billionaire’s son, Davis. To the outside observer, Aza simply seems quiet and a little quirky; even those who know her, and know there’s more going on, can’t quite see what Aza is going through. But as the reader we get a front row seat to Aza’s non-stop inner monologue. Turtles All the Way Down was published in October 2017, and is John Green’s first novel since his extraordinarily popular 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars. Authors often inject autobiographical elements into their fiction – often the best fiction includes stories that closely mirror an author’s personal experiences. Of Turtles All the Way Down, John Green has said “This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood, so while the story is fictional, it is also quite personal.”
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1 in 5 Canadians in any given year will experience mental illness. We can help end the stigma around mental illness by cultivating empathy and compassion for others and ourselves, and books can be a part of that. If you need help, make sure you talk to a health care practitioner, or find a local social service by calling 211 or visiting Ontario211.ca.
That’s it for this week’s Library Moments. Thanks for listening here on 100.9 CANOE FM.
*Originally aired in June 2018 on 100.9 CANOE FM.