Hang around older folks for more than a minute, and you
might hear them mention their arthritis, bad back, bad
knees, and other aches and pains. They do it openly because
we have no problem talking about physical hurts or
disabilities. So why is it hard to talk about mental health?
It shouldn’t be. People deal with mental health issues all
the time, and saying they’re “crazy” can mean different
things. It can include an aversion to sounds or a way of
looking at one’s body. It can be sadness or compulsion.
Overall, though, the thing to remember is that even when it
feels the messiest and most overwhelming, “crazy” does not
define an individual. You can be a “Latina Feminist Mental
Health Activist or a psychiatrist-in-training or someone
who’s trying to deal with family issues, whatever, but the
disease is not you.
Or maybe you don’t know even you have mental illness.
That happens. You go about living life, enjoying your quirks
until someone says you’re “crazy,” and you go look it up.
Surprise! Your quirk is suddenly in a book somewhere and you
learn, to enormous relief (and maybe ill-placed
embarrassment), that you’re not alone in this. And that’s
the whole point: you’re not alone.
Whatever you’re feeling, there’s a chance that someone else
has been through something similar. They’re not you, but
they know your mania, your body dysmorphia, your OCD or PTSD
or depression or anxiety or the isolation all these things
might bring. They know and they’ve survived. They know
“there’s always someone there to help…”
Baby steps. That’s the simple takeaway from (Don’t) Call
Me Crazy: just two words that a teen will learn when
facing mental illness.
It takes 33 “voices” to get there, and each one hammers
across the point – some with humor, others with fear that
leaps between a reader’s hands, still others that offer a
facts-only account that will comfort readers who don’t want
embellishment. The writers featured here also come from
different backgrounds, including those of color and a trans
woman, all of whom are the least-discussed in mental health
The biggest help, though, comes from the sense of community
that this book offers in the form of been-there stories from
survivors and those who are works in progress. Either overt
or implied, the words “It’s okay, you’re not alone” are
Though it’s meant for 12-to-20-year-olds who desperately
need its compassion, this book is a good start to a long
adult conversation. (Don’t) Call Me Crazy could also
offer good insight for professionals, parents, and friends
to help shoulder the pain.