Reviewer: Sundeep S. Randhawa, MD (Rush University Medical Center)
Description: This book is designed to help teenagers obtain a better understanding of mental health and what it means for them.
Purpose: The purpose is to present facts, warning signs, and information about the diagnosis of mental illness and to explain differences between the adult and teenage brain. The book explains specific disorders, treatments, therapies, and theories on how mental illness evolves and is treated. Although these objectives are definitely worthy, the book can be pretty overwhelming for the target audience. Some of the disorders are discussed in detail with diagnostic criteria from the DSM. My concern is that this age group tends to be impressionistic, and that reading about the disorders and their symptoms can pseudo-convince them that they have a disorder. The book meets its objectives, but the intended readers may not be on the same page.
Audience: Teens with a possible diagnosis of mental illness or those who want to know more about it are the intended audience. However, teenagers with a possible mental illness may already have a form of anxiety when reading a book specifically about mental health. Information on neurotransmitters, specific medications, or neuroanatomy, for example, may be too complex for this audience to comprehend. The information the book provides is accurate, it just may not be the most appropriate way to reach this audience. You don't need a professional coach to teach someone the fundamentals of a game sometimes presenting the basics with some added spice does the trick with this age group.
Features: The book covers a variety of disorders, providing an overview, symptoms, and treatments. It loosely covers a handful of personality disorders and culminates with treatments/psychotherapies and specific issues that teenagers may be experiencing, along with information/hotlines to be used in times of need. I like how the book provides websites/links as well phone numbers for readers these are things they will actually use first since they will have some control.
Assessment: This book does a great job meeting its objectives, but at times seems to forget who the target audience is. I would make it simple and add some case vignettes before explaining a particular disorder. The mental health chapter should come at the beginning of the book to orient readers to the topic before proceeding to the disorders. This book discusses three personality disorders, all cluster B, to the exclusion of any others. Bullying/teasing has a significant effect on teenager mental health, and the book should provide much more information about it and strategies to cope with it. Real-world examples would be the most effective way to help teenagers understand mental health issues.