Books for mental health awareness month in May

By Yolanda T. Marshall

Writers Corner

Annually, one in five Canadians battles with a mental illness. According to CAMH, the disease burden of mental illness in Ontario alone is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together and over seven times that of all infectious diseases. Reports of poor mental health are higher amongst the lowest income group. Adults over 45 years old account for over half of reported suicides. Stigma remains one of the dominant reasons many within the Caribbean diaspora are reluctant to disclose their struggles with mental health. Here are a few recommended books to read about mental health.

Once Broken

Once Broken by Tanasha Smith, a registered social worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. Smith provides counselling services to individuals of all ages and relations status. She teaches the significance of self-care and the power of self-worth.

“Once Broken is intended for the young girl who struggles with Mental Health and has experienced traumatic life challenges, and has yet to come into her full self. If you have lost sight of your self-worth and your dreams, this book will empower you to find the strength to master “self” and live your truth. Challenges such as Mental health are often overlooked by negative influences such as societal social stigma, making it difficult to seek support. This book will help you normalise the societal stigma attached to mental health and give hope to those young women who desire to be free, find their true selves, and know that they should never give up because there is victory after the storm” – Library and Archives Canada, Feb. 2021.


Brother, written by the Scarborough award-winning author of Trinidadian heritage, David Chariandy. This moving story is about brothers Francis and Michael, whose parents are Trinidadian immigrants. It touches on the power of the bonds we form and the journey of survival.

Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of townhouses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry–teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves” – McClelland & Stewart, May 2018.


Embracing the Valley

Embracing the Valley was written by J Nadia Headley Bs Ma, a St. John’s University graduate born in Barbados. She is a cancer survivor, whose dream is to build an environmentally and economically self-sustained parallel school system in the Caribbean.

“Nadia takes readers through the transformational process of shifting defeatist mindsets into powerful determinants of the future. These steps are punctuated with stories that dynamically illustrate the guidance provided. Treat yourself to her Memoirs from the Valley through her poetic expression of love, pain, joy, isolation, and victory. Allow yourself to renew, rediscover and relaunch regardless of the hard paths of life so you can define your vision, find your voice, determine the version of your story that you want to be told and live a life of victory.” – Writers Republic LLC, Sept. 2021.



Knots and Laces

Knots in My Laces, Knots in My Tummy, written by Julene Butler and illustrated by Asia Aurangzeb. Julene is a graduate of Ryerson University and holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Child and Youth Care. This wife and mother of Caribbean heritage spend her spare time volunteering as a mentor to youths.

Knots in My Laces, Knots in My Tummy is Julene Butler’s debut book. It is a children’s picture book that creatively and sensitively presents anxiety symptoms in children. It also provides parents with helpful information on commonly asked questions and details about what they can do if they think their child displays anxiety signs. – Julene Butler, Oct. 2020.


If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call 1-833-456-4566 (24/7). Kids Help Phone, call 1-800-668-6868 for ages 5 to 29 (24/7). CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) 416 535-8501 or 1 800 463-2338 toll-free, staffed 24/7.