BY GREGORY HEDGEPETH
Writers are notorious for having mental health issues, most likely because we’re always in our own heads, constantly obsessing over the worlds, characters and scenarios we have created. Here at Vital Narrative, we are no different as a number of us advocate for and suffer with our own mental health issues, myself included.
As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, I felt it was important to share my experience reading Heaven Isn’t Me, the third novel from Darlene P. Campos. After completing my first read, I couldn’t deny how at ease I felt. There was such a calm in my spirit, because I felt seen and understood. In fact, it felt like she wrote it specifically for me. The story revolves around a 14-year-old girl named Elysian who discovers she is suffering with anxiety. The most poignant part of the narrative deals with the many stigmas surrounding mental health diseases in the form of Elysian’s family, who perceive it to be “all in her head.”
I was about 25 before I began to discuss my mental health issues openly, and since then, I’ve been a champion of others revealing theirs, because I see the impact and empowerment that comes with realizing you aren’t alone. These afflictions convince us that there’s no one else struggling with the same thing, even though we know it isn’t true. That’s why it’s important that we stay vigilant about treating these issues, but also help rid the world of the stigmas that come with them.
Darlene’s novel is going to save a lot of lives. When you consider that even though anxiety and depression are treatable, but 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60 percent of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment (according to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report), it becomes clear that this novel could serve as the caveat that drives teenagers and adolescents to seek treatment and not fear that which ails them. Despite the fact that the dialogue about mental health is finally coming to the forefront of mainstream media, we must remain attentive and sympathetic to the needs of those currently dealing with these illnesses.
When I asked Darlene about what led her to craft this novel, she said:
If I had come across these words as an adolescent, life would’ve been so much easier to navigate and I wouldn’t have spent so many years trying to hide myself and my affliction. Words can’t express how grateful I am for Darlene and her novel, which I’m sure will help ease the minds of us who feel alone, different or flawed as we cope with anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, substance abuse and the plethora of disorders stemming from mental health illnesses. I’m proud to say Heaven Isn’t Me will release through Vital Narrative Press later this year.
Take a sneak peek at part of the cover below.
To my fellow mental health sufferers, continue to stay strong and seek help when you need to. If you are a young person in need of mental health resources, visit the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.
Gregory Hedgepeth is the editor-in-chief of Vital Narrative Press. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Feel free to follow on all three. Or maybe just two. Yeah, two’s probably good — he’s not that interesting. Gregory Hedgepeth is also the author of MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUNRISES, THE YEAR THAT ANSWERED and A COLLECTION OF ECHOES. BUY THAT SHIT.