To be mentally healthy requires work, and many youth and their families turn to some kind of therapy, counseling, or inpatient program to aid in that work. Sometimes it’s just a friendly listening ear or an elder who might have been in their shoes once. Whatever the outlet or regimen recommended, people with mental illness usually benefit from outside help. And on the flip side, many healthy people go to therapy too. Let’s normalize that!

 

Taking care of your mental health needs to be a priority. In the book Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow, through the entanglement of the main character and all she’s lost—her dad, her best friend, and her mom’s support—Charlotte (Charlie) has always turned to self-harm and other ways to become numb to her hurtful reality. She eventually finds herself and her life in pieces, and in an inpatient program to rehabilitate into a healthier person. But after being released from the program too soon, she has to work harder than ever to put herself together again while not feeling 100 percent in charge of her own world.

 

Near the last fourth of the book, Charlie finds herself relapsing and caving in on herself, and a lot of bad things happen. A couple of friends she met earlier in the book, Linus and Tanner, drive her to Santa Fe to get away from everything and regain ownership of her life through an informal rehabilitation place. It is mostly just a house run by Linus and Tanner’s grandfather, Felix. After sleeping for two days straight, Charlie sits down with Felix and the others to discuss what Felix diagnoses as a “heartbreak,” but it’s not like a normal heartbreak.



Everyone has that moment, I think, the moment when something so…momentous happens that it rips your very being into small pieces. And then you have to stop. For a long time, you gather your pieces. And it takes such a very long time, not to fit them back together, but to assemble them in a new way, not necessarily a better way. More, a way you can live with until you know for certain that this piece should go there, and that one there. (Kathleen Glasgow 355).

 

Lesson

  1. After reading the excerpt above, write down why this reflects a valuable lesson about rebuilding one’s self.
  2. With a small group, come up with positive ways you or others you know can rebuild themselves or help aid in their mental health.
    • Examples could include: talking to a therapist, finding a positive outlet for when life gets overwhelming or when the person is triggered, confiding in friends instead of keeping everything inside, etc.
  3. Linus and Tanner helped Charlie get support from Felix’s facility. What aspects of friendship did they demonstrate?
    • Examples: identifying someone who needed help, reached out to someone they knew who was older with experience, stuck by her side, etc.
  4. Now think about your own friends. Identify some instances when you should speak up and get help for your friends who are in crisis or may be struggling.
  5. After the small groups discuss and answer the questions above, prepare a slide or small handout with in-school resources for helping themselves or a friend.
    • Example: counselors names and contact information/office hours, specific therapy programs available, phone numbers to call, etc.

 

Download the lesson below to save or print easily!

DOWNLOAD LESSON

 

Jennifer Dryden is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and advocates for queer youth any way she can, including running her school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). She has a passion for reading and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her eighth year teaching. Dryden graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.