Juno Dawson is a prominent transgender activist and writer. Known for her fact-driven books, she focuses on topics teens wonder about or need to understand to live healthily. Mind Your Head offers vital mental health information, This Book is Gay examines sexuality, and Being a Boy dials in on just that. In Mind Your Head, Dawson guides the discussion and brings in clinical psychologist Dr. Olivia Hewitt to offer credible mental health advice.
Putting facts in front of students’ faces helps them decipher that their feelings aren’t irrational—that their mental health needs attention. This book does a great job of being informative, and it also provides coping mechanisms for students to use.
Another part of this book deals with identity and practicing positive self-talk when describing yourself instead of focusing on labels, which don’t truly shape you.
In chapter 12, Dr. Olivia talks about identity and how it is forever growing and changing.
As a teenager your identity is growing and changing as you discover what kind of person you are and who you want to be. We all try on different identities and self-images over time and discard those things we don’t like or that no longer fit us. When people identify very closely with a psychiatric diagnosis—for example, they feel that being ‘AN ANOREXIC’ is a large part of who they are—this can make moving on and getting better even more difficult.
Whether you see it or not, all of us are made up of multiple identities—a friend, a brother, a sister, an athlete, a lesbian, a bookworm—all of these elements interact, but none wholly define us by themselves. Managing our mental health is one part of our life, but if that’s all we have, the funhouse walls will start shrinking in. Our lives will become smaller and smaller, with room only for you and your mental illness. (184–185)
It goes on to say that the author refuses to believe that the most interesting part of anyone is the state of their mental health.
Have students reflect on their identities in the lesson below!
Jennifer Epping is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She has a passion for reading, writing, and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her ninth year teaching. Epping 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.