This is the third year of LIS Mental Health Week, and I'm not sure quite what to say any more. Mental illness is being scapegoated for the latest mass shooting in the US, despite the fact that people with mental illness are much, much more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of violence. A teacher librarian at the school took action that saved student lives, saying she knew what to do because a librarian friend at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, had told her how she had saved people during that mass shooting.
So, I guess I am thinking about trauma. When library workers are stocking and administering Narcan (and learning about it from former cops at ALA Midwinter), I wonder about how we are also trained to recognize addictions, treat users with respect, rather than just as a security problem. In a Trauma Stewardship training I went to recently, social worker Laura van Dernoot Lipsky described the ways that secondary trauma can manifest as desensitization, as anxiety, as callousness to our clients. How do librarians who work with trauma, or traumatized people, carry that, on top of whatever our own lives have served us? How are we trained to do that? How are we supported in that? If at all?
At the President's Program at ALA Midwinter last week, participants suggested that libraries should accept programming or materials from groups like Exodus International. I just...I just cannot. Queer young folks are so much more likely to attempt suicide, to be bullied, to experience depression and anxiety. But, neutrality. Okay. Not okay.
So, I don't know. This year, I don't feel like I have a lot of bandwidth to advocate. You probably already know what I'm going to say, anyway: find ways (that make sense) to talk to your bosses, your colleagues, and even your users. Make sure you have varied and rich stories and information about mental illness and health. Get your institution an EAP program, and use it. As my mom always taught me, if you have access to therapy, go. Encourage other people to, too.
I feel grateful that other people seem interested to keep talking about mental health in libraries. Thank you to Abigail, Annie, Kate, Nicole, and Violet for all their work to keep things going this year. Violet compiled the badass Reserve and Renew zine that she and Annie had the idea for, and all the money raised will go to Mental Health First Aid. I'm also grateful for things like this free webinar ALA is putting on next month about Mental Health Awareness and the Library Profession. And I'm glad as hell that one of my other coworkers sent out an email to all our staff about that, and offered to arrange a room for folks to watch it together. I'll be there.