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It's Not Safe to be Out: Using Teen Fiction to Create Safe Spaces for Teens with Mental Illness
August 9, 10:05-11:35am

Anne Hird, Ph.D.
, Secondary Education, Bridgewater State University

  • ELA, Library, 7-12, Teachers, Administrators
  • Audience cap: 26

Twenty percent of teens will experience mental illness by the time they reach 18 and only half will receive treatment. Countless others are living with and in many cases caring for a mentally ill parent. But it is still not safe to be “out” as a teen facing mental health challenges, due to constant negative images of mental illness. Media coverage of mass shootings and subsequent calls for gun control laws to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill promote the myth that the every mentally ill person is extremely violent and volatile. Books like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Girl, Interrupted perpetuate stereotypes of long abandoned, often inhumane, treatment for mental illness.

In this climate, even adults who are living successfully with mental illness and could be role models for teens, remain invisible. Teachers can’t solve this problem, but you can help make your classroom a safe haven. In this workshop, learn how teens are affected by mental illness and the common stereotypes, stigma, and discrimination they face. Listen to video accounts by teens living with mental illness and learn ways to use contemporary novels about teens struggling with mental illness to replace stigma with understanding.


Dr. Anne Hird is passionate about reading and teaching with young adult literature. Her experience includes teaching in the Providence Public Schools, directing the $1.1 million dollar Library Power grant across 27 schools, and teaching young adult literature at Bridgewater State University.

This past year, Hird received a Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice grant to design and teach a new course on mental illness in teen fiction. She holds degrees from Brown University, Simmons College, and Rhode Island College.

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