Mental Health Awareness Month, Books Humanize Mental Illness

May 1
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MHAM Humanizing Mental IllnessMental Health Awareness Month is here, and with it a purpose: to humanize mental illness. Humanizing mental illness is, in part:

  • realizing that mental illness is something a person deals with rather than who a person is
  • understanding the specific things a person is experiencing (“mental illness” is a blanket term, as vague as “physical illness)
  • seeing someone’s strengths
  • realizing that mental illness isn’t a wrong way of being in the world but instead is a different way of experiencing the world

The month of May is devoted to humanizing mental illness, to increasing understanding and empathy. Of course, building empathy and understanding isn’t limited to 31 days in an entire year; having a month dedicated to this just intensifies the ever-present purpose.

For me, humanizing mental illness is my life’s work. I draw on my professional background as a nationally certified counselor to provide accurate factual information about various mental illnesses because knowing the facts about what these brain-based illnesses are dispels stereotypes and misunderstanding. And I draw on my personal background, a traumatic brain injury followed by diagnoses of bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety disorders. These come together in the form of novels.

True, novels are fiction. Fiction is a powerful vehicle for teaching fact. And fiction is about characters, about people. When reading stories, people empathize with characters.  Commonly, people transfer their empathy to real-life human beings.  This is what mental health awareness is all about: humanizing mental illness and increasing understanding and empathy.

My latest novel, Twenty-Four Shadows was released by Apprentice House on May 1, 2016 to coincide with mental health awareness month. In the novel, bizarre encounters and behaviors lead family man Isaac Bittman to discover that his personality has splintered into twenty-four shadows, or alters, thanks to the childhood trauma he’s repressed. Is his wife’s love strong enough for all of him?

From early reviewers:

  • “Twenty-Four Shadows reads like a dramatization of a real-world case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, thanks to Peterson’s skill at humanizing the disorder while maintaining scientific integrity”. — Yuliya Geikhman of The US Review of Books; Recommended by the US Review
  • “Twenty-Four Shadows is a must-read. I fell in love with the characters. This book, just like Ms. Peterson’s previous ones, illustrates the struggles of living with mental illness…It’s a story about understanding, compassion and love.”  — Nikky, mental health consumer, reader, book reviewer
  • Twenty-Four Shadows is a captivating portrait of the struggle, love and sometimes loss involved with those enduring mental illness.” — O’Donis Person, Psychiatric RN, motivational coach
  • “I applaud Peterson’s work as it is sensitive to the subject matter and consistently enjoyable to read.” —  Shawn Verdin, LPC, LAC; Program Director – Behavioral Health Unit

Perhaps this sums up Twenty-Four Shadows and Mental Health Awareness Month’s purpose of humanizing mental illness:


Isaac Bittman is an ordinary guy living a very confusing life.


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