In the years since my debut novel None of the Above was released, I’ve been asked by countless teachers and librarians what I was working on next. My stock answer was that I was working on being a full-time physician and mother, but that was only part of the truth. The real answer was that I needed to find the right story, one I believed in so strongly that I was willing to take time from my other responsibilities to write it.
After five years, I finally found that story. Or rather, it found me.
My child was entering the tween phase of their life, and I was beginning to see in them a growing anxiety, and periods of melancholy that reminded me—terrifyingly—of the several bouts of depression that I’ve experienced in my life. Almost immediately, my focus as a mother turned from Girl Scouts and science fair projects to wondering what I could do to give my daughter the vocabulary to identify her feelings, the permission to be sad and anxious, and the grace to understand that it’s not shameful to seek help if you need it.
It’s a set of tools that I—like many people, particularly children of immigrants—never had.
Despite decades of mental health awareness efforts—remember when Tipper Gore hosted the White House’s first Conference on Mental Health in 1999?—there is still so much work to be done.