Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book Nook: Dark Agents

I recently had a chance to review a new graphic novel, Dark Agents, Book One: Violet and the Trial of Trauma, which comes out in March, and is designed to arm teens and young adults with the tools they need to improve mental health. Half of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 70% of adolescents experiencing mental health problems have not had appropriate treatment early enough.

The books was written by a leading US Clinical Psychologist – Janina Scarlet was awarded the UN’s Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award for developing ‘Superhero Therapy.’ Readers will join 19-year-old witch Violet, the newest member of the Underworld Intelligence Agency, as she battles the evil villains threatening the future of magical beings.The novel's heroes fight their own mental health battles - Violet's greatest challenge yet is to overcome the trauma of her parents' murders.
The book had many appealing elements - a relatable main character, easy-to-read and engaging graphic novel format, a plot that moved along well. It also incorporated mental health topics, coping skills, and language to help talk about struggles. By working this into a format that appeals to many adolescents, it helps reduce the stigma and empower kids to talk about mental health.
I had a chance to interview the author to learn more.

Why did you write this book?
Many teens and young adults experience some kind of a mental health difficulty, such as depression, anxiety, bullying, or trauma, yet most do not know how to identify what they are going through. For example, many people still think that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is something only service members go through. However, many teens and young adults go through trauma and might not even realize it. This book was written to start a conversation about mental health and how we can learn to cope with trauma.
This is the first graphic novel in the series of eight, each of which will be from a different character’s perspective, focusing on a different element of mental health. My hope is that by learning about these mental health aspects, the readers will find an easier time to help themselves if they are struggling with mental health and develop empathy for others who might be going through these difficulties.

How can graphic novels help kids explore potentially difficult topics?
Graphic novels can present potentially difficult topics, like death, trauma, and mental health in an easy to understand format. By showing the characters’ facial expressions and related dialogue, the readers might have an easier time understanding their own emotions, as well as how to process them.

How can parents use books to start conversations about mental health?
The parents can read the books either alongside or separately from their children and then have a discussion about the book. Here are some examples of questions parents can ask their kids:
  • Who is your favorite character? Why are they your favorite?
  • What do you think this character is going through?
  • How do you think this character feels here?
  • Have you ever felt this way?
  • What made you feel this way in the past?
  • How did you cope with it?
  • What did you need?
  • Next time you feel this way, how can I help?

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