May is Mental Health Awareness Month, bringing new attention to the lives and experiences of those who live with mental illness. Our speakers share their own experiences of how mental illness has affected their lives, while challenging us to face our own assumptions about what living with mental illness looks like and to reevaluate our notions of recovery and healing.
When a devastating injury forced James Hatch to retire from the military after a 24-year career, he wrestled with the lasting mental effects of trauma, even as his physical health improved. Hatch was ultimately able to find a renewed sense of purpose through the support of his friends and family, as movingly chronicled in his new memoir Touching the Dragon. Since his recovery, Hatch has dedicated his life to eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness for veterans as well as civilians, showing that recovery is a team effort that begins with one person reaching out. His frank honesty inspires people to reframe the way they think about mental illness and recovery as well as the true meaning of leadership and teamwork.
An author of young adult novels that appeal to teen and adult fans alike, John Green followed up the bestselling The Fault in Our Stars with Turtles All the Way Down, a gripping story that takes readers into the mind of a teenager struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Drawing on his own experience, Green discusses his writing process and inspiration for his latest bestseller.
Nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her debut, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Erika L. Sánchez draws on her experiences as the daughter of formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants to address urgent themes in her fiction and poetry, including belonging, women’s rights, and mental health. Sánchez is a much-requested speaker for young adult and university audiences and leaves audiences empowered to tell their own stories.
Currently a reporter covering Latin America, Jean Guerrero will make her literary debut this July with her memoir Crux, which won the prestigious 2016 PEN/FUSION Literary Prize while still a manuscript. Focusing on the life of her father, a Mexican immigrant who struggled with addiction and mental health, Guerrero’s speeches trace her efforts to understand her father’s psyche and make unexpected connections between popular perceptions of mental illness and American cultural influences.