Grade 5 student in Simcoe County writes book on youth mental health

Grade 5 Shanty Bay Public School student, Madison McDermott, wrote and illustrated a new book titled You Are Never Alone that explores the challenges of living with mental health issues and addictions. The book will be distributed to all schools throughout Simcoe County.

Madison McDermott, 11, wants her peers to know they are never alone

Madison McDermott, 11, will have her new book about youth mental health, You Are Never Alone, distributed to schools throughout Simcoe County. (Jennifer McDermott)

A book about youth mental health, written and illustrated by a Grade 5 Shanty Bay student will be distributed to schools throughout Simcoe County.

Madison McDermott, 11, is the author and illustrator of You Are Never Alone, a story that explores the life of a local woman who navigates her way through her parents' divorce, the pressures of high school, teen pregnancy, and the battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

"I wrote a book because it's a great way to share primary prevention and it's really accessible," she said.

Madison said she was part of a group called Change Agents at her school. They were challenged to pick a United Nations global goal issue and try to make change in that area.

She decided to interview a local resident about her personal struggles with mental health and addiction. 

In an excerpt from the book, it's clear Madison doesn't shy away from the painful and complex details of the story.

"When I was 18 years old, I became pregnant and had a baby girl. Sadly because of the chaos and the pain connected to my low self esteem and addiction, life was unmanageable and I couldn't raise my baby," it reads.

Madison says the topic of mental health is regular dinner-table talk for her family as her grandfather was an addictions medicine doctor who battled alcoholism, and her mother is a counsellor.

"A lot of youth experience mental health and addictions, one-in-five youth, actually. Our family, we talk a lot about mental health and addictions and we think it's important to talk about it and not have the stigma."

Madison's mother, Jennifer McDermott, describes her daughter as hard working and always up for a challenge.

"She had a certain vision, and it was a big one but it doesn't surprise me" she explained. "It's been a great experience because I think she wanted to set out to create awareness and she absolutely has."

Jennifer McDermott said researching, writing, and illustrating this book has helped Madison herself become more aware.

Madison McDermott also did all the illustrations in her new book about youth mental health. (Jennifer McDermott)

"I think it's a real understanding of mental health and addiction so that not only she can take care of herself and understand different experiences that she'll go through so that she won't feel alone, but she'll also be a great resource and advocate in the community."

The book describes coping mechanisms, discussion points for parents and teachers, as well as a list of resources at the back.

Madison said she simply hopes that when people read her book, they get the message.

"Know that there are many resources and that you are never alone, and also that all feelings are ok."