BOSTON — Storytime at the Sarah Greenwood Elementary School in Dorchester was no ordinary read on Tuesday.
Massachusetts' Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders was on hand to kick off a new state campaign addressing depression and anxiety in children.
"It's important for all of us to remember there's both physical illnesses and mental illnesses," Sudders said. "And we shouldn't be ashamed of them."
To combat that shame, the state commissioned the creation of Isaac's Story. It's a graphic novel about a boy recently diagnosed with a mental illness.
"Isaac's story is based on a real kid that we met and talked to," author Leigh Hallissey said.
In the book, Isaac develops anxiety and winds up hospitalized. He discusses this with his friend, Mia.
"It's awesome to know that this could be helping kids younger than teenagers to understand mental health and be able to talk with their parents about it," illustrator Christina Kelly said.
The Centers for Disease Control reports more kids than ever need help.
"Our task is to get this graphic novel and the video and the teacher's guides out to as many schools as we can across the commonwealth," Mental health Commissioner Joan Mikula said.
Over a recent nine-year period, the agency found the number of kids diagnosed with depression or anxiety went from 5.4 percent to 8.4 percent.
After the reading of the book, the secretary took questions from the kids. Some of them opened up about depression in their own families. Some said they've even felt depressed themselves.
Their willingness moved some in the tiny library and impressed Secretary Sudders.
"The fact they can talk about it and not feel ashamed is just so very important for them to feel healthy -- you know both physically and mentally," she said.
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