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Inspirational story sheds light on kids’ depression

Jan 24, 2019 12:12PM ● By MED Magazine

A newly published book, “A New Norm,” is an inspirational story intended to touch the lives of children, adolescents and even adults who suffer from depression and related mental health conditions.

Published in partnership by Children’s Home Society (CHS) of South Dakota and Avera Health of Sioux Falls, S.D., the new book will be available for purchase online today.

“Children’s Home Society is honored to partner with Avera Health on this book project,” said Rick Weber, CHS Development Director. “We are hopeful that “A New Norm” will raise awareness about mental wellness toward the goal of all children and youth getting the help and support they need and deserve.” 

Written for children ages 7 to 14, “A New Norm” is the story of a boy whose “norm” was living with a cloud on his head, and nothing he tried could make it go away. The story expresses the confusing and stormy feelings that can overwhelm young people, but can speak to older teens and adults as well.

By identifying negative thoughts and emotions that are potentially harmful, the book encourages young people to seek conversations with people they trust. It can help foster meaningful discussions between parents and their children, in youth groups, and in classrooms. The book’s message is to be that “spark of hope” for those who are struggling.

“Norm, like many kids we see, goes through a time of crisis and through that comes to realize there is hope,” said Shantrel DeJong, Lead Behavioral Health Technician in Avera’s adolescent inpatient program. “That’s the truth we want kids to hear.”

DeJong brought forward the idea of writing a book to help the youth she works with, and she wrote discussion questions to accompany the story. Resources for getting help, including Avera’s 24-hour assessment line, are also listed.

Over 20 percent of youth experience one or more mental health conditions, such as depression, ADHD or behavior problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many cases go undiagnosed and untreated.

“As the leading behavioral health provider in our service area, Avera serves those who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and related conditions on a day-to-day basis. These conditions cause a great deal of pain and disruption in their lives and the lives of their families,” said Matthew Stanley, DO, Clinical Vice President of Avera’s Behavioral Health Service Line. Avera’s resources include a large team of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists in outpatient care as well as specialized inpatient units for children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and young adults, ages 5 to 24. “As a health system, we have stepped up our suicide prevention efforts, for example, using depression screenings at primary care locations and emergency rooms. This book is a way we can raise awareness and reach out to those who are hurting in a simple, non-threatening way,” Stanley said. “There is hope. Help is available. That’s the message that we want to send.”

In addition to “A New Norm,” author Tom Roberts has written six books benefitting CHS. He and his wife, Tammy, have raised awareness for CHS through storytelling presentations and book signings. Their efforts have raised $1.2 million to help CHS children and families.  This is also the sixth book illustrated by Jim Brummond, an artist, graphic designer, and photographer.

Through book sales, CHS and the Avera McKennan Foundation are raising funds to place books in area schools. Donations will also go toward programs that change lives at both CHS and Avera Behavioral Health Services.

Books can be purchased for $13 per copy with shipping and handling. To learn more or purchase books, go to  or This site has discussion guides and crisis line numbers available.