High School Junior Writes Mental Health Manual for Peers

At 17, Tessa Booth has pulled together the diverse pieces of her life to create a book nearly ready for publication as part of a years-long project.


Tessa Booth is a 17-year-old junior at Peninsula High School preparing to publish her first book, a mental health manual, “You Are Not Alone.” It is the culmination of two years of work and the goal of her Gold Award for Girl Scouts.

“It’s been kind of a hard project because it’s so big,” she said. “It’s been going on since 2022, and my parents have been very supportive.”

Booth is new to PHS, having moved from Federal Way about a year ago and transferring from Summit Olympus High School in Tacoma, a smaller charter college-preparatory high school. She belongs to the National Honor Society and has been a member of the Girl Scouts since she was 6 years old.

“I’ve always been a good student, and I have always taken an interest in mental health as I got older, and I have always wanted to help my community. I enjoy the community hours I have put in with the National Honor Society. That has always been my passion, helping others. So that is how this project started.”

Reflecting on her personal mental health challenges led to creating her manual. “I first started out addressing it (by) writing down healthy skills to help me remember.”

Booth said she has struggled with social anxiety from her early years onward. “I have always had a problem connecting with people since I have Asperger’s Syndrome.” Like many young people, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated her symptoms, and depression also became part of her mental health challenges. Returning to in-person classrooms was very difficult. Booth accepted mental health counseling and medication as a part of her treatment.

In response to her own needs, Booth created an after-school support group for students at Summit Olympus High School focused on mental health issues. In part, it fulfilled some of the requirements of the National Honor Society.

“Originally my project was just supposed to be starting a club at my old school in Tacoma,” Booth said. “It did help quite a bit, but I decided I wanted to make a bigger impact in the surrounding community. I played with the idea of writing a book and it kind of morphed into that.” This larger project fulfills her Girl Scout Gold Award requirements, the highest award possible in Girl Scouting.

The Gold Award requires a vision for change. The Scout needs to identify a problem that does not have an immediate solution, work with Scout leaders to shape a project that addresses the problem, and provide a framework and plan for implementing an ongoing and self-sustaining solution.

Through her own experience, Booth identified the need for mental health resources for young people, including how to observe and understand mental health conditions commonly experienced. Like others, Booth understands the stigma and isolation for those affected.

The result is her 200-page manual for young adults that identifies and describes typical mental health issues. The book gives an overview of a mental health diagnosis, with resources and tips for addressing issues. It is not meant to be a diagnostic tool, but rather a way to gain awareness and familiarity with mental health challenges. The book uses a simple format, is easy to navigate, and aims to lessen the stigma felt by those struggling with many forms of mental health needs. Booth also illustrated the book.

The support group she founded continues to have an impact on students at her former school. It is self-sustaining, with the school counselor providing guidance. Booth will complete her project with the publication of her manual.

Booth said of her writing experience, “It kind of opened my eyes a bit to the experiences of other people. It has improved my empathy.”

Less than 6% of Scouts complete a Gold Award Project, which takes one to two years and requires the scout to learn project management, collaboration, time management, problem-solving, decision-making and public speaking.

“Tessa showed a lot of initiative by doing this project,” said Maureen Lull, Booth’s scout leader from the beginning. “She’s one of those kids who is quiet but is smart and a hard worker. She is thoughtful of others. She tries to figure out when she can be helpful. It has been a pleasure working with her, watching her grow. Girl Scouts focuses on the whole person. Watching Tessa grow from age 6 to 17 was cool.”

Lull also said “All people see are the cookies, but it is an incredible organization. Such a cool place to watch girls become their authentic selves, building confidence.”

Booth said she enjoyed her move to Peninsula High School. “I feel that I have gotten a lot better since transferring here over the summer. It’s like exposure therapy, meeting all these different people has pushed me out of my comfort zone quite a bit. Now I feel comfortable talking to people I don’t really know well.”

“You Are Not Alone” will be finished by mid-March, and Booth will most likely pursue self-publication.