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Thursday, July 04, 2024 

Dad and daughter create comic about mental health

People interviewed Ethan Sacks, a professional comics writer who collaborated with his daughter Naomi to produce a comic about mental health issues:
Ethan Sacks was sitting in the cafeteria at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital in March 2019, overwhelmed with guilt and fear. His 15-year-old daughter Naomi was upstairs in the children’s psychiatric ward, hospitalized for major depression and suicidal ideation, and he was spiraling into self-blame.

“Maybe if I had been a better parent, I would’ve caught this earlier and helped her,” Sacks remembers thinking. He and his wife, Masako, a bank manager, “were completely unmoored,” he says. “We thought, ‘Where do we go from here?’"

As he waited for visiting hours to see his daughter, the comic book writer and former Daily News journalist pulled out an old reporter’s notebook and stared at the blank page. “I wanted to come up with a story that would inspire Naomi to want to live,” says Ethan, 51. He scrawled a single sentence in his notebook: “A girl who doesn’t know if she wants to live is the only one who can save all life on Earth.”

Over the next few years that nascent idea became a fully realized labor of love for both Ethan and Naomi, now 20. The result, A Haunted Girl, a comic cowritten by the father-daughter team with art by Sacks’s collaborator Marco Lorenzana, is a supernatural horror tale that follows teen heroine Cleo as she navigates life after a suicide attempt and battles a demon apocalypse that only she can prevent.

A book version of the four-part series, which includes a mental health guide and resources, has just been released. “For Naomi, I hope the experience is empowering,” says Ethan, who has authored several Marvel and Star Wars comics. “And if we reach people and help through the book, that’s a plus.”

A Haunted Girl “involves the supernatural, but there’s also a real-life story many kids go through,” says Brett Wean, director of writing and entertainment outreach for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who consulted on the comic. “It feels authentic—and positive.”
While the subject matter itself is important, the downside is that they still rely on the horror theme to built the story upon. Seriously, I don't think mental health issues have to rely on the horror genre to develop a compelling tale.

I wish the Sacks good luck with this, but what a sad shame the horror genre's still prevailing as a wellspring here.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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