Suicide is an incredibly stigmatized topic. By opening up as a suicide survivor, I want people to know that it’s ok to talk about these things, and that it’s ok to not be ok. We all have lived experiences that are dark and uncomfortable, and it’s ok to talk about them.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where a person’s body reacts to a common food protein called gluten. Celiac disease is different from a food allergy or food sensitivity, and even tiny amounts of gluten can cause awful reactions in someone with celiac disease. Celiac disease can only be managed by not eating foods that contain gluten. There is no cure or treatment that will allow someone with celiac disease to safely consume gluten.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t as understood as PTSD, which still isn’t understood well enough by the general public. C-PTSD is caused by trauma experienced over a period of time, rather than by one traumatic even such as assault or an experience in war. It is usually suffered by individuals who were abused or neglected by caregivers throughout their early lives, and comes with a number of complications and symptoms.

“I would like to raise awareness that mental illness, and discrimination against it, appears in every walk of life. As a police officer struggling with a severe mood disorder, I was told I should not be allowed to work because I took medication to stay stable. The pressure on me was enormous, and I eventually caved in and had to go on disability. To this day, I am more likely to tell people either that I retired, or that I suffered a.brain injury, rather than face the stigma of mental illness.”

Isaac is volunteering with the Human Library with the title “schizophrenic.” When asked about his title, he said “there is a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma surrounding schizophrenia. People often think of schizophrenics as violent or isolated, even when that is far from the truth. Over 1% of the US adult population has schizophrenia, and it’s important that society gains a better understanding of the people it affects.”

When asked why she was interested in volunteering with Human Library, Alexandra wrote, “Living in Logan Square all by herself, this Pretty Hispanic Girl dared to ask for help after her ex boyfriend had raped her. She was traumatized by the incident, but knew she had to report it. Trying to get her story out to authorities, she was immediately given looks of disbelief, constantly interrupted and treated as someone looking to cause drama.” Alexandra is a powerful voice in speaking out against sexual assault.

Kelly is volunteering with the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “late life autism diagnosis.” She says, “From early childhood, I accepted that I was a quirky and sometimes challenging person, but these qualities were balanced against significant gifts. I got married to my college sweetheart, earned a doctorate, pursued a career, and had a son. During my son’s diagnosis with Asperger’s, I realized that I, too, was probably autistic. Receiving a diagnosis unified many things about myself that I’d thought were unrelated quirks and put me in touch with a community of others like myself. My book focuses on what it’s like to live with autism, at all and as a woman, and to receive a diagnosis late in life.”


Chris is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “childhood cancer.” When asked why it is important for people with his title to volunteer, Chris said “Most people don’t necessarily know all aspects that make up an individual’s life. I was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of five, went into remission at eight, but had a full relapse at the age of ten. After a few hard-fought years with the help and support of my family, I am here today workIng on a Ph.D in special education.”


Kai is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “transgender (non-binary).” When asked about his title, Kai said When I first came out, I decided I was going to be open instead of taking the safer “stealth” route. It’s not something a lot of people understand, and I think that putting a face to it makes it easier.



Natasha is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “vegan athlete.” When asked about her title, Natasha said “a lot of people have the misconception that vegans are (a) really pushy about it and (b) weak and underweight. I am neither of these.”


Eddy is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “Mexican immigrant family.” Eddy said “I think it is very important that someone with my book title should volunteer with the Human Library because since the recent election, a growing hostility towards Mexicans, particularly Mexican immigrants, have caused a rift in the American people. From ICE raids in Mexican neighborhoods to the promise of a wall between the United States and Mexico, it feels very disheartening to be a Mexican in America.”



Sue is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “herpes.” When asked why she felt it was important for someone with her title to volunteer, Sue said “Herpes is a common but also commonly misunderstood infection. Research indicates that between one in two to one in six sexually active adults have HSV-1 or HSV-2. In spite of this prevalence, herpes is widely stigmatized because it is often passed during sexual activities and understood as sexual. In fact, the virus can be transferred any number of ways depending on where it manifests on the body. In a culture ripe with divisive attitudes, it is important to remove shame where unnecessary. Herpes is a common, manageable STI and our sexual dialogue should be able to address it without without hesitation, embarrassment or regret.”


AJ is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “bullied.” When asked about his title, AJ said “Bullying is a deeply ingrained notion in schooling. As someone who has been bullied from grade 1 to grade 12, this story knows the ins and outs of bullying and wants to share how to overcome it.”

I have type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes, and in addition to the daily management of the illness, I also have to work against stigmas surrounding diabetes. People with diabetes are frequently the butt of a joke in the media, or we’re asked why we can’t just “reverse” the illness by eating better; both of these issues undermine the humanity of people with diabetes. Misconceptions about the illness seem to arise from a profound lack of information about diabetes and representation of people with diabetes. It’s important for me and people like me to be understood and to see ourselves represented to eradicate the harmful misconceptions surrounding diabetes.


Kay is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title “polyamorous.” When asked why she felt it was important for someone with her title to volunteer, Kay said “Polyamory is a misunderstood term. People often think of plural relationships in the context of oppressive religious cults or countries. However, polyamory is a freeing and positive experience for those who practice it, and it is important to share these identities so that people can understand the differences.”


Mike is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title ‘police officer” When asked why he felt it was important to volunteer, Mike said “Most people see police officers as ‘enforcers of the law.’ However there is another side, and perhaps a better term is ‘peace officer.’ I have been in this field for over 30 years and have seen many changes in the practice. However, the goals of good departments and good officers remain the same.”

nika_sropoutI think it’s important to share my story of being Bullied. This is why I graduated from high school at 20. I was bullied not just by kids my age but adults as well. I was told not to finish high school, to just get a GED and get on Welfare. With all that’s going on in the world today, I want those that are being bullied to know, that it does get better. It’s not the end of your life.

kim female martial artist

kim female martial artistKim is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title ‘Female Martial Artists.’ When asked why she felt it was important to volunteer, Kim said “Brazilian Jiu jitsu is a male dominated sport associated with grappling/wrestling type movements. Due to the types of physical contact which occur, the sport greatly lends itself to self defense, especially for smaller individuals. As it becomes more acceptable for women to learn and practice self defense, female involvement in Brazilian Jiu iitsu has skyrocketed. I have practiced the sport for nearly 18 years, witnessing both the discrimination against women and the acceptance of women in the sport first hand.”

mary physical disability

mary: physical disabilityMary is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title ‘Physical Disability.’ When asked why she felt it was important to volunteer, Mary said “Physical Disability has only recently become visible to the public at large. That being said, I think it’s important to capitalize on that visibility and show that we are more than our limitations and diagnoses. We are multi-dimensional people, with our own hopes and dreams, as well as aspirations in a variety of fields.”

shannon woman in tech

Shannon_WomanInTechShannon is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title ‘Woman in Technology.’ When asked why she felt it was important to volunteer, Shannon said “Women are historically underrepresented in technical fields. In fact, the percentage of women in technical roles is steadily decreasing. Stereotypes in math and science often pressure young girls to pursue other career paths. I would like to share my experience in creating a supportive and collaborative environment for everyone within the field of technology.”

quinn: autism spectrum disorder

quinn autism spectrumQuinn is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title ‘Austism Spectrum “Disorder”.’ When asked why he felt it was important to volunteer, Quinn said “There are roughly as many autistics in America as there are Jewish people, yet autism is just now beginning to be recognized as an identity and less as a disorder. The Neurodiversity movement is still fighting to represent itself and gain acceptance for the autistic personality. A famous psychologist once said that autistic people are only disabled in the company of others, because when an autistic is alone, there is nothing wrong with them.”

joe: air force veteran

joe: air force veteranJoe is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title ‘Air Force Veteran.’ When asked why he felt it was important to volunteer, Joe said “The effects of military service, war, or trauma manifest differently in each airman, Marine, sailor, or soldier. This diversity, however, is not well represented in popular or news media. I would like to humanize the military experience by giving readers a different perspective of the effects of war.”

sara: miscarriage

sara: miscarriageI’ve suffered a miscarriage, and I know the deep pain it causes. What I don’t understand is why there is such a social stigma surrounding miscarriages and why family members often do not openly discuss it until it happens.  In this human book interaction, we can discuss the stigma surrounding miscarriage, your thoughts about miscarriage, or other topics related to this issue.

stephanie: developmentally delayed

stephanie: developmentally delayedWhen I was young, I was diagnosed with delayed motor and social skills (with the possibility of having Asperger’s Syndrome) and pulled out of my classroom for extra help. My peers bullied me, though they didn’t know why; they just knew I was different somehow. The saddest part is that it was most likely because of what society/parents told them about people like me (they didn’t come to the conclusion on their own). I think it is important to stop the cycle.

nathan: male eating disorder

Nathan: male eating disorderMen are not very present in the public dialogue on eating disorders. People also make assumptions about what people with eating disorders look like. I don’t really fit any of those physical stereotypes, and I want to help deconstruct and destigmatize the stereotypes of people with disordered eating. I would like to  explore and share the intersectionality of race, class, and disease. Being MexicanAmerican, along with coming from poverty, has played a huge role in the development in my disordered eating. 

Jessica: lesbian

Jessica: lesbianThere is a large misunderstanding about LGBT people, especially in rural areas. As a gay woman, I encounter a lot of misogyny and sexual harassment on top of homophobia. Even though there is an LGBT “community,” each unique individual, as well as each type of identity, will have their own unique experience.

JJ: non-veteran PTSD

JJ non-veteran ptsdWhile we often think of PTSD as a condition of veterans, it can also occur from extensive bullying and emotional neglect. When you’ve been bullied and neglected, you feel like you are the only one so talking with someone who has had similar experiences to you can be a revelation. Promoting understanding of this perspective is important, especially because we think of bullying as something done by and to children, not adults. Also, adults rarely talk about the effects of PTSD, especially because of childhood and adult bullying.

Jeanette borderline personality disorder

Recent research says that 1.6% of Americans have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This disorder is one even therapists can be reluctant to treat, because of many of the characteristics. Those with BPD feel emotions more strongly than others and swing from one extreme emotion to the next, and many able bodied people say they’re too dramatic and manipulative. All people with mental disabilities face stigma, and it’s hard to feel misunderstood. I think it’s important that others learn about this so that we can accommodate everyone in society.


Zaid is volunteering for the Human Library Champaign-Urbana with the title ‘Black Muslim.’ When asked why he felt it was important to volunteer, Zaid said “I represent a receding form of Islamic representation in America as a Black American born Muslim. The community in which I was raised stems from the Nation of Islam, which brings a unique perspective on the American Muslim experience. I am very aware of the Arabization of western Islamic culture due to the influx of Muslims from the Middle East. I consider myself an example as well as an educator of the successes represented within American Black Muslim communities, and the public must become aware of our efforts and experiences.”