You might not expect a cookbook to help people cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, but that’s exactly what Northeastern graduate Dayna Altman has created.
Altman’s book, “Bake It Till You Make It,” features recipes and stories from more than 40 people who have overcome personal hardships including mental health struggles, physical injury, and personal loss. Each contributor shares one story along with one baking recipe.
“Food is something that unifies us and is easy to talk about,” says Altman, who graduated from Northeastern with a bachelor’s degree in human services in 2015 and then returned to the university to get her master’s degree in public health in 2018. “But we tend to shy away from talking about mental health. This cookbook is meant to help connect people to the topic.”
The stories in Altman’s book illustrate the different ways people can heal. A man who lost his arm in a car accident, struggling with painkillers, finds solace in yoga. An athlete who’s sidelined by a physical injury and starts having bouts of depression, starts healing by reaching out to others. An elderly woman who lost her husband finds comfort in baking.
“Everyone has a story to share,” says Altman, who plans to publish the book in late June. “Bringing together stories from so many different people can help you realize you’re not alone.”
The book also includes mental health resource pages, research, and statistics, such as that one in five adults in the United States suffer from a mental illness. Altman says she hopes including this information will help destigmatize the discussion around mental health.
Altman transferred to Northeastern in her third year after coping with her own mental health issues. She says her friends and professors at Northeastern welcomed her with open arms and created a community where she felt safe to openly discuss mental health issues.
Now, she wants to travel the country and talk to high school and college students about her book and the stories that inspired it.
“I want to present all the resources and information I’ve gathered,” says Altman. “I’ll talk about the book, my experiences, and then we can bake together.”