I wanted to share my top 10 picks for books that discuss mental health. There has been an increased effort to raise mental health awareness and we cannot stop now! When we understand mental health issues, it can change how we approach, talk, label, and interact those impacted. The best advice that I can give is you are not alone and someone (maybe a stranger) understands you. I hope the following 10 book recommendations provide a sense of hope, comfort, and perseverance through the difficult times.
1) All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
What happens when you ignore your own mental health issues and try to save someone else? A fictional story that deals with depression, loss, and relationships when two individuals who fall in love hope that their love will save both of them. Throughout the book, both characters explore the line between life and death. All the Bright Places is relatable to those who have dealt with, and are still dealing with, mental health issues. When is it time to intervene when it’s someone you care about?
2)Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The New York Times bestselling story of a friendship frozen between life and death provides an unfiltered and honest look into the eating disorder anorexia. Additional stressors preset within the book address depression, self-harm, and the need for perfection. Wintergirls discusses issues related to body image, what is healthy a self-image, and the cultural expectations for women’s bodies.
*If you are currently suffering from an eating disorder or are in recovery, please be aware that some of the content is graphic and can be a trigger. Refer to the National Eating Disorders Association hotline (1-800-931-2237) for additional support if you experience an increase in symptoms.
3) It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story deals with teen depression and suicide, and is based on Vizzini’s five days in the adult psychiatric unit of a Brooklyn hospital.” – Joe Applegate
Vizzini’s book is not just for young adults and teens, but applicable to all ages. It helps individuals recognize unhealthy expectations and know there are alternative choices one can make. The main character seems to experience tremendous amounts of pressure and is at a low point in his life. Vizzini’s book depicts what it really means to struggle with depression or provides insight for those wanting to know the thoughts of those who suffer from depression. Unfortunately, Ned Vizzini lost his own battle with mental illness and passed away a couple of years ago.
[Read Related: Mental Health and Stigma: Bridging the Generational Gap]
4) The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
Considered one of the most important books on depression, Solomon describes his personal experience with depression. Included are myths, treatments, and statements by several individuals who have depression. Furthermore, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2002. He looks at depression from every possible viewpoint and brings it all together with stories of his own severe episodes throughout the years. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression is a great read for those suffering from anxiety and depression as it allows the reader to understand that you have the ability to move forward.
5) Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Matt Haig’s memoir/guidebook on severe depression and suicidal ideation is definitely a heavy topic. Haig is a mental health advocate, going through difficult times, and shares his experience from a relatable perspective. Most importantly, Haig addresses how he learned to live again and be himself.
“To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.” ? Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
6) Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
No matter how things are on the outside, you never really know what someone is going through. Every Last Word, is about a teen secretly living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as she is surrounded by dark thoughts, frequent doubt, and fearing what others will say and think about her. It highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with those who accept you for you!
7) It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine
“It’s OK That You’re Not OK is a permission slip to feel what you feel, do what you do, and say what you say, when life finds you in a place of profound loss, and the world seems hell-bent on telling you the right way to get back to being the person you’ll never again be.” —Jonathan Fields, author of How to Live a Good Life, founder of Good Life Project
8) Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Lawson’s book combines various stories from her life along with emotional confessions about her battle with depression, anxiety, and health issues. In the book, she discusses how she has come to embrace the good and bad parts of her life, along with finding happiness/laughter. There are so many of us out there that feel as if no one will understand, but I definitely recommend Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things!
If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, depression, self-harming, suicidal thoughts, or have known or loved someone with any mental illness this book will help you understand that it’s not something that can just be “gotten over”. It’s not something we can always pull ourselves out of, sometimes we need help, and sometimes all we need is to know that we’re not alone. – Amazon review
[Read Related: It’s Mental Health Awareness Month — Here 4 Incredible South Asian Resources to Break the Silence]
9) Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist
“A few years ago, I found myself exhausted and isolated, my soul and body sick. I was tired of being tired, burned out on busy. And, it seemed almost everyone I talked with was in the same boat: longing for connection, meaning, depth, but settling for busy.” – Shauna Niequist
Present Over Perfect allows you to push free from the frequent pressure to achieve more, work faster, complete more, and suppress overwhelming feelings, while presenting as if nothing is wrong. Niequist assists readers in looking at their life without these pressures surrounding them, what would it be like to take control and find a balance of what their life should be like, and their relationship with God.
10) This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change Your Life by Annie Grace
Struggling with controlling how much you drink or wanting to cut down? Find yourself getting carried away when you’re out with friends? Have you been told: “You drink too much,” “You need to cut down,” or “Maybe you should get help?” This Naked Mind goes beyond the stigma and shame associated with alcoholism and recovery. Grace provides additional information related to why we drink and the role alcohol has in our lives/culture. In a study sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol, the research examined how drinking patterns changed between 2002 and 2013. High-risk drinking rose by 29.9 percent. This Naked Mind addresses the psychological, neurological, cultural, occupational, and social factors combined with her own experience to address issues related to alcohol.
If you are triggered by any of these topics, please contact the below services for additional support:
National Suicide Prevention HotLine: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text Home to 741741
The Good Samaritan Hotline: 877-870-4673 or 212-673-3000
Imalive.org: (online chat)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
The Trevor Project: (For the LGBTQ Community): 1-866-488-7386
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
National Eating Disorders Association: 1-800-931-2237
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-4357