Telling stories is so important not only for comforting and inspiring those who are experiencing similar turmoils but for smashing stigmas. Mental health books, whether they’re fiction or autobiographical or even self-help books, are a huge help and a wonderful resource. These are the best mental health books to read:
Warning: suicide, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and anxiety will be discussed in this post. If this content triggers you, this is your warning to leave this page.
For true stories:
The first on this mental health books list are true tales of recovery from Susanna Kaysen and Niall Breslin.
Girl, Interrupted is an autobiographical tale of Susana Kaysen’s time in a psychiatric hospital. Although it sounds bleak, I think it’s an important book. We’ve come so far in tackling mental health stigma, but a lot of people still squirm at the thought of hospitalization and the stigma against those with personality disorders is still strong. Susana gets diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder after a suicide attempt and spends the next year and a half in the McLean psychiatric hospital.
Sometimes you just need to feel how you feel, and not be bombarded with advice, and that’s what I like about Girl, Interrupted; it’s brutally honest.
Susana went on to be a pretty acclaimed writer, having also penned The Camera My Mother Gave Me, and Asa as I Knew Him. Susanna is still writing, with her most recent release , Cambridge, coming out in 2014. Girl, Interrupted was adapted into a film in 1999, with Winona Ryder playing Susanna, and Angelina Jolie playing fellow McLean resident, Lisa.
Me & My Mate Jeffrey
Me & My Mate Jeffrey is an autobiography/self-help book. Author Niall Breslin, also known as Bressie, opens up about his struggles with mental health and how he’s learned to cope with it.
I felt like I was reading my own life story while reading this, as he shares how his struggles with mental health began in his teenage years, and how it affected his early adult life and career as an athlete and a musician. It’s not a hopeless story either as he stares how he learned to manage depression and anxiety and come out stronger.
Stand Up Little Girl
Stand Up, Little Girl is a memoir from an eating disorder advocate Hope Virgo. Hope tells of her descent into anorexia and her journey to recovery after managing to hide the illness for four years.
Hope is such an important voice in the eating disorder community, as she advocates to remove the requirement of being a low weight for eating disorder suffers to get appropriate help. Keep up with her campaign #DumpTheScales.
Self-help books and advice books are among the best mental health books to read because while there’s comfort in relating to someone else’s story, it’s important to get help.
Staying Strong 365 Days a Year
Demi Lovato is one of the most inspirational mental health advocates, as she’s very open about her struggles with bipolar disorder, addiction, self-harm, and an eating disorder. What I love about Demi is that although she’s a shining example of how things can get better, she’s always brutally honest and realistic, and admits when she messes up.
Her book Staying Strong 365 Days a year is based on the affirmations she tells herself every morning to motivate herself to stay strong and keep working on recovery.
Be Beautiful be You
Be Beautiful be You by Lizze Velazquez is an anecdotal book about learning to love yourself.
Lizzie is one of three people in the world with a syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight or muscle, after a lifetime of bullying and stares from strangers, Lizzie is now a motivational speaker. Her boo Lizzie Beautiful is her memoir, while Be Beautiful Be You is full of exercises about learning to love yourself, coping mechanisms and about being kinder to others and yourself.
From Stressed to Blessed
From Stressed to Blessed by Anne Cross is a book about helping improve your mental health form the inside out. While mental health is more complex than just eating well and being active, it is a contributing factor, and when you’re feeling low; pretty much all acts of self-care go out the window. Anne is a qualified dietician and talks about the changes she made in her lifestyle which helped improve her mental state.
Fiction is a wonderful escape, and just because it may not be a true story, doesn’t mean a book doesn’t have something valuable to add to the conversation. The books on this mental health books list are
Turtles All the Way Down
Although Turtles All the Way Down is a mystery tale, the main character Aza suffers from OCD. I love Turtles All the Way Down for the same reasons I like Girl, Interrupted, it’s nice to just be able to relate to someone and feel like you’re not alone. Aza is in a situation much bigger than herself and she tries to help an old friend find his missing father, but the plot is interfered with by her spiraling mind and compulsions.
The Bell Jar
Last on our mental health books list is the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar was, unfortunately, the first, last, and the only book Plath wrote. Although presented as a fictional tale, it’s largely based on Plath’s one life as the main character Ester’s life falls apart and she spends some time piecing herself back together in a psychiatric hospital. Ironically, Sylvia Plath was in the same hospital Susanna Kaysen was in, but a good few years earlier. The book ends with a stronger Ester leaving the hospital.
What do you think of this mental health books list? What are your favourite mental health books to read, and have you read any of these?
If you’re struggling please reach out for help.