Having a mental illness is time-consuming and difficult. It can feel isolating to be lost inside your own head, and no matter how hard friends and family members attempt to help and understand, sometimes they just can’t. This is where books come in. Though reading is certainly no magic cure for mental illness, sometimes the right book about mental illness can help you gain a new perspective.
Whether it be nonfiction or fiction, books can be a great source of information and comfort in knowing that you are not alone. If you have a mental illness, know someone who has a mental illness or are just simply looking for books with more representation of mentally ill characters, here is the list for you. Just use discretion when choosing what you read. Some of the material may be triggering.
1. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
It's Kind of a Funny Story details the story of Craig, a teenage boy with depression who, after an attempt at suicide, is checked into a mental hospital. There, he meets a host of characters and examines the sources of his depression. The author, Ned Vizzini, was once admitted into a mental hospital and his descriptions of life with depression are as honest as they come.
2. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt Haig's memoir of how he recovered from depression at age 24. But, as the title suggests, it's about a lot more than that. At its heart, this book is a great resource for those suffering from depression and is described as "a moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive..."
3. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Written by the same author who wrote Speak, Wintergirls is about a girl named Lia who struggles with anorexia nervosa. Lia's friend, Cassie, who suffered from bulimia, passes away at the beginning of the novel. The rest of the story focuses on Lia's ongoing battle with her eating disorder and her road to recovery. If you like reading poetic, poignant writing and wish to understand eating disorders on a deeper, more emotional level, this book is a good place to start.
4. Brain Over Binge: Why I Was Bulimic, Why Conventional Therapy Didn't Work, and How I Recovered for Good by Kathryn Hansen
Bulimia is often shunned as the "less glamorous" eating disorder compared to anorexia nervosa, but the truth is that both are destructive, horrible illnesses. Brain Over Binge brings to the table some much-needed conversation about recovery from bulimia. Kathryn Hansen challenges many of the traditional knowledge regarding bulimia and offers a new perspective on the recovery process. The "About the Author" page says this,
"Kathryn Hansen recovered from bulimia independently, abruptly and completely over six years ago; and soon after her recovery, she was fully convinced she had a powerful story to tell — a story that could give other bulimics and those with binge eating disorder hope, a new perspective and a commonsense cure."
5. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Highly Illogical Behavior is a novel about Solomon, a sixteen-year-old with agoraphobia. His life is forever changed when a girl named Lisa attempts to "fix" Solomon. A coming-of-age story that deals with anxiety, Highly Illogical Behavior offers a realistic depiction of mental illness.
6. My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel
Scott Stossel offers both a broad perspective on anxiety as well as a personal perspective. In My Age of Anxiety, Stossel incorporates the history of anxiety disorders, the scientific basis of the illness, and his own experiences. It manages to be both informative and interesting while dealing with an important topic that many people struggle with today.
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a classic coming-of-age story following a boy named Charlie and his struggle to navigate the world of high school. There's a lot that Charlie has to deal with and PTSD arises as a result of some traumatic experiences he goes through. It's recommended for those wanting realistic representation of characters suffering from PTSD, or just want a good book to read. Chbosky's writing is beautiful.
"So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them."
8. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine and Ann Frederick
Waking the Tiger tries to answer a simple, but rarely pondered, question: why are animals in the wild rarely traumatized by experiences, but humans are? Through attempting to answer this question, the authors explore the science behind human trauma — and how to heal symptoms of it, like PTSD. Recommended reading for anyone looking to learn more about PTSD from a scientific perspective.
9. Shock of the Fall: A Novel by Nathan Filer
There's not much to say about this book without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that it's a beautifully written story about a boy named Matthew who sneaks out in the middle of the night with his brother while on vacation. Only Matthew comes back safely. Years later, Matthew says that he has found out how to bring his brother back. A thoughtful page-turner dealing with the main character's schizophrenia and journey into adulthood, The Shock of the Fall is worth a read.
10. Mind Without a Home: A Memoir of Schizophrenia by Kristina Morgan
Mind Without a Home is yet another poetically written book dealing with Kristina Morgan's personal experience with schizophrenia. The memoir follows her from her early childhood into her adulthood, where she begins abusing alcohol in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of her schizophrenia. But eventually, the story follows her into a much more stable, peaceful state of mind. The synopsis on the back of the book says it all.
"Have you ever wondered what it is like in the mind of a person with schizophrenia? How can one survive day after day unable to distinguish between one's inner nightmares and the everyday realities that most of us take for granted? In her brutally honest, highly original memoir, Kristina Morgan takes us inside her head to experience the chaos, fragmented thinking, and the startling creativity of the schizophrenic mind."
If you yourself suffer from a mental disorder or you're simply someone interested in the subject, these books provide a good basis for expanding your knowledge. While they may not provide a comprehensive overview of mental illness, they do provide at least a starting point. Being open and talking about mental illness is incredibly important and books can be a great platform to spread a positive message. So get reading and judge for yourself how accurate each book is.
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