In honor of World Mental Health Day and National Book Month, we decided to share some of our favorite mental health-related books that help erase the stigma.
Boy Meets Depression by Kevin Breel
Before writing a book, Breel was best known for his TEDx talk titled “Confessions of a Depressed Comic”. What’s interesting about that is that the words “depressed” and “comic” don’t usually go together. After all, mental illness and mental health isn’t funny, and people wouldn’t normally associate humor with depression or sadness. Breel’s autobiographical memoir further expands on his TEDx talk and his battle with depression, which began when he lost his best friend at the age of 13.
While the book is about his experience with mental illness, talking about himself and sharing an interesting story isn’t the goal of the book. That’s especially made clear with the “Note to self” section at the end of each chapter where he shares a life lesson or advice that relates to the chapter it follows. Not only is the note something Breel tried to tell himself but it’s a reminder to the reader to take care of his/herself and mental health. Through books and stories like Kevin’s, we realize mental illness can affect anyone and that you’re never alone.
Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul
Based on the 2016 Tony Awards’ “Best Musical” of the same name, Dear Evan Hansen is a book about Evan Hansen, a senior in high school, who has social anxiety and struggles to make friends. He writes letters to himself as a form of therapy as assigned by his therapist. One day, his letter ends up in the wrong hands and leads to Evan telling a seemingly never-ending spiral of dangerous lies.
The book was just released yesterday and it will be intriguing to see how the story has been adapted into a novel without music to accompany it and further along the narrative. The novel also allows for different perspectives and further characterization that a musical doesn’t necessarily allow for given time constraints, so the extra information is an added benefit.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Every Last Word tells the story of Samantha “Sam” McAllister, a popular junior who has Purely-Obsessional OCD but doesn’t show it. While no two experiences with mental illness are the same, Ireland Stone’s writing does a good job of depicting the little thoughts and things that can consume the mind of someone who has Purely-Obsessional OCD. Sam worries about most everything she does—not only because of her mental illness but because of her “popular” status—so when she befriends Caroline and discovers Poet’s Corner, a group of school outcasts who value the power of words, Sam adds that to the list of secrets she’s keeping. Poet’s Corner makes her feel better in terms of who she is and her mental health until a big plot twist sends her crashing down, questioning herself and her mental health more than ever before.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
While the cover is not the best choice as it’s a definite trigger for self-harm/self-injury, it makes it very clear what the book is about. Girl in Pieces details Charlie’s recovery from self-injury and depression.The book is split into three parts, each beginning with a major event in Charlie’s recovery, and is told through journal-like entries, which is a good way of getting into her thoughts. It’s very raw and sometimes rather difficult and uncomfortable to read, which is necessary to accurately portray mental illness and other serious and dark topics. It shows that while recovery is possible, it’s no easy task. However, it balances the reality of mental illness with maintaining the hope that things will be better.
If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski
This New York Times best-selling book is a clear favorite for us—if our consensus perfect rating wasn’t already an indicator. A memoir-esque book of sorts, If You Feel Too Much is filled with personal stories, poems, blog posts, and letters that Tworkowski has written over the course of a decade. The content focuses on general mental health, change, and grief among other topics while still focusing on the possibility for better things and hope in a way that is simple yet complex and easy to comprehend and relate to.
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Perks, as it is endearingly called, is one of those beautiful coming-of-age stories that hits home for many readers. Any socially awkward, introverted teenager can relate to Charlie’s struggle to find his place in the world. Charlie’s issues stem deeper than just your typical high school drama, though. He’s also dealing with some serious mental health issues that affect his everyday life. Despite the intensity of his depression and other psychological problems, his story is no less relatable. What’s most inspiring is Charlie’s ability to push on through it all, and to continue trying. He seems to embrace the idea that it’s okay to not be okay, and he gives himself grace in the darkest of times.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
With a recommendation from Princess Anna herself, that should be reason enough to read Matt Haig’s memoir. In all seriousness, though, the book provides great insight on what it is like to live with and conquer depression in a way that is easy for even those unfamiliar with the illness to understand. As such, it is a good read for everyone and even includes some parts about how to help those who suffer from depression.
What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
Kate Fagan does a magnificent job writing about the Madison Holleran story—a freshman track runner at the University of Pennsylvania who killed herself after struggling with depression during her transition to college. It is such a heart-wrenching story, but it is told in such a respectful, important way. This book has raised a lot of heads in the world of NCAA athletics and is causing many to take a closer look at how we deal with mental health problems—particularly in relation to athletes. It also raises questions about how social media can make us more prone to create a dishonest image of ourselves and our lives while preventing us from reaching out in meaningful ways. Overall, this is an excellent depiction of what it’s like to struggle with depression as an athlete who seemingly “has it all.”
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
You can always count on John Green to deliver on important topics, and this book doesn’t fail to come through. It follows the story of Aza Holmes, a 16-year-old with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s a brilliant portrayal of what it’s like to deal with obsessive thoughts. It’s brutally honest, emotionally charged, and full of all the funny and clever moments Green has become known for. Aza continuously fights her illness and works to overcome the worst of her obsessive thoughts, even though she constantly feels like falling apart. Through the ups and downs of her struggles, she is still worthy of the unyielding love, support, and compassion shown by her friends and family.