Educating society on mental health and trying to eradicate the stigma of mental illness is a battle hard fought, but one that is absolutely needed. One of the best ways to gain an insight into the mind and daily struggles of what someone with mental health illnesses goes through is no doubt through books.
Below are 5 books that can lead to a greater awareness of the effects of mental illness on people themselves and the lives of the people around them. Each of them focuses on different mental health illnesses, offer different viewpoints, and take on different tones, but I hope you enjoy all of them nonetheless.
Disclaimer: It is important to remember that some of these books may be triggering to some!
Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone
This book explores the mind of a teenager diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and goes deeply into how her mental illness has affected her daily life and interactions with people around her. In this story, Sam is a young woman who is obsessed with the number 3 and does things in threes.
“Based on my own experience, It’s very accurate. The main character deals with intrusive thoughts and the book isn’t at all “Oh I have this cute little quirk” but portrays OCD as a serious mental illness. The author really did her research when writing this.” – Skyler on goodreads.com
“One of the strengths of EVERY LAST WORD is Sam’s multidimensionality. She is involved in a lot of activities, including competitive swimming. Each is important to her, but she doesn’t focus on any one thing too much. The same can be said for her OCD — it’s a part of her, but just one part out of many. Stone also does a great job of slipping in a realistic, but not overwhelming, romance.” – teenreads.com
Drinking: A Love Story – Caroline Knapp
In this book, Caroline Knapp describes about how she started drinking when she was 14 and spent almost 20 years as an alcoholic. Just like many of us, she started off using alcohol as a liquid armour – a way to escape from difficulties and emotional trauma in life. This book also touches on her struggles with anorexia.
The text reproduces a questionnaire for alcoholism made up by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. It is a strong reminder to us that mental illnesses can happen to any single one of us, and there are many people around us suffering from mental illnesses that are “high-functioning” – just like Caroline – who are able to balance out their career but yet are suffering in silence.
“I think Caroline’s book is one of the few that does NOT glamorize her struggle.” – Leah on goodreads.com
“Ms. Knapp’s book is ideal, and potentially life-saving, for the intelligent, highly-functioning alcoholic who has not yet done anything so stupid that they are forced to recognize what everyone else in their life probably knows.” – Anonymous on barnesandnoble.com
It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini
Craig Gilner appears to be a normal teenager just like you and I. He is highly motivated and determined to do well in his studies, in order to get into the right school to be on the path to get the right job. However, the mental pressure eventually becomes overwhelming and he stops eating and sleeping until one night, he tips over and nearly kills himself. In the mental hospital, Craig goes on to meet a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio.
In some ways, this book might be more relatable to teenagers around the world. There are raw mentions of sex, cursing and drugs in this book which may thus make depression a more approachable subject to talk about, but it might be slightly offensive to some.
Despite part of the book took place in an inpatient mental health institute, this book offers a relatively more positive view of treatments and intervention. This provides an alternative and refreshing point of view to other books which mainly reflect inpatient treatment as something that is dreadful and the worst part of being diagnosed with a mental illness.
“Most books about depression can be a trigger and put you in a depressing mood… but this also seems to have a hopeful tone to it… Yes, it takes place in a mental institution but it has some comical undertones to it so that helps.” – Joanna on goodreads.com
“It really opens the readers eyes to what it really is like to be inside of a person eyes and life who suffers from this. It also gives the insight of how it is to go through treatment when you turn to help from a hospital.” – Jessica Kardotzke on amazon.com
The Evil Hour: A biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – David J. Morris
In this book, David J. Morris not only offers a personal insight into the heart-wrenching and traumatic world of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also offers a thorough and educational analysis of the mental illness by providing interviews with other individuals living with PTSD and offers information on the scientific, literary and culture history of the illness.
This is one of the few books out there that not only has exceptional writing that can move you to tears, but his extensive and thorough research has will help to bring understanding to this subject for those who have not had any personal experiences themselves or with people who have suffered from PTSD.
“The Evil Hours is a provocative, exhaustively researched and deeply moving analysis of traumatic memory and how we make sense of it an essential book not just for those who have experienced trauma, but for anyone who wants to understand post-9/11 America. Reading it will make you a better and more humane citizen.” – New York Times Book Review
“There are a lot of books out there on PTSD and trauma. This one stands out, however, for its thorough and compassionate examination of PTSD and its many manifestations. While most of the book focuses on PTSD in the context of combat, it does address PTSD resulting from other types of trauma and Morris’s findings and observations can be applied widely to survivors of trauma as a whole. Morris draws on literature, personal accounts, and psychological studies, compiling a rich history of PTSD and its social ramifications. ” – Sarah on goodreads.com
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened – Allie Brosh
This book takes a more light hearted tone as Allie Brosh describes her daily struggles with depression through a series of carefully drawn comics that expresses her experiences with a touch of humour.
Her work is also available on http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.sg/ for those who might be interested in taking a look at her type of humour before deciding on whether to buy this book.
“It was definitely a witty, funny read, many times it was so hilarious, often, twisted and yet, still very relatable. It was also sometimes sad but very genuine.” – Aj on goodreads.com
“Always wanted to own this. Touches on mental illness/health, and existential issues all the meanwhile making you laugh in the face of the heaviness of those subjects. Reading these comics makes you feel like you have that friend that most people dont know how to be to someone with personality/mood disorders. Even as someone with autism these web comics are a comfort.”’- Anonymous on amazon.com
Written by: Jing Yi
Jing Yi is a currently a medical student who hopes to reach out to people who are afraid to seek help and inspire people to speak up about their experiences by writing. She strongly believes that there should be no stigma on mental health illnesses, and would be more than happy to offer a hug and a conversation to whoever that needs it.