5 Books About Mental Health You Need To Read

5 Books About Mental Health You Need To Read

Reading books about mental health can be a great way to gain a new perspective, either of your own situation, or someone else’s.

Even before my own diagnosis, I loved reading them. I find them fascinating and since being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, my love for them has only grown.

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

As of this year, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is 20 years old! I can’t believe it. Anyway, that’s not the point but I had to have a moment.

It is a coming-of-age book which tackles a range of issues, including drugs, sexuality and mental health. Though this is primarily a work of fiction, it did stem from the author’s own struggles.

The story is told through Charlie’s letters to an unknown friend. It follows Charlie as he navigates life as an introvert while also dealing with the aftermath of two traumatic experiences. The books documents his growth and the relationships he forms along the way.

Other characters in the book are dealing with their own difficulties, too. Through these individuals, Stephen Chbosky explores more complex issues, such as childhood abuse and domestic violence. With that in mind, there may be aspects of this book which are triggering for some, so I would like advise being cautious before you dive in.

I don’t want to say too much about it, but I think Charlie is a very relatable character for individuals who are introverts, deep thinkers and/or struggling with their mental health.

This is my all time favourite book. Charlie is the character I relate to the most in anything. Though I haven’t dealt with some of the experiences he has, our personalities are closely aligned.

Get The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky on Amazon

2. Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

At the age of 24, Matt Haig went through a serious depressive episode. His book, Reasons to Stay Alive, shares his journey to recovery.

Matt writes honestly about mental illness, but with an air of optimism. For me, he strikes the perfect balance between emotional and uplifting.

One of the strengths, for me, is that this is written by a male. It can often be harder for men to talk about mental illness, so Matt’s openness sets a wonderful example. Other books in this list have male characters, but I think a non-fiction work by a male is particularly beneficial.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is having a difficult time. I recognised myself in so many parts of the book and I have mentioned before that this was the catalyst that led to my diagnosis.

Get Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig on Amazon

3 open books stacked on top of each other with a pair of glasses on the top

3. Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig

Yep, Matt Haig is securing another place on this list. He’s just that good.

Notes on a Nervous Planet holds a magnifying glass to the world we live in and the impact it’s having on our mental health. With constant connection, news at our fingertips and work only an email away, is it any wonder so many of us are feeling overwhelmed?

Throughout the book, he highlights various issues in today’s society, as well as offering advice on how to feel better about it all. It’s one of those books that I finished and thought “everyone needs to read this.”

It is both compelling and calming. Whether you have a mental illness or not, I have no doubt that you will recognise some of your own thoughts and behaviours in this one. As Matt says himself, it is a global issue.

Get Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig on Amazon

4. It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Ned Vizzini

This follows the story of Craig Gilner. He becomes overwhelmed by the pressures of attending a prestigious school, despite having worked hard to get there. This manifests as an eating disorder, disrupted sleep patterns and suicidal thoughts.

He is given a prescription for Zoloft. As the medication takes effect, he thinks his problems are solved and stops taking it. Unfortunately, this means his depression resurfaces. He calls a suicide hotline and is admitted to a psychiatric unit.

Upon his arrival, Craig is shocked by the place. He doesn’t feel like he should be there. Nevertheless, he stays to receive treatment. He confronts the causes of his anxiety and begins his journey to recovery.

During this process, Craig discovers a natural talent for art. He identifies that this is something he enjoys, and his counsellor suggests he transfers to an art school.

In my opinion, this book has several strengths. The first of these is that it highlights how there can be a lot of academic pressure on students – a topic I have discussed previously in Are Smart Children More Prone to Depression as Adults?. Secondly, I think it shows how dangerous it can be to just stop taking anti-depressants. It is common for people to fall into the trap of thinking they no longer need their meds when they are, in fact, the reason they feel okay again. Finally, I think it gives a subtle nod to how creatives can feel trapped in traditional routes.

Similarly to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this is a fictional book, but it is based heavily on the author’s experiences. Ned Vizzini was in an adult psychiatric unit in 2004, which served as the inspiration for this book. Heartbreakingly, in 2013, Ned Vizzini took his own life.

Get It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini on Amazon

5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

I know this has received a lot of hype, but I believe it is justified. I read this shortly before it really took off and was EVERYWHERE, which may have helped me appreciate it more. It’s understandable that highly acclaimed books, films and albums can often be disappointing.

That said, I think Gail Honeyman draws attention to the fact we don’t always realise when we’re in a dark place – particularly if it’s all we’ve known for a long time.

In Eleanor’s opinion, she’s fine. Despite the fact most of her existence is spent in isolation, she sees no issue with this and seems content in her own company. However, as you read through the book, details emerge of a troubling past.

Eleanor feels very real and relatable. She is someone any of us could be, or could know. I think this book definitely draws attention to the fact we sometimes need to look a little deeper. Both at the people around us, and at ourselves. Not everything is as it seems on the surface.

Get Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman on Amazon

Seen as though I (rightfully) gave Matt Haig two spaces in this list, here’s a bonus:

6. Depression in a Digital Age – Fiona Thomas

I follow Fiona on Instagram, where she often uses her stories to discuss how she’s feeling that day as well as other mental health issues. She is someone I respect a great deal.

Her book is all very familiar to me, as my own story with mental illness mimics hers. Though there are differences in some of the details, the overarching theme is the same: that depression can swoop in and knock you off your feet, but that recovery is possible.

Much like myself, Fiona has been able to connect with several important people due to her online presence. Blogging has been hugely significant in my journey, and it was wonderful to read a similar story.

Fiona’s writing is a joy to read. She is honest and engaging. I think she gives invaluable insight into what it’s like to be caught in the transition between an analogue world and a digital one. She addresses both the positives and the negatives of social media in a way that so many of us would relate to.

Though I think this would be suitable for anybody with, or interested in, mental illness, I think it’s an especially good read for bloggers.

Get Depression in a Digital Age by Fiona Thomas on Amazon

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8 Comments

  1. 5th March 2019 / 5:15 pm

    I’m so glad you shared this list. I read Perks of Being a Wallflower a few years ago. Funnily enough, I recently bought Reasons To Stay Alive because you had mentioned it in another post and can’t wait to read it. I will be adding the rest of these to my TBR for future reading as well.

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      7th March 2019 / 10:09 am

      That makes me so happy! I hope you love it as much as I did. 🙂

  2. 6th March 2019 / 9:37 pm

    Wow, this is a great list of mental health books! I’ve always wanted to read Matt Haig’s books; I’ve seen him campaigning on Twitter and they look absolutely amazing. I’ve been on the sidelines about the Eleanor Opheliant book because I’ve heard differing views either way, but seeing your review has made me want to go out and purchase it. I think it’s so true what you say about people not always realising they’re in a bad place!

    When I saw Ned Vizinni’s ‘It’s Kind Of A Funny Story’ on your list, it brought on a lot of emotions for me. It was the first mental health-related book I ever read as a young teenager, and it was the first book that made me feel like perhaps I wasn’t alone in the battles I was (and continue to) face. I was so sad when I heard that he’d taken his own life, but I hope he knew how much he had helped people before he went.

    I’m definitely going to have to check out some of the other recommendations on your list though; they sound really intriguing!

    Rebekah Gillian | https://rebekahgillian.co.uk/

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      7th March 2019 / 10:12 am

      Thank you, Rebekah! I’m always recommending Matt Haig’s books to people and if you enjoy his content on Twitter, then it’s even more reason to have a read. His writing style is very similar to his tweets so it’s essentially just a book full of his wisdom! 🙂

      I’m glad It’s Kind of a Funny Story was helpful to you at a time when you really needed it and I, too, hope he was aware of the positive impact he had. 🙁 Be sure to let me know what you think of the others if/when you read them!

  3. 7th March 2019 / 12:03 pm

    I’m rather ashamed to say that the only authors I recognise are Matt and Gail, although I haven’t read any of Matt’s work. But I would wholeheartedly agree with you about Eleanor Oliphant, it is an amazing book, all the more so for the twist that I did not see coming. I know it’s been raved about but I think all the hype is totally justified. So I think I need to go off and investigate some of the other authors you’ve recommended now, thank you, Ruth! x

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      13th March 2019 / 3:49 pm

      Absolutely – that twist is the first in a while to catch me completely off guard! Hope you enjoy the others, too! 🙂

  4. 8th March 2019 / 5:22 pm

    Oh I loved the Perks of Being a Wallflower and It’s Kind of a Funny Story! I really enjoyed those books when I was in high school and probably should reread them in the near future. The rest of the books you featured in the post seem really interesting too; I’ll have to get my hands on them and give them a read!

    • ruthinrevolt
      Author
      13th March 2019 / 3:54 pm

      I hope you like them! I reread Perks of Being a Wallflower every few years and I always love it just as much, if not more. However, it’s been a long time since I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story so I may revisit it soon.

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