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Five books to better understand mental illness

Ending stigma around mental illness begins with understanding what it is and isn’t, and how those diagnosed with it experience and go about their everyday lives. Thankfully, awareness is growing as can be seen in the increase in meaningful books and films on the subject.

Below we’ve selected a few personal accounts of life with mental illness that are a good place to get started. These are personal accounts of life with mental illness that show the inner thoughts and experiences of those experiencing mental illness and can help portray their humanity and individual struggle.

Each is powerful and poignant; but keep in mind this is a small sample of the wealth of information out there. A quick Google search will give you more options by type of illness, recommended age group, or any other category you desire.

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy

33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health

By Kelly Jensen


There are plenty of good reasons to start with this book. One, it offers the perspectives of 33 people, some of whom you will recognize, and two it addresses head on a damaging stigma around mental illness - that of being “crazy.”

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy is described as “a conversation starter and guide to better understanding how our mental health affects us every day,” on its page. Kirkus Reviews called it a, “highly readable and vital collection (that) demonstrates the multiplicity of ways that mental health impacts individuals.”

Check it out.


How it feels to float

By Helena Fox

Young Adult novel

How it feels to float is a work of fiction for younger audiences, especially those who might be facing illness or trauma within their families. The novel, the first by author Helena Fox, follows a 17-year-old girl as she struggles to cope with grief and mental illness. Kirkus Reviews says the fiction book provides “a nuanced account of the hereditary effects of trauma.”

Source: Penguin teen

Everything Here Is Beautiful

By Mira T. Lee Fiction

Another debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful explores the bond between two Chinese-American sisters and the impact of mental illness on their lives and relationship. This story looks at the impact of mental illness not just on the individual experiencing it, but also on their family members and the people who care about them. Featured on Oprah Magazine’s 2019 Books to Read for Mental Health Awareness Month, the novel “examines the sacrifices we make for those we love.”

An Unquiet Mind

By Kay Redfield Jamison


Written by a clinical psychologist, this 1996 memoir looks at the author’s personal experience as a manic depressive and her exploration of available treatments. Its insight and power lies in the personal account as told by someone who also treats mental illnesses.

Reasons To Stay Alive

By Matt Haig


Written as a series of brief vignettes, Reasons to Stay Alive describes British author Matt Haig’s struggles with depression and anxiety. Kirkus Reviews called the memoir “a vibrant, encouraging depiction of a sinister disorder” and says “Haig’s book provides unobjectionable advice that will offer some help and succor to those who experience depression and other related illnesses.”

Source: Geek Dad

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