New year; new resolutions, right? Let this be the year we try to better understand issues surrounding mental health - for ourselves and for our friends and loved ones who may be dealing with them. In this spirit, we’ve curated 10 books that may be helpful to both clinicians and individuals who want to learn more about mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, PTSD, OCD, postpartum depression, and more. We broke them into two categories for ease of organization. The factors we considered when choosing which books to feature included: positive reader reviews, consistently high ratings, and author qualifications. All of these books are available at amazon and other online retailers, as well as in independent bookstores. Which books would you add to the list?
Books about and/or authored by people living with mental health disorders
A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash by Sylvia Nasar
This iconic and Pulitzer Prize-nominated story of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash, whose brilliant career was cut short by schizophrenia, was published in 1997 but remains a classic, especially after it was turned into an award-winning movie starring Russell Crowe. Nash was eventually honored with a Nobel Prize in Economics, but struggled with schizophrenia his whole life. The book describes his mental health journey and its effects on his family, friends and career.
Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me: Depression in the First Person by Anna Mehler Paperny
After hitting a breaking point in her early 20s, journalist Anna Paperny decided to do what she does best - use her investigative skills to find out everything she could about her own debilitating condition - depression. And thanks to that quest for knowledge, readers benefit from her concise descriptions of everything from types of therapy available to the effects of medication to the stigma around mental illness. Includes interviews with leading medical experts in the US and Canada.
Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
One sister starts hearing voices while the other struggles to find a way to support and protect her in this book about how mental illness impacts friends, family, and caregivers. The book chronicles bipolar disease from the caregivers’ perspective - how one must always walk a bittersweet tightrope between helping and protecting, and backing off to provide independence.
The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam
The author is a noted scientist and editor at The Journal Nature, and has lived with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for 20 years. This multiple award-winning book is an exploration of both his mind and the history of the condition that makes his mind a hectic place. He explains what it's like to be plagued by intrusive and obsessive thoughts and compulsions, like hoarding and his multiple but necessary home rituals, and provides research into the history of OCD diagnosis and treatment.
Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Brooke Shields
When actor Brooke Shields welcomed her daughter Rowan Francis into the world, something unexpected followed – debilitating postpartum depression. She assumed she’d bounce back in a few days - but things only got worse. This honest memoir offers a first-person perspective on the devastating condition faced by millions of women after giving birth. Shields talks candidly about her struggles and offers hope for recovery by describing her own.
Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland
Human rights journalist Mac McClelland spent 2010 reporting on Haiti’s earthquake but when she returned home to California, she was surprised by the lasting effects of the trauma she’d witnessed - nightmares, anxiety, insomnia, crying jags and more. After a diagnosis of PTSD, and in an attempt to help herself heal, she began investigating PTSD, its symptoms and treatment, and how she experienced it in her own mind.
Books written to help those living with mental health disorders
Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian-Americans by Dr. Jenny Wang
The author is the founder of the Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American (APISAA) Therapist Directory and created this comprehensive resource especially for Asian-Americans, immigrants, and other minorities who may be experiencing behavioral health issues, to provide resources for improving self-care and mental health - a community she feels is underserved for various reasons.
It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn
Research has recently shown that the roots of mental health disorders may not just reside in our own current life experiences or in the chemical imbalances inside our brains, but in the lives of our parents, grandparents, and even further back. The author is a leading expert in the field and in this book, he looks at how trauma experienced by relatives may be passed down to the next generation and how to address those issues.
Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting by Terri Williams
When successful business executive and mental health advocate Terri Williams was diagnosed with depression, she found that the topic was still taboo especially in the Black community. In this book, she discusses the emotional pain of depression and how it uniquely affects the Black experience, encouraging readers to seek help without feeling ashamed. She reminds readers that they are brave for facing emotional difficulties head-on and finding solutions with the help of others.
This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings by Julia Samuel
This may be a useful resource for clinicians. In it, psychotherapist Julia Samuel uses hours of conversations with patients to show how individuals act and adapt differently in the face of hardship. Backed by research, her analysis of the stories she shares explains how mental health is different for everybody, yet evidence-based treatment and coping skills work across multiple populations.
If you need help with behavioral health issues, consider contacting a qualified mental health professional
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