Nowadays, you can find a book for every subject, and mental health is no different. Whether you’re a fan of fiction or non-fiction, biographical or romance, how-to or self-help, there is something out there for everyone, books that will give you a different view point or understanding of what it’s like for those who deal with mental health issues, personally or via someone they love. I’ve recommended some books below (including my own), but You can find more recommended reading here, here and here.
AN UNQUIET MIND. From Kay Redfield Jamison – an international authority on manic-depressive illness, and one of the few women who are full professors of medicine at American universities – a remarkable personal testimony: the revelation of her own struggle since adolescence with manic-depression, and how it has shaped her life. Vividly, directly, with candor, wit, and simplicity, she takes us into the fascinating and dangerous territory of this form of madness – a world in which one pole can be the alluring dark land ruled by what Byron called the “melancholy star of the imagination”, and the other a desert of depression and, all too frequently, death. A moving and exhilarating memoir by a woman whose furious determination to learn the enemy, to use her gifts of intellect to make a difference, led her to become, by the time she was forty, a world authority on manic-depression, and whose work has helped save countless lives.
GIRL, INTERRUPTED. In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele—Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles—as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. Kaysen’s memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a “parallel universe” set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.
MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. At the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, Man’s Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.
MADNESS. When Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, she did not yet have the piece of shattering knowledge that would finally make sense of the chaos of her life. At age twenty-four, Hornbacher was diagnosed with Type I rapid-cycle bipolar, the most severe form of bipolar disorder. In Madness, in her trademark wry and utterly self-revealing voice, Hornbacher tells her new story. Through scenes of astonishing visceral and emotional power, she takes us inside her own desperate attempts to counteract violently careening mood swings by self-starvation, substance abuse, numbing sex, and self-mutilation. How Hornbacher fights her way up from a madness that all but destroys her, and what it is like to live in a difficult and sometimes beautiful life and marriage — where bipolar always beckons — is at the center of this brave and heart-stopping memoir. Madness delivers the revelation that Hornbacher is not alone: millions of people in America today are struggling with a variety of disorders that may disguise their bipolar disease. And Hornbacher’s fiercely self-aware portrait of her own bipolar as early as age four will powerfully change, too, the current debate on whether bipolar in children actually exists.
LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED. When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it. In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.
STAY WITH ME. Noah is stocking shelves at the local bookstore when Alma walks in and kisses him. He has barely enough time to grasp what’s happening when she ends the kiss and walks away. Too intrigued not to respond, the normally introverted shopkeeper goes after Alma…only to discover keeping up with the outgoing vixen is more difficult than he imagined. Everything Alma does is impulsive and Noah is no different. The good-looking, but reserved clerk captured her attention on a previous visit and since then she’s been determined to steal a kiss. However, seeing him again after the purloined smooch was not part of her plan; and now that he wants to get to know her, Alma finds the future she’s carefully planned is suddenly uncertain. With the odds stacked against them, Noah and Alma must decide if their fledgling relationship is worth pursuing, because if they can get past their doubts and insecurities, they might just have a future together.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or mental stress, text ‘Start’ to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. It’s free, confidential; and someone is available to talk to you 24/7. You can visit their website www.crisistextline.org for more information.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255).
Or you can contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (800-950-6264) for support and local referrals.
You can also go to Mental Health America to find a support group in your area.
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