Today is Mental Health Awareness Day which you have probably seen a bit about online – I think it’s really picked up profile in the past couple of years which is amazing! Obviously it’s important to talk about mental health all year round but I think awareness days and weeks are great for highlighting issues and bringing them to the forefront. I thought I’d do a little post about books I’ve read which I think capture mental health issues brilliantly. Of course, this is going to be a bit subjective and some may disagree but these are books which resonated with me in some way.
The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton
I wrote a review for this only a few months ago and I spoke a lot about how brilliant the mental health representation is in it. I have never seen psychosis written with such care and accuracy. Usually, psychosis is a plot device used for thrillers or horrors but here it is written into Neena’s storyline and life without exploiting it. It isn’t used for shock value or as a plot device – it’s simply an awful illness that Neena is dealing with and she is seen as separate from her illness which is so important!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is one I find normally divides people in terms of the mental illness representation but I personally think it’s fantastic. I think Charlie is a brilliantly written character with more nuance than his narration often suggests. He wears his emotions on his sleeve whilst at the same time struggling more than anyone around him ever realises. The way he progresses throughout the story is really great and he realises he needs to participate and focus on himself and his own life, not just other people.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
This is one of my all time favourite books and depictions of mental health. Kiko has anxiety and deals with it throughout the book in traumatic situations and situations that don’t seem so bad to the reader. It’s quite a heavy read in many ways because of themes of abuse at the hands of family members, both physical and emotional, but it’s a brilliant book and I highly recommend it. I’ve never seen aspects of anxiety written so realistically and I remember reading this and relating to so much of it, it was a little unreal!
“I Will Not Be Erased”: Our stories about growing up as people of colour by gal-dem
An anthology of stories from women and non binary people of colour, this has some really insightful essays. Those involved write such poignant essays using materials from their teenage years, giving their younger selves advice. Many of the writers speak about their experiences of mental health issues, most of which are written about in relation to religion, race, gender and various forms of discrimination. It’s a brilliant read and an important one.
Night Shift by Debi Gliori
Yes this is a picture book and you wouldn’t think it had much merit for adults but I truly think it does. It’s brilliant for children too and I think it explains depression in an understandable way for kids of pretty much any age. It’s simplistic in description yet doesn’t make depression seem simple or like a black and white issue which is amazingly talented if you ask me. It also has beautiful illustrations! I definitely recommend this one for any age.
We are Okay by Nina LaCour
Anyone who knows me knows I adore Nina LaCour. Her writing is beautiful and I feel like she captures emotions super well. We Are Okay is a perfect example of this. The way she explores the protagonist’s emotions is so impressive and you really feel like you’re in this situation with her, even when you don’t know what’s going on. You feel so much towards the characters and just want to help them out. I found a lot of myself within this book even though I hadn’t been through even half of what Marin had.
If you know any books/films/anything that you think have great representation of mental illness, let us know in the comments! And as always, please reach out for help if you’re struggling. It can be the hardest thing in the world and things won’t change overnight but they can always get better.