I haven’t blogged about mental health in a while, but it’s still something I care about deeply. As it’s world mental health day, I wanted to contribute something to the conversation. I know better than anyone that you can’t self-help book your way out of depression or mental illness. Mental health is very complex and a cup of tea, a warm bath and a book isn’t going to make it go away. But, sometimes it’s nice to feel understood and a lot of the mental health books I choose for this list offer practical aids, information and anecdotes.
Artie Carden came out with an idea for a mental health blog series with other bloggers so I decided to add some to the mental health books list too. Riyah of Riyah Speaks, Lauren of Splint Up Look Sharp and Angel from Avid Reader also contributed to his mental health books blog collaboration. Check out their lists!
Content Warning: This blog post covers mental illness, depression, eating disorders, and suicide. I handled these issues with sensitivity but if these are triggering for you, it might be best to click off this blog post now.
Here are 10 mental books about recovery, defiance, and feeling understood.
Mental Health Books List
Staying Strong 365 Days A Year – Demi Lovato
The first on this mental health books list is Demi Lovato’s Staying Strong 356 Days a Year.
Demi has been a powerful mental health advocate for around a decade now. They’ve always been candid about their struggles with addiction, eating disorders, and depression. One thing I do respect about them is that they don’t hide their faults and *usually* admit when they’ve messed up. While their documentaries get lots of attention (make of them what you will) I think their book is underrated.
Staying Strong 365 Days A Year is based on the affirmations they tell remind themself of every morning to stay in recovery.
The Eating Disorder Recovery Journal – Cara Lisette
The Eating Disorder Recovery Journal by Cara Lisette and illustrated by Victoria Barron is more than a self-help book. It was created to help users to understand their eating disorder better and navigate recovery. It draws on mindfulness and CBT and contains lots of affirmations, writing prompts and colouring pages to keep
You Will Get Through This Night – Daniel Howell
Once known as danisnotonfire, Dan Howell has come far since his days of sharing “Reson’s Why Dan’s A Fail” on Youtube with You Will Get Through This Night. A lot of self-help books feel like homework and lets face it, are incredibly boring but Dan’s is one of the best mental health books in my opinion. Thanks to Dan’s witty sense of humor, he manages to share tips on managing your mental health while keeping the book engaging – and sharing anecdotes along the way (or dare I bring up the “Danecotes” from early 2010s YouTube?)
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar is considered to be a work of fiction, but it closely parallels things that are said to have happened during Sylvia Plath’s life. It begins as Ester’s life falls apart while she’s working as an intern for a fashion magazine and she spends time in a psychiatric hospital detailing her recovery. It’s also deeply thought-provoking, the imagery she used when describing how she felt she had to choose one thing to do with her life, but wanted everything has stuck with me years later.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of the fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest.
Disclaimer: If you are vulnerable right now, I would not read this book. It gets very in-depth when it comes to suicide which may be triggering to some readers.
Turtles All The Way Down – John Green
Turtles All the Way Down is fiction and is at it’s heart, a YA mystery romance. That said, it still deeply resonated with me when it came to how it tackled mental health.
The story followed 16-year-old Aza Holmes as her and her best friend Daisy as they try to uncover what happened to her childhood friend’s dad. While the detective work is key to the plot, Aza’s mental health took center stage for me. She has OCD and her compulsions and health anxiety often side-track her life. At times I felt like I was looking at my own brain. Sometimes it’s comforting to just feel understood and that’s why I loved this book.
Be Beautiful Be You – Lizzie Velazquez
Lizze Velazquez is one of three people with an unknown syndrome preventing her from gaining weight or muscle. They were once dubbed the ugliest woman in the world while in high school.
While most people won’t relate to what Lizzie has gone through, low-self esteem and bullying are common issues. Be Beautiful, Be You is partially anecdotal but Lizzie also shares lots of coping mechanisms, tips for confidence, and exercises on learning to find self-love. I first came across her as an insecure bullied teen and still follow her all these years later.
Girl, Interrupted – Suzanna Kaysen
My review of Girl, Interrupted all the way back in 2015 was actually my first ever post on this blog!
The book – you may be aware of the film adaption starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie – is an autobiographical account of Kaysen’s time in McLean’s psychiatric hospital as she delves into her mind and critically examines her borderline personality disorder diagnosis.
Disclaimer: If you are vulnerable right now, I would not read this book.
Body Positive Power: How to Stop Dieting, Make Peace with Your Body and Live – Megan Jayne Crabbe
You might recognise Megan from social media! Her book, Body Positive Power, touches on the body image issues she grew up with and her battle with anorexia. She promotes the idea that all bodies are good bodies and and that the “bikini body diet” doesn’t exist.
Toxic Childhood Stress: The Legacy of Early Trauma and How to Heal – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
This book dives into understanding the adverse effects that affect us from childhood and throughout our loves and how to disrupt the trauma cycle to help lead a happier life.
Asylum to Action: Paddington Day Hospital, Therapeutic Communities and Beyond – Helen Spandler
Last but not least on this mental health books list is Asylum to Action. This book is an alternative history of a libertarian therapeutic community at Paddington Day Hospital in West London during the 1970s. It captures conflicts and aspirations within early therapeutic community movement, radical psychiatry and the patients’ movement.
Have you read any of these mental health books? How do you mind your mental health?