In 1949, May was established as Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, individuals are encouraged to speak out about mental health and wellness, challenge the stigma about mental health, advocate for policies, and provide the necessary support for those living with mental health issues.
Perhaps one of the best ways to become more informed about mental health is by listening to (or reading about) others’ personal experiences with mental health and mental illness. In addition to relating to someone else’s story, you may learn something new or start to view a topic related to mental health in a new perspective.
Here are ten nonfiction books and memoirs to read during Mental Health Awareness Month:
1. MIND YOUR HEAD BY JUNO DAWSON
In this “frank, factual, and funny” book, Dawson discusses a variety of mental health issues that plague teenagers and young adults with help from Dr. Olivia Hewitt, a clinical psychologist. True stories written by young people from across the globe and funny illustrations from Gemma Correll make this read enjoyable and educational.
2. BRAVE FACE: A MEMOIR BY SHAUN DAVID HUTCHINSON
In this emotional memoir, Hutchinson expresses his experience during his later teen years dealing with depression and his acceptance of himself as a gay man. Conflicting messages caused by his depression and society led Hutchinson to feel outcast, unloved, and confused about himself and his place in the world. He reflects on the darkest days of his depression, and what his survival and recovery taught him.
3. BLACK PAIN: IT JUST LOOKS LIKE WE’RE NOT HURTING BY TERRIE M. WILLIAMS
Williams’ own experience battling her depression caused her to begin speaking out against stigmas surrounding depression and start helping others who suffered too. Williams particularly focuses on how “emotional pain” affects Black people, and how participation in areas such as drugs, crime, addiction, and violence may actually be results of unacknowledged personal troubles. In this powerful, reflective, and invoking book, Williams strives to prompt others to speak out about their issues and face their traumas.
4. OWN YOUR ANXIETY: 99 SIMPLE WAYS TO CHANNEL YOUR SECRET EDGE BY JULIAN BRASS
In this thoughtful and positive guide, Julian Brass invites readers to rethink their relationships with anxiety. He believes anxiety can be thought of as a “positive and facilitative” aspect of an individual’s personality. Brass provides advice and information on how to live with anxiety, manage stress, maintain a balanced lifestyle, and cut back on social media usage. Brass further examines how one can “own” their anxiety in three different aspects: mind, body, and soul.
5. (DON’T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH BY KELLY JENSEN
Created with the belief that everyone experiences mental illnesses differently, Jensen’s book is composed of 33 various athletes’, actors’, artists’, and writers’ experiences with mental health and mental illness. Told through stories, illustrations, lists, and essays, readers learn that mental health is a topic that should be discussed, and are encouraged to consider why people often hesitate from speaking up about mental illness and problems with mental health.
6. ORDINARY GIRLS BY JAQUIRA DIAZ
This colorful memoir describes Díaz’s experiences with girlhood and coming-of-age. Her depression often conflicts with her vision and dreams of who she wants to become. Díaz also describes living with her schizophrenic mother and the breaking up of their family. Woven into Díaz’s story are her reflections on her sexual, cultural, and personal identities.
7. HALDOL AND HYACINTHS BY MELODY MOEZZI
Moezzi is an Iranian-American Muslim woman who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a young adult. Her memoir provides insight into her experiences staying in psychiatric hospitals and the various treatments she underwent. She recounts the severe stigma she faced and the instructions from her family and medical professionals to remain silent about her illness. However, Moezzi decides to fight the stigmas surrounding bipolar disorder and become a prominent advocate, all while on a journey of self rediscovery.
8. GORILLA AND THE BIRD: A MEMOIR OF MADNESS AND A MOTHER’S LOVE BY ZACK MCDERMOTT
After waking up one day convinced he was being filmed for a TV show and eventually getting arrested and admitted to a hospital, McDermott decides to embark on a personal journey of recovering and coping with psychosis. He chronicles his experiences with bipolar disorder and his relationship with his tough, yet loving mother (“the Bird”). She supports McDermott and her love serves as the “light in Zack’s dark world.” McDermott’s journey also leads him to experience various challenges and overcome different obstacles as he aims to navigate through life and love.
9. LITTLE PANIC: DISPATHCES FROM AN ANXIOUS LIFE BY AMANDA STERN
In this honest and raw memoir, Stern describes the hypothetical situations and problems which caused her to feel extreme panic and fear growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in New York City. Constant worries about her family, death, and loneliness cause Stern to feel intense emotions and always be prepared for the worst to happen at any moment. Stern knows she is struggling with something that her family and friends do not have to deal with. She must juggle living with a panic disorder and her different relationships with those around her.
10. CHANGING MINDS: THE GO-TO GUIDE TO MENTAL HEALTH FOR YOU, FAMILY, AND FRIENDS BY DR. MARK CROSS AND DR. CATHERINE HANRAHAN
Widely recognized from the TV show Changing Minds, Dr. Mark Cross attempts to provide insightful, educational information about various mental illnesses in comprehensible terms for the average person. Written for people with mental illnesses, or for people who know others with a mental illness, this engaging and clear guide not only describes common mental illnesses, but also includes information about treatment options and how to live with a specific mental illness. In addition, this guide allows individuals to learn more about caring for a loved one with a mental illness.
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