Guys. It’s CMHA Mental Health Week (May 7-13)! This week let’s #GetLoud, end stigma, and have meaningful conversations about mental health. One way to do that is to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. My favourite method of doing so is READING! Today I’m bringing you my five favourite books about mental health and mental illness. Each title deals with the topic in a different way. I’ve got a couple adult novels, a couple of YA novels, and a nonfiction. Something for everyone! Let’s get talking.
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
This book is a hilarious meditation on mental illness by the Bloggess herself, Jenny Lawson. In Furiously Happy she picks up kind of where she left on in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Here she focuses less on her past, and more on the way she deals with her various mental health issues. She takes a serious topic and lightens it, without actually making light of it.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
I fell in love with this book when I read it. Two teenagers, Violent and Finch, meet while both suffering suicidal ideations. Violet suffers from depression while Finch seems to have bipolar disorder. This book makes a love story and a friendship that isn’t a cure all, and also explores the ways society can fail those in need.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This is one of my favourite books of all time. Esther Greenwood is a young women interning at a magazine in New York in the ‘50s. As she tries to seize her dream of becoming a writer, Esther spirals into depression. The title is the central metaphor for mental illness and its effect on Esther’s life–she feels like she trapped, suffocating in a bell jar.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak is considered a classic of young adult fiction. Published in the nineties, it deals with trauma and depression in a real and raw way that was ahead of its time. The main character Melinda’s mental health begins to deteriorate after a trauma. This triggers a depression for her and she stops speaking almost completely. Here, Speak explores the ways trauma can have a huge impact on our mental health.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
This book is not any one thing. Part domestic domestic thriller, part horror, and part feminist meditation, it’s the story of Yeong-hye’s descent. Told in three parts narrated by those in her life, The Vegetarian tells us how Yeong-hye woke up after a nightmare and became a vegetarian. This decision has cataclysmic effects on her and her family. The Vegetarian explores Yeong-hye’s mental breakdown. This is a weird, complex work that is about more than mental health, but uses it as a vehicle for Kang to explore many important topics.
Want more? Check out what makes people with anxiety great friends and what being a teen librarian taught Sarah about depression!
What are your favourite books about mental health and mental illness?
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.