After the rise in mental health awareness and the surge of YA novels tackling various mental illnesses I have decided to compile a list of my top 5 books that deal with mental health problems.
1) Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (OCD and anxiety)
I finished this book last night and it was so good! It was an incredibly realistic, honest portrayal of how it is to live with anxiety and OCD, and how crippling it is, especially as a teenager when all you want to do is ‘be normal’. At times it was difficult to read and quite frankly, books that focus on mental illnesses should be – because dealing with a mental health problem is difficult. It focuses on recovery, and then relapse, because recovery isn’t straightforward.
2) Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (Social anxiety)
In Sophie Kinsella’s YA debut, Audrey has cut off all contact with the outside world and can’t leave her house because she has such crippling social anxiety. While she is proactive and tries to get better, it’s hard work. It gives such a truthful portrayal of the therapy sessions she undergoes and there is no happy ending where Audrey is cured forever because you can’t be cured from a mental illness – it still lurks.
3) All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (Bipolar Disorder)
Unlike the others on this list, All the Bright Places is told in a 2 person narrative: grieving Violet Markey and bipolar Theodore Finch. In ATBP you get to see both sides of the story, inside the head of someone who is struggling with a mental health problem and is unable to stay afloat and the perspective of the person watching the other character go through this. And it is heart-breaking. It also emphasises how little help there can be for these kind of issues and how it needs to change. With bipolar disorder, you experience the lowest of lows and highest of highs and it was reflected in Finch.
4) Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (Depression)
The only non fiction book on this life, in Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig candidly talks about his depression and his journey to recovery. He talks about how he nearly took his own life and how he wants to stop others from doing so. Beautifully moving, I cried my whole way through it. If you only read one book from this list, please read this one, you don’t know how much your perspective will change after you’ve read it.
5) Panther by David Owen (Binge eating and depression)
In Panther, protagonist Derrick is binge eating and his sister Charlotte is depressed and recently attempted suicide. Following on from that, his whole family tries to deal with the stress that this has put on their unit and they are slowly torn apart. It is about redemption, living with a family member who is struggling to survive and the inevitable conflict. It is a story of love, depression and family and is incredibly enlightening.
Images courtesy of Amazon.