If you want to diversify your reading list and learn something new at the same time, you can’t go wrong by reading nonfiction books about mental illness. Whether you want to read the accounts of others with your condition or better understand why ableism is awful, books by and about people living with mental illness make great additions to your TBR.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the phrase “mental illness” refers to a wide variety of conditions that affect “a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and … her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis.” These include depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders, as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and other neurodiverse conditions.
Mental illness is more common than many people think. NAMI reports that “one in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year,” while “one in 20 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.”
For Millennials, those numbers are even higher. In 2011, “[t]he average high school kid … ha[d] the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.” Thankfully, Gen-Y’ers are also more open to talking about their mental health. Young people experiencing mental health issues would do well to follow Linda Esposito’s recommendations for self-care, and no one should be afraid to ask for help if they need it. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has compiled some excellent resources over at mentalhealth.gov.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of mental illness has not done much to dissolve the stigma attached to it. If you want to better understand different mental health issues and how psychiatric treatment has evolved, the 16 nonfiction books about mental illness listed below are a great jumping off point. As always, please share your own recommendations on Twitter.
1. My Lobotomy by Howard Dully
In the early 1960s, 12-year-old Howard Dully underwent a radical and brutal procedure: the so-called “ice pick” lobotomy. He spent the next three decades alone and in limbo, before he began to pull his life together and came face-to-face with the truth.
2. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
A few years after Howard Dully was operated on, 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen found herself shipped off to the elite McLean Hospital. Diagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder, Kaysen spent the next two years living in a ward full of girls and young women.