10 Books That Will Give You a Deeper Understanding of Mental Illness
Mental illness is losing much of the stigma that once surrounded it, to some extent, but it still needs a deeper sense of understanding for both sufferers and loved ones of people who suffer. The following are a mix of fiction and non-fiction that explore different areas of mental illness and highlights the fact that no two people will experience the same journey. Take a read through these and deeper your understanding with these fantastic works – feel free to let us know your own recommendations.
1) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This is Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman, Esther Greenwood -a brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, who is succumbing to insanity.
Sylvia Plath draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. This is a deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche.
2) The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The Things They Carries is classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene.
This is a meditation on war, memory, imagination, the suffering of PTSD and the redemptive power of storytelling.
3) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Allie Bosch has been captivating people with her illustrations through her website for years but has now collected some of her best known, and plenty of new ones into this book. In it Allie uses her usual smart, witty and talented voice to draw attention to serious issues.
Hyperbole and a Half includes “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written.
Haunted by her sister’s death and consumed by an inner violence, her growing rage remains so expertly concealed that those who meet her sense nothing unwell. This discord between her inner and outer reality leads her to another obsession: If her truest self is invisible and unknowable to others, is she even alive?
Her risky and often surreal encounters with the people and wildlife of New Zealand propel Elyria deeper into her deteriorating mind.
5) After a While You Just Get Used To It by Gwendolyn Knapp
Growing up in a dying breed of eccentric Florida crackers, Knapp thought she had it rough—what with her pack rat mother, Margie; her aunt Susie, who has fewer teeth than prison stays; and Margie’s bipolar boyfriend, John. But not long after Knapp moves to New Orleans, Margie packs up her House of Hoarders and follows along.
As if Knapp weren’t struggling enough to keep herself afloat, working odd jobs and trying to find love while suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the thirty-year-old realizes that she’s never going to escape her family’s unendingly dysfunctional drama.
6) Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside.
Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.
7) Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression, edited by Nell Casey
Unholy Ghost is a unique collection of essays about depression that, in the spirit of William Styron’s Darkness Visible, finds vivid expression for an elusive illness suffered by more than one in five Americans today.
Unlike any other memoir of depression, however, Unholy Ghost includes many voices and depicts the most complete portrait of the illness.
8) A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.
Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
9) Lit by Mary Karr
Lit follows the self-professed blackbelt sinner’s descent into the inferno of alcoholism and madness–and to her astonishing resurrection. Karr’s longing for a solid family seems secure when her marriage to a handsome, Shakespeare-quoting blueblood poet produces a son they adore. But she can’t outrun her apocalyptic past.
She drinks herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide.
10) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.
As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.