World Mental Health Day is a day to raise awareness for mental health issues and the need for adequate treatment around the world. Mental health is a crucial part of an individual’s overall well-being and should not be treated any differently than physical health. These 6 books illustrate this idea, offering insight into the experiences of those living with a range of mental illnesses and reminding us all to take better care of ourselves and each other in both body and mind.
This novel follows two sisters: Lucia, an impulsive woman living with schizoaffective disorder, and Miranda, her protective older sister. Miranda desperately wants her sister to take the medication that helps anchor her back to reality. But for Lucia, the voices and “serpents” in her head are her reality. Through the eyes of these two women, the novel portrays schizoaffective disorder from two perspectives—what it’s like to live with it and what it’s like to love someone who lives with it.
A 25-year-old Jamaican-British woman living in London, Queenie’s life is full of stressors. At the start of the novel, she has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend and is dealing with everything from microaggressions at work to sexist treatment from the terrible men she starts dating. When it all becomes too much, Queenie seeks out therapy—even though it means facing opposition from a family and culture that stigmatize mental suffering.
Esmé Weijun Wang is a writer living with schizoaffective disorder, a diagnosis given when a patient exhibits symptoms of both schizophrenia (including hallucinations) and a mood disorder (such as bipolar disorder). Written from a personal perspective, these essays tackle major issues in the field of mental health, including the appalling way universities treat their students’ mental problems and the traumatic practice of involuntary hospitalization. While there are no easy solutions, Weijun Wang’s work offers an empathic glimpse into the experiences of someone living with them every day.
In this raw, affecting memoir, Anuradha Bhagwati chronicles her journey from a strict upbringing to Marine service to life as an activist. While in the Marines, Bhagwati experienced the harsh forces of racism and sexism—including sexual assault—so prevalent in the military. She retired from service in 2004 and founded the advocacy group Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). As she began her own rocky path to recovering from trauma, Bhaghwati worked to help other service women overcome barriers—from opening up combat roles for women to ensuring all who experienced sexual trauma during their service receive access to the professional mental health support they need.
Darius Kellner is a shy, awkward teen who’s on medication for his clinical depression. His story picks up right before he leaves on a trip to Iran, where he’ll have to navigate a whole new social environment as he meets his grandparents for the first time. This coming of age YA novel shows the subtle ways in which depression can influence a person’s life, but there’s still a hopeful undertone: when Darius makes a new friend in Iran, he begins to come to terms with who he is, recognizing that it’s okay not to be okay.
After an 18-month bout of depression left her wanting to die, blogger and mother-of-two Heather B. Armstrong decided to seek out radical help. She became the third participant in an experimental treatment that involves being placed in a medically induced coma similar to brain death—ten times. This powerful memoir is a testament to the importance of family; Heather undergoes this intense treatment to ensure she can be there for her daughters long-term, but she’s able to do so in part thanks to the incredible support she receives from her family.