4 Books That Help Me Gain Better Insight On Mental Health Awareness
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is only to highlight some of the books that have helped the writer to gain more insights on mental health issues. This article does not suggest that the books listed below will help or cure mental health. If you or someone you know is dealing with any mental health issues, we urge you to seek professional help. We are with you and you are loved.
The thought of reading books that are related to mental health issues used to be foreign to me. It was only when I stumbled upon a video on YouTube about schizophrenia that made me realised how uneducated I was in the matter. So, I turned to what I know best—reading. Once I started searching for books pertaining to mental health issues, I was overwhelmed with a plethora of choices. There were so many good books out there that one article is just not enough to list all of them but here are my top four:
1. First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson
Focuses on: Anxiety
Source: Melissa Hill
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story about Anxiety is a book about anxiety and how the author navigates her life through it. As it is part memoir and part self-help, the book is not scientifically based. Rather, it talks about the author’s journey dealing with anxiety.
Personally, I felt this book has succeeded in capturing what living anxiety is like. Although not everyone bears the same symptoms nor share the same coping mechanism, this book is a great book to pick up if you wish to understand the thought process of people who have anxiety. The one thing I would say to people who want to read this book is to remember that this is Wilson’s journey with anxiety. Although she has shared some of her practices, procedures, and researches to cope with her anxiety in the book, each individual is still different. You should always go and see a professional to look for the best method to manage your anxiety. Wilson even put a few disclaimers in her book. The first disclaimer states ‘she is not a medical professional and this is her personal and creative response to her condition’.
2. The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
Focuses on: Schizophrenia
Source: The Visualist
Another great memoir to read is The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang. This book is a collection of essays written by Wang who was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2013, eight years after her first auditory hallucination. As it is written by Wang herself, you can expect to read some first-hand experience of someone who is battling schizophrenia.
Upon reading the book, I was impressed. Despite her struggles, Wang was still able to re-collect herself and wrote her experience in detail. It straightaway debunked the misconceptions that schizophrenics are always hallucinating therefore not capable to live in a society. Her two books and one award from Whiting Awards are testaments that people battling chronic illnesses can contribute to society. Sometimes, even more so than people (like many of us) who are blessed enough to have a sound mind! When I first read this book, I had zero knowledge about schizophrenia except from what I have seen in the movie A Beautiful Mind directed by Ron Howard. After reading this book, I came out more enlightened about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses often associated with schizophrenia. If you would like to know more about schizophrenia without the heftiness of medical jargons, this is a great book to start with.
3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Focuses on: PTSD
Source: Wood Paper Scissors
If you enjoy fiction, I highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The book shows how the protagonist, Eleanor is perceived as a social misfit, just because she acts differently than the rest. But in reality, she is dealing with a mental illness in secret. The fact that the mental health issue was not blatantly spelt out in the novel made it more interesting.
To be completely honest, I was under the impression that Eleanor was just socially awkward until halfway through the book. However, I realised she was battling with PTSD the whole time. Other than that, it also gives an insight into some of the less familiar mental health difficulties associated with trauma such as dissociative disorders. Just like the other two books mentioned above, this is another great book for those of you who want to catch a glimpse of what PTSD is like. It was also fun to see how Honeyman developed Eleanor’s character. It shows a glimpse of hope. Even though PTSD is a hard thing to deal with, there is also light at the end of the tunnel. In conclusion, Honeyman succeeded in incorporating the mental health issue into a story that is enjoyable for anyone to read.
4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Focuses on: Depression
Source: A Paper Arrow
Written in an autobiographical manner, The Bell Jar has been famously said to loosely represent Plath’s real-life battle with depression. Another fiction on the list, this novel gives readers an insight into how depression can play with someone’s mind. Plath is a wonderful writer and poet. It is no surprise that The Bell Jar possesses a very powerful and believable description of depression. With that being said, this book would be recognised by those who are battling depression. For those who are not, you will be enlightened. It also debunks the myth that depressed people are lazy or unmotivated. As the protagonist, Esther Greenwood is a driven young woman with aspirations and dreams of becoming a poet.
Since it is fiction, the only comment I will make about this book is that it did help me gain some insights into the struggles of people dealing with depression. However, it is not a book that will help you understand depression fully. It won’t teach you how to overcome depression too. So, please keep that in mind if you are planning to read it.
In conclusion, exposing myself to books that are related to mental health made me realise that there is no reason for us to not learn about mental health. Even if you are not experiencing it first-hand, reading about them will give you valuable and eye-opening insights – helping you be more empathetic towards people who have to deal with them. Not only that, getting ourselves educated regarding this matter is another effort to create more awareness that starts with ourselves; just like Gandhi has said, “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.”