Book Publishers Shining a Light on Mental Health
By Joanne Boustead
For many writers, being published is the number one goal. However, those whose work revolves around the topic of mental health have struggled to make their voices heard. In the past, many publishers would have regarded a book that focuses on mental health as falling into a niche category – that is, a topic only a few will be interested in. While some publishing houses, such as Russell House, Hay House and Watkins Publishing have already demonstrated that these books are a priority, it has taken some time for other publishers to follow suit. Despite this, there is hope on the horizon for those keen to share their mental health experiences with the world.
Becoming widely popular in the 1980s and continuing to this day, self-help books are now a staple on many bookshelves. While many of these have been self-published, traditional publishers are continually realising the importance of promoting and understanding mental health and are endeavouring to publish books that educate or support readers.
The Urgency for Conversation
In 2019, The Bookseller spoke of the urgency for the publication of mental health books. In their article ‘Authors urge publishers to ‘give space’ to mental health’, writers discuss the necessity of including books about mental health in publishing. From poetry to fiction, authors want their readers to be able to pick up a book and recognise themselves in the text or at least relate to its events.
During The Bookseller’s tenth FutureBook conference in 2019, poet and activist MC Angel voiced the need for writing (and publishing) the “raw element, the pure gritty pain” of mental health. Appealing for publishers to “create space”, she makes it clear that the narrative needs to be changed, and publishers have responded with vigour.
From Ripples to Waves
As the need for more awareness on mental health has become increasingly apparent, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, publishers have endeavoured to release helpful and informative content. While self-publishing is still a popular choice for many writers wanting to write about mental health, there is now more support for those wishing to make the leap to traditional publishing.
A more recently established publisher, Trigger Publishing (originally set up in 2016), has asserted itself as a leading publisher of mental health and wellbeing books in the UK. With a dedicated team of clinical experts, Trigger is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information, as well as raising awareness about the diversity of mental health and wellbeing.
Ebury Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Books, recently published Unwinding Anxiety by Dr Judson Brewer. Taking a deep dive into the addictive behaviours caused by anxiety, this book investigates triggers and habit loops while suggesting unique ways to overcome them. This refreshing take shows that publishers are willing to listen to what their writers and readers want and will do what it takes to provide this.
Encouraging Wellbeing From a Young age
In the fast-paced society we live in, there is little time for us to stop and think, to take a breath and step back from the commotion around us. We are constantly on the go. Whether travelling, working or raising the next generation, as a society we have somewhat forgotten the importance of looking after our own health and wellbeing. We focus more on keeping ourselves busy rather than finding time to relax and unwind.
Upside Down Books, the children’s imprint of Trigger, aims to encourage conversation about mental health and wellbeing from a young age. A variety of fiction and non-fiction books allow children to learn more about mental health and their own emotions, as well as encouraging them to talk openly about their feelings. Publishers are beginning to recognise that change starts from an early age. By promoting mindfulness in children, they can help to prepare them for the stresses of life, as well as give them effective techniques to improve their mental health and wellbeing. One such book, Superheroes Don’t Get Scared by Kate Thompson, helps children to normalise their fears; a great life lesson to learn!
Throughout the multiple lockdowns, publishers have answered the calls of their readers to publish honest and thought-provoking works. Whether they are self-help books, such as This Too Shall Pass by Julia Samuel, poetry about the recent lockdowns or memoirs that inspire others, publishers like Trigger, Russell House, Hay House, Watkins Publishing, Penguin Books have stepped up to help their readers learn to overcome their struggles.