Book Recommendations for Mental Health Awareness Week
By Lauren Jones, Zoe Doyle, Ana Cecilia Matute and Amy Wright
From 15 May to 21 May it was Mental Health Awareness Week 2023. The event is held annually every May to highlight the importance of mental health and to increase awareness on the subject. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week was "anxiety," a mental health issue that is unfortunately fairly common. This issue we thought we would explore books for mental health and wellbeing – whatever that means to us. From getting an insider’s perspective at the lived experiences of a mental illness to equipping you with the tools to handle anxiety, these are our recommendations.
Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson
Broken (in the Best Possible Way) is blogger and journalist Jenny Lawson’s memoir about her journey with mental health. With her books, Lawson joins an increasing group of public figures who are refusing to shy away from difficult conversations about mental health and who are contributing to normalising the ups and downs of living with mental illness.
In her memoir, Lawson artfully recounts funny memories alongside tales of her battles with anxiety and depression to produce a heartbreaking – and at times hilarious – compilation of essays that are both relatable and heartfelt. The narrative is written like a stream of consciousness and provides an acute awareness of what life can look like for someone living with a mental illness, including aspects that are often overlooked, which is why it’s a great pick for Mental Health Awareness Week.
We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson
While not the most uplifting book on this list, We Have Always Lived in the Castle nevertheless is a fascinating exploration of mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it. The reader is sucked into a dark, rabbit hole of neurosis as we are presented with unsettling characters and a family poisoning. Six years prior to the book’s events, half the members of the Blackwood family were poisoned by arsenic in their food. The surviving members are Uncle Julian, Constance and her sister, the narrator, Mary Katherine – or Merricat. Constance is thought by the villagers to be the murderer and Merricat follows rigid, strange rituals which has resulted in their isolation and ostracisation by the villagers. It has been suggested that Merricat suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and her sister from agoraphobia. A gothic and haunting tale, the book is an excellent look at the ways mental health is stigmatised by those who fear what they don’t understand.
Things You Think About When You Bite Your Nails: A Fear and Anxiety Workbook by Amalia Andrade
We have many fears that change and appear during life and facing them is hard, but during this process, books can be a very useful tool. Things You Think About When You Bite Your Nails approaches different fears, how to understand them and ways to cope with them, but in a very gentle way. It also has pop references that make it a fun read.
This book is perfect to have when you are dealing with anxiety or working on your mental health. Its reflective exercises are excellent to keep improving your wellbeing or to help those close to you as they focus on understanding which tools can be useful in different scenarios.
Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker
Set in the late 2000s, Who Put This Song On? is an inspirational coming-of-age tale and exploration of what it feels like to grow up in a world that does not align with any of your values or beliefs. Morgan is a liberal seventeen-year-old Black woman who is marginalised in her community, causing her to feel trapped in the conservative suburb she lives in. Morgan is also suffering from depression and anxiety and feels that nobody understands her, not even her parents. Who Put This Song On? is an accurate and very relevant portrayal of what it is like to suffer with depression and anxiety as a teenager and the journey in coming to terms with it. The representation in this novel makes it an important read not only for providing awareness, but also something to identify with for many teenagers today. This honest YA debut, which is loosely based on Morgan Parker’s own teenage years, explores race, mental health and the way in which music can be used as an escape. We follow Morgan’s journey as she tries to find her identity and puts her mental health first. By the end of the novel you will be rooting for Morgan and her quirky passion and courage.