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8 Books to Read in Honor of World Mental Health Day (or Any Day)

by  | October 10
world mental health day


According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their life. So if you’re dealing with mental illness—or you know someone who is—you’re certainly not alone. But sometimes it helps to read stories we can relate to, find characters we recognize, people who’ve struggled, or who’ve helped someone through their struggles. Part of dealing with mental illness, normalizing it, involves talking about it, learning about it, and embracing it. These are eight books that can help us do that.

Shadows in the Sun

Shadows in the Sun

by Gayathri Ramprasad

After her idyllic childhood in India the author experienced a mental breakdown as a teen. From her life in India through her arranged marriage and move to America, Gayathri Ramprasad carried one thing with her: undiagnosed depression. Her memoir is an unforgettable window into mental illness across cultures, exploring the differences between Eastern and Western medicine and how Ramprasad combined them to find healing and light.

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The Valedictorian of Being Dead

The Valedictorian of Being Dead

by Heather B. Armstrong

Author and blogger Heather B. Armstrong’s fascinating story seems like science fiction, but it is a real account of her own extensive battle with suicidal depression and the experimental treatment that she credits with saving her life. Heather opted to participate in a clinical trial for depression that involved a chemically induced coma-approximating brain death. She “died” ten times in a month-long study—and “hasn’t experienced a single moment of suicidal depression since.”

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

by Ned Vizzini

High school is h-a-r-d. It's especially tough when you're growing up in New York City and attending a high-pressure private high school. Even if you've never found yourself (somewhat accidentally) in a psych ward, you can probably relate to Craig Gilner's struggles. And even if you can't, you will thoroughly enjoy this novel’s story of self-discovery. Trust me.

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Obsessed

Obsessed

by Allison Britz

When you wake up from the real-est nightmare ever...and it doesn't end: This actually happened to fifteen-year-old Allison Britz. Her perceptive memoir details the story of how obsessive-compulsive disorder swooped in and took over her life—and how she found the strength to come back from the brink.

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Queenie

Queenie

by Candice Carty-Williams

No one said adulting would be easy, but no one said it would be this hard. Following an unexpected breakup with her longtime boyfriend, twenty-five-year-old Queenie Jenkins struggles to cope, making oh-so relatable mistakes. We’ve all been there, which is why this heartening debut novel, with its realistic portrayal of mental illness and positive message about seeking help, will stick with you.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary

Bridget Jones’s Diary

by Helen Fielding

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces." In one line, Bridget Jones makes a great case for accepting life as it comes at you—all the messy details are really what makes life rich. Bridget is a character, both in the book and movie adaptation, that you want to root for because she's so perfectly imperfect. She lets it all hang out while she works so hard at self-improvement and chasing what she believes will make her happiest. We should all do more of that.

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Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down

by John Green

Aza Holmes is a high school student who's searching for a missing billionaire—while battling OCD and anxiety. Although this engrossing story is fictional, its brilliant author, John Green, has said that this was his first attempt at writing about the type of mental illness he has personally struggled with since childhood. It's a must-read.

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Ask Again, Yes

Ask Again, Yes

by Mary Beth Keane

NYPD street cops Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope could never have imagined, when they and their young families first became next-door neighbors, all the profound ways their lives would intersect over the next 40 years. Ask Again, Yes is a beautifully written fictional story of two very different families brought together and torn apart by all the things that make us human—including mental illness. The author speaks from each character's point of view, giving us a glimpse inside the strongest and most fragile minds and hearts.

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