Did you know that reading can alter your thought processes by exposing you to information that you may not have known before? This is why adding reading mental health-related books to your list of effective actions to improve your mental health is a good idea.
These five books on mental health range from works by therapists and other experts to memoirs that serve as a reminder that you are not alone in your struggles. These books address a wide range of topics, including trauma, therapy, and grief.
I am Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi
I will start with one of my favorite non-fiction works by Nigerian-American author Bassey Ikpi in which she explores her own personal journey with Bipolar II and anxiety, while living out her dreams as a traveling spoken word artist, traveling with HBO’s Def Poetry Jam.
They say, “we read to know we are not alone.” This memoir reminds us exactly that. The essays in the book were intimate, raw and vulnerable. Bassey demonstrates how, like many other individuals, her mental health deteriorated despite the appearance of a self-assured performer. It also explored the stigma Black people continue to face surrounding mental illness. If you want to read a memoir about mental health, you absolutely must read this.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone : A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
While I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, this book is at the top of my to-read list for this year.
It took me a while to be able to openly talk about going to therapy. Even though I knew better, it always seemed like that was something only individuals with "severe" problems did in our culture. Now I know it’s totally okay to pay a trained professional to listen and look at your problems from the outside looking in and help you make sense of the chaos of the world and your mind. That being said, as a certified empath, one thing I always wonder is, “Who makes sure my therapist is okay?” This book explores that.
The memoir was written by psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb and describes what occurs as her world implodes and she is forced to begin seeing a therapist, Wendell, as well. She finds that the questions her patients are struggling with are the very ones she is seeking answers to.
Gottlieb explores the truths and lies we tell ourselves and others as we walk the fine line between love and desire, significance and mortality, guilt and redemption, dread and courage, hope and transformation. She does it with stunning wisdom and humour.
What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry, Oprah Winfrey
When talking about trauma, the language used leans towards asking, “what is wrong with you?” In this book, Oprah and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry, seek to encourage people to instead look at trauma from the viewpoint of, “What happened to me?” Research has shown that our earliest experiences shape our lives far down the road. The patterns, behaviors and emotions we exhibit today, can be traced back to our past experiences.
“By looking at trauma through this lens, we can build a renewed sense of personal self-worth and ultimately recalibrate our responses to circumstances, situations, and relationships. It is, in other words, the key to reshaping our very lives.” - Oprah Winfrey
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
Have you ever wondered why you don’t remember certain parts of your life? Why you keep making the ‘wrong’ decisions even when you know better? Or why you continue to experience chronic muscle pain and headaches?
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Dr. Seuss
This well-researched book explains how trauma alters our brain's wiring in ways that affect areas related to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. The book shows how healing from trauma can be done through the physical body by using techniques such as mindfulness, play, yoga, neurofeedback and other alternative therapies like cold therapy.
I will, however, issue a small trigger warning for this one. And while it still makes for a good read, I find it is a little bit on the academic side in my opinion.
Welcome to the Grief Club: Because You Don’t Have to Go Through It Alone by Janine Kwoh
Now most people would not ordinarily include this book in this list. However, while not often talked about, from personal experience, grief can take a huge toll on your mental health. This book is a book of connection, hope and reassurance for people dealing with grief. It addresses the variety and volatility of emotions - sadness, anger, guilt, joy; and the physical symptoms of grief like fatigue.
This book says, I see you and you are not alone, from one grieving person to another.
What books would you add to this list?