Self-help

6 Must-Read Books That Discuss Mental Health

Books that discuss mental health serve as invaluable guides on your journey toward emotional well-being. They offer insights, perspectives, and practical tools to navigate the complexities of your mind. They can hold the key to the first steps to change your life. And sometimes, they just help you to feel less alone with your struggles.  […]

isbell oliva garcia grow therapy By Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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Books that discuss mental health serve as invaluable guides on your journey toward emotional well-being. They offer insights, perspectives, and practical tools to navigate the complexities of your mind. They can hold the key to the first steps to change your life. And sometimes, they just help you to feel less alone with your struggles. 

The books discussed in this article vary from more traditional “self-help” to fictional stories that tackle difficult mental health topics; but they all illuminate the pathways to self-discovery, healing, and personal growth, allowing readers to understand themselves and others better. As you embark on your journey of self-discovery, remember that your mental health is a crucial aspect of your overall well-being.

Are Mental Health Books Useful?

Mental health books offer indispensable insights into the complexities of the human mind. According to Kristian Wilson, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy, “Mental health books complement traditional therapy or counseling by offering additional perspectives and tools for self-improvement. They can act as a supportive resource, reinforcing therapeutic concepts and encouraging ongoing personal development outside of therapy sessions.”

While not a replacement for therapy, mental health literature can help teach readers to cultivate resilience, cope with challenges, and foster greater compassion and empathy. 

What’s Bibliotherapy?

Bibliotherapy is a therapeutic practice and form of self-care that employs literature to promote emotional well-being and personal growth. Rooted in the belief that reading can be transformative, bibliotherapy involves strategically selecting books, poems, or written materials that resonate with an individual’s emotional struggles, life experiences, or psychological challenges.

Bibliotherapy encourages self-reflection, empathy, and a deeper understanding of oneself and others. It can complement traditional therapeutic methods, offering a unique and engaging way to explore complex emotions, cope with difficulties, and foster a sense of empowerment.

Facts and Stats About Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy has five distinct functions:

“Reading mental health books can enhance self-awareness by prompting readers to reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,” says Wilson. “This process contributes to emotional intelligence by deepening one’s understanding of themselves and others.” Integrating mental health literature insights into daily practices supports enduring mental resilience and individual development.

Further, reading has a direct impact on the following areas where mental health is concerned, according to librarians at the Kansas City Public Library:

Our Mental Health Book Recommendations

  1. “Darling Rose Gold” by Stephanie Wrobel
  2. “The Girls at 17 Swann Street” by Yara Zgheib
  3. “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  4. “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness, and Get the Help You Deserve” by Rheeda Walker
  5. “This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings” by Julia Samuel
  6. “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

Within this collection, you will find some of the best books, both fiction and non-ficiton, covering mental health topics like burnout, bipolar disorder, childhood trauma, dealing with mental illness in a loved one, and so much more. In the grand tapestry of life, we all have a part to play in cultivating a healthier, happier society. So, let’s turn these pages together, embarking on a journey of growth, empathy, and transformation.

1. “Darling Rose Gold” by Stephanie Wrobel

darling rose gold stephanie wrobel

Topic: Healing from childhood trauma

Parent-child relationships can be complicated. How a child grows and chooses to reclaim that power over those situations as an adult can impact mental health for years to come. The first mental health book on our list examines how one woman reclaims her power from her mother after suffering years of abuse at her hands.

In this best-selling thriller, Wrobel lifts the veil on the obscure dynamic between Rose Gold and her mentally ill mother, taking a bold look at how a carefully measured cocktail of child abuse and mental illness can destroy the most sacred relationships. This novel tackles how circumstances surrounding childhood trauma can impact victims long after the abuse ends. However, it also looks at how survivors can reclaim their power from their abusers and move forward. This gripping narrative is compelling for anyone seeking to understand and navigate the tumultuous healing path from such experiences.

Where to Buy

2. “The Girls at 17 Swann Street” by Yara Zgheib

the girls at 17 swann street yara zgheib

Topic: Battling eating disorders

Eating disorders are intricate and multifaceted, intertwined with mental health and often stem from emotional struggles. They reflect the mind’s labyrinthine relationship with body image, self-esteem, and control. Eating disorders can manifest as coping mechanisms for underlying psychological distress. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and trauma can fuel their development.

Some researchers have concluded that eating disorders signify that the person dealing with these issues doesn’t feel a sense of control in their life. This desire to maintain control over food when control of everything else seems to be slipping away is precisely what Yara Zgheib examines in her debut novel, “The Girls at 17 Swann Street.”

The book follows a young dancer named Anna Roux who, consumed by perfectionism, finds herself trapped with her biggest fears: feelings of failure, loneliness, and imperfections. Here, she begins spiraling out of control and develops a serious eating disorder. Her condition becomes so severe that she’s admitted to a care facility at 17 Swann Street.

While admitted, Anna meets a band of other girls struggling just like her. Together, they learn to conquer their illness and eat six meals daily. “The Girls at 17 Swann Street” delicately addresses the complicated relationship between mental well-being, self-acceptance, and the transformative power of human resilience, making it an invaluable read for anyone seeking solace, understanding, and the courage to conquer their personal demons.

Where to Buy

3. “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

daisy jones and the six taylor jenkins reid

Topic: Coming-of-age

This award-winning novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid may strike some as an unlikely addition to this list. However, the themes addressed in this coming-of-age story provide valuable insights into navigating growing up and the emotional challenges that follow. The anecdotes and lessons learned by the fictitious characters have ties to real-life struggles and solutions.

In this riveting novel, Reid follows the fictional life of up-and-coming rock star Daisy Jones. Set in the late ’60s, this exciting oral history weaves the story of her and her band, The Six, and their rise to fame. With its vivid portrayal of characters navigating the complexities of their formative years, including the challenges of fame, relationships, social anxiety, and self-discovery, this fun-filled novel excels as a coming-of-age story.

The book sensitively addresses mental health, showcasing how characters grapple with their emotional struggles, ultimately emphasizing the importance of support, self-acceptance, and personal growth.

Where to Buy

4. “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness, and Get the Help You Deserve” by Rheeda Walker

the unapologetic guide to black mental health rheeda walker

Topic: Mental health and the Black diaspora

Mental health in the Black community is often overlooked. This is why it’s crucial that books dealing with mental health and mental health care in Black communities, written by Black authors, are readily available for people seeking resources. Enter Dr. Rheeda Walker and her book “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health,” which examines crucial mental health issues in the Black community.

Dr. Walker draws from personal experience and takes an unapologetic look at the Black community’s crisis regarding mental health conditions, including fighting the stigma surrounding them. “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health” is an exceptional mental health book that provides a much-needed perspective on the intersection of mental well-being and racial experiences.

By addressing the unique challenges faced by the Black community, the book offers critical insights, tools for emotional resilience, and a supportive framework for fostering mental wellness within a racially unequal system.

Where to Buy

5. “This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings” by Julia Samuel

this too shall pass julia samuel

Topic: Dealing with change and crisis

Sometimes, the best method for addressing a season of poor mental health can be a conversation with someone who shared a similar experience. This selection stands out from the others because it is a series of digestible vignettes from a vast array of different personal experiences.

Psychotherapist and bestselling author Julia Samuel takes source material straight from actual, relatable sessions with patients, allowing readers to rationalize and make connections to their unique mental health journey. Each section contains different subject matter, from a new mother at the crossroads of returning to her career to a man endeavoring to mend the fragments of his marriage after surviving COVID-19 in the ICU.

This book fearlessly confronts the crucibles of family, love, profession, health, burnout, overthinking, and self-discovery. These 19 evocative, memorable, and profoundly personal narratives about ordinary individuals will reshape your comprehension of humans’ distinct reactions to change and revolutionize your approach to adversities across life’s spectrum.

Where to Buy

6. “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig

reasons to stay alive matt haig

Topic: Conquering depression 

One of the more commonly occurring mental health issues is depression. No one is immune from feelings of depression. Sometimes, the pressure can grow so dense that thoughts of self-harm infiltrate the mind. While it may be hard to see at the moment, things do get better, and this is something Matt Haig reminds readers of in his mental health book “Reasons to Stay Alive.”

In his memoir, Matt Haig details a time in his life when he came to the heartbreaking conclusion that he didn’t want to continue living. He was only 24 when this overwhelming desire to end his life consumed him. However, as quoted in this book, he realized that time heals all wounds. This cleverly written memoir uniquely approaches such heavy subject matter, interlacing it with moments of joy and humor.

Through his account of depression and thoughts of suicide, Haig helps readers master the art of enhancing their existence, fostering deeper connections, and embracing vitality to the fullest.

Where to Buy

Takeaways

From poignant, personal anecdotes to fresh takes on modern therapy techniques, these books offer unique perspectives on the journey of mental well-being. Remember, these self-help books aren’t meant to diagnose but to empower and inspire you to take charge of your mental fitness just as you would your physical health.

As you continue to navigate life’s ups and downs, let these great books be your companions on the path to self-discovery and healing of trauma. Celebrate the power of mental well-being and embrace the courage to seek the support and resources that resonate with you. The knowledge shared within these books transcends boundaries and creates a more compassionate and understanding world.

Writing Your Own Chapter of Healing and Growth

Remember, the story of your mental well-being is still being written, and these books are but the beginning chapters of an epic tale. Keep reading, growing, and celebrating the power of controlling your mental health. 

If you want to learn more about how therapy could benefit you, visit Grow Therapy to be matched with a therapist who meets your needs.

FAQs

  • Absolutely. Fictional characters' journeys can offer insights and perspectives applicable to your own challenges. Additionally, novels, memoirs, and poetry can provide comfort, inspiration, and new ways of understanding mental health.

  • Books can complement therapy, offering insights and coping strategies, but nothing can replace the support and guidance you receive in therapy.

  • Yes, prioritize your emotional well-being. Skip content that triggers negative feelings. Moderation is key. Pace yourself, allowing time to reflect and apply what you've learned.

  • Read summaries, reviews, and content warnings before selecting a book to ensure it aligns with your emotional needs.

  • Take notes, reflect on how concepts relate to your experiences, and consider discussing them with a therapist or support group.

About the author
isbell oliva garcia grow therapy Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC

Isbell Oliva-Garcia is a licensed mental health counselor, bilingual in English and Spanish. Isbell specializes in women's issues during difficult times of transition and also works with front-line individuals struggling with PTSD or stressors created by the job.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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