Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Top 5 Wednesday: Books About Mental Health

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my first T5W post in what seems like ages! (It probably is ages...) I think I needed a great topic to kick my bum back into these posts, and what better one than this: books about mental health, so thank you GingerReadsLainey for choosing it! For those of you who follow my blog, I am sure you will know that I read A LOT of books about mental health. I think they play such a fascinating and crucial part in our society, as they raise awareness covertly. People who don't know that much about it may not want to sit there and read a science text book, but they will happily read a novel...never underestimate how much you can learn from a novel! The LGBTQ community has been getting fantastic coverage in fiction recently, and I think now the mental health community is at a stage where the stigma is low enough to allow for really honest accounts to find their way into mainstream fiction.

So, as you can guess, there are a lot of books for me to choose from! But here they are, my top 5 books on mental health:

5. The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks was an incredible neurologist, who sadly recently passed away. He leaves behind my favourite non-fiction book about mental health. This book contains case studies of patients Sacks dealt with who presented with extraordinary mental illness. These accounts were absolutely fascinating, and really opened my eyes to how delicate our brain is, and therefore how easily it can go wrong. Not only that, but when people think of mental illness they think of it quite closed-mindedly: depression, anxiety, schizophrenia - but there is so much more out there which is rarer, so never gets the same level of awareness. An absolutely fantastic read.

4. Henry's Demons - Patrick and Henry Cockburn

I read this book a long time ago, but it has always stuck with me as it was incredibly powerful. It is a dual point-of-view autobiography, written by Henry who suffers with schizophrenia, and his father Patrick. Henry describes what goes on in his head during his episodes, and how he feels, but what made this book so powerful was the effect that these episodes had on his father, and how his behaviour looked from outside his own head. A really great book which I am sad didn't get the publicity it deserved!

3. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

A classic, and rightly so, as this is an extremely important book! Plath wrote this when stigma shrouded mental health to a much greater degree than it does now, which made it an extremely brave thing to do at the time. It is such an observant, honest tale of mental health which I found to be extremely powerful. It is the only book I have ever read which left such an anger inside me that didn't disappear when I closed the book. It just made me so angry to read about the treatment of mental health patients in such recent history. Some of the imagery used, particularly 'the bell jar' itself was really thought-provoking and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

2. The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer

What I loved most about this book is the important question it provokes. The story of a boy who loses his brother and lives with the (unfounded) guilt that it was his fault. Bereavement is normal, to be expected, and of course, everyone deals with it differently. But at some point in his bereavement process, he descended into a poor state of mental health, culminating in schizophrenia. Where and when did that happen though? At what point do we draw the line between someone who is bereaved and not dealing with loss very well, and someone who is mentally ill? I thought this was really fascinating. Filer himself was a mental health nurse, so the account is also spot-on and very well-written. Another fab book!

1. Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig

Critics were so right about this one - it really could save lives! There was no doubt in my mind that this book had to have top spot. I knoww I have raved about this book before, but I don't think there are enough words in my vocabulary to explain quite how incredible I think this book is, so I shall just struggle on with repeating the words I have! This is Matt Haig's open and incredibly honest account of his struggle with depression and anxiety. It has everything - what seemed to trigger it, how it felt, and most importantly, what helped him to struggle on. It is a beacon of hope for anyone struggling with their mental wellbeing. There is a reason for everyone to read this book, as it contains short lists which could completely change your outlook. There are lists of things to say, and not to say, to people struggling with mental illness (and everyone, whether they know it or not, is living in close proximity to someone with mental health issues), and there is the list of 'reasons to stay alive' for people who are struggling. It would have those struggling screaming at the book saying "yes, yes, that's exactly how I feel!!" I seriously think this book should become part of the GCSE curriculum or something, just so that it forces everyone to read it! I cannot applaud Haig enough for being so brave as to share his story with the world :)

So there we have it, my top 5 books about mental health! Have you read these? Are there any others you think I should read? Please get in touch in the comments below. 

Honourable mentions also go to:
All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven
The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick

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