5 Books Inspired By Mental Health Issues

Stories are amazing. They can take us on heart-racing journeys, keep us grounded in mystery and give us new insights into worlds as fictional characters often act as conduits for a message or overall theme of a tale.

Tough topics are also easier to deal with through fictional characters. It may be hard to speak to someone if you have a mental health issue, or you may not know what to say to someone around you who may be part of the one in four.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, I decided to share five books I have read over the years that are particularly noteworthy.

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden – Hannah Green

Written under the pen name, Helen Green, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Joanne Greenburg was published in 1964 and follows one girl’s three year battle with Schizophrenia and shows what happens someone has to struggle back to reality from the white walls of a mental ward.

I read this in university for my dissertation. I sat up late one night and devoured the 291 pages in an hour or two. I remember being engrossed by the imaginary world of Yr – especially Yri language poetry.

This poignant semi autobiographical classic drew inspiration from the author’s doctor, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann and Rockville hospital, Chestnut Lodge as well as her own Schizophrenia and was formed from terrors, delusions and demons of a 16 year old trapped in her own mind.

House frau – Jill Alexander Esbaum

The main character of Jill Alexander Esbaum’s debut novel is falling apart inside.

She trapped in a foreign country in a marriage falling apart. In order to take back her life she embarks on three new adventures; German language classes, Jungian analysis and a number of affairs.

After setting foot over a line there is no going back. A terrible sequence of events unfolds and Anna who suffers debilitation depression discovers where one must go when there is nowhere else to go.

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

This book has remained with me since I read it when I entered my 20s. After reading The Bell Jar, I found myself haunted by Plath’s masterwork thanks to the amazing and, at times almost unnerving, insight into how someone with depression suffers.

The semiautobiographical story follows Esther Greenwood and her battle with the condition. Following Plath’s stream-of-consciousness, The Bell Jar follows her self-destructive thoughts and shows how life spiralled from there with an eerie emptiness.

Shoot the Damn Dog – Sally Brampton

The title was inspired by Winston Churchill’s own mental health which he called ‘the black dog’.

Blasting the stigma of depression, this personal account of the condition provides a practical book of ideas about what might help when suffering severe depression.

We follow former Elle editor’s life through a divorce, addiction, a suicide attempt and the turn of the millennium.

Brampton’s memoir speaks volumes to those with depression and is often reccommended to those looking to understand the mental health of a loved one.

Electro Boy – Andy Behrmain

One man’s memoir into mania, Behrmain hid his condition behind a larger than life personality.

Misdiagnosed by professionals for years he jumped from job-to-job to seek new highs, forever seeking to maintain his golden boy image from his youth. However, when he turns to art forgery he finds himself in a media wide scandal. After being arrested he sees no other way to escape his mind. Anti-depressants were no longer enough. He turned to electroshock therapy.


What books can your suggest essential reads about mental health conditions?Share your thoughts with me on social media.

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