Five Best Books for Mental Health: The Ones That Helped Me
Looking after your mental health is so important. Whether you have a diagnosed mental health issue or just the odd low day, it’s important to practise self-care. There are many different ways we can look after our mental health. Reading is one of the things that makes my soul happy. Books can be great for mental health. Read on for five of my best books for mental health.
(This post contains links to buy each book if you would like to – just click on the book title or ad. These are affiliate links. This means that if you buy the book through the links in this post, I will get a few pennies to help maintain this website. Rest assured: I only recommend books that I think will be truly helpful. 🙂 )
This is one of the best books that helped my mental health. Matt Haig writes in an unflinchingly honest way about depression and anxiety, drawing on personal experience which he shares in a beautifully vulnerable way. This book does not paint a pretty picture of mental illness and that’s what makes it so good; because, let’s face it, mental illness isn’t pretty.
What Matt Haig does in this life-impacting book is quite extraordinary: he makes you feel seen. That might seem silly – how can reading words on a page make you feel seen? Well, mental illness has this habit of making you feel very alone, as if no-one else in the world can ever understand what you’re going through. But as I read Haig’s words, I felt less alone and more understood. In helping me accept, understand, feel the pain of mental illness and then have hope, Matt Haig succeeded. Reading this book helped me remember all the reasons I have to stay alive, and I’ll wager it will do the same for you. It’s also a wonderful book to help others understand more about mental illness, so while you’re getting a copy for yourself, get one for a loved one too. The words on its pages will stick with you long after the book is closed.
“Always, [depression] is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”
– Matt Haig
“Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.”
– Patrick Ness
This is another book that helped my mental health. From an idea of Siobhan Dowd (another talented writed who tragically died early), this story bears all the magnificence of Ness and his powerful, epic writing style. Seriously, I could recommend every single one of his books and you wouldn’t be disappointed. He is one of my favourite authors not only for the depth of story and character he brings to his work, but for the way he tackles such dark topics with hopefulness. There isn’t always a nice, happy, tied-in-a-perfect-little-bow ending, but there is always hope in his stories.
A Monster Calls is a heartbreaking, but uplifting, story about a boy whose mother is dying of cancer. He is visiting by a yew-tree-turned-monster who tells him stories. I won’t say much more than that, but I will tell you why I love this book so much – because it is, at its heart, about stories, and about owning your own. That is the hopefulness: that whatever battle you are facing in your journey with mental health, you can own your story and fight those monsters.
Maya Angelou was a great, soul-generous, beautiful woman. Her words have meant so much to me at every stage of my life, and have been a huge encouragement and motivation during mental illness. Maya Angelou’s poetry is inspiring and a reminder that we are all powerful, capable, uniquely gifted and beautiful. Read ‘Still I Rise’ first and savour her words – let the indominatable Maya Angelou cheerlead you as you take charge of your mental health journey.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
– Maya Angelou
As books for mental health go, this is a great one. This amazing illustrated book was a gift from a dear friend before I left my life in North Carolina. It tells the story of Plum, the author and illustrator’s dog, through a year of diary entries. As the year goes on, you see the ups and downs of a dog’s life and the adorable way he interprets (so often, absolutely wisely!) the lives of the humans around him. This is such a pretty book and the illustrations of Plum and his canine friends so full of life – every time I open it, it makes me smile. It’s a great book for mental health – a reminder of the small things that matter and that love comes in many forms, even the excited cuddles of a pooch.
Yes, Matt Haig makes a second appearance in this list of books for mental health. His writing is such a support for those with mental health issues and a great way to raise awareness of mental health. Notes on a Nervous Planet is an eye-opening look at how our world has become a stress-factory, and how the speed and chaos of it has helped breed anxiety. But, he tells us, there is hope. Because though we are part of the planet, he says, the planet is also a part of us; “everything we need is right here, everything we are is enough”.