I first became interested in mental health and addiction in the fourth grade (I know, I know, it’s strange to be interested in such a topic when you’re eight) and of course, it was all because of a book.
I was a bookworm basically from birth. Even when I couldn’t yet read, I remember being drawn to them – so it’s no surprise that I started reading very young (and asked for a library card for Christmas by the time I was six). As a result, I was often ahead of my class in terms of reading level, and had already read all the books we would be assigned for book reports.
In grade four, while my class was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I was given the honour (with permission from my parents, of course) to choose a book from my teacher’s personal collection of teen and YA novels – kept on a bookshelf behind his desk. I was beyond excited, I had been eyeing these books for months…it took me an entire day to decide on a book, but I settled on Go Ask Alice. That’s where my obsession with learning everything I could about mental health and addiction began.
I’ve read a lot of books on mental health in the nearly 17 years since I first read Go Ask Alice – fiction, non-fiction, self-help, you name it, but there are always those books you carry with you forever. Here are eight books on mental health that changed my life:
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How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook– Lee Crutchley
I only picked this book up recently. I spotted it on the “new books” shelf in the library I volunteer at and had to check it out. I’ve always been drawn to books like Wreck this Journal, but never picked one up…this book however, was different. A soon as I opened it and read through all the prompts I knew I had to get my own copy to work through. The prompts are simple but they definitely help you reflect, and focus on small things that make you happy (that we often overlook).
Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think– Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky
This book is highly regarded by counselors, doctors, and just about everyone who’s picked up a copy – Mind Over Mood uses techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy to improve mood, thought patterns, etc. It’s the holy-grail of workbooks for anyone dealing with a variety of mental health issues – but I honestly think that just about anyone could benefit from this book.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook– Edmund J. Bourne
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook provides techniques for assessing and treating a variety of Anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and panic attacks. This is one of the first workbooks I was introduced to after being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks and I used it in combination with other treatment methods to help me manage my anxiety. This book introduces you to very practical exercises and techniques for managing anxious thoughts and symptoms – exercises I still use, and recommend to others that are dealing with panic or anxiety symptoms.
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness– Kay Redfield Jamison
Some of my favourite accounts of mental illness are by authorities in the field who have battled mental illness themselves. It may be because of my own background, but I always gain a lot from books where the individual can both describe their experiences with a particular mental health issue, as well as explain the science behind it. Dr. Jamison’s account of her own manic-depression is truly eye-opening.
A Million Little Pieces– James Frey
A book controversial book – A Million Little Pieces was originally marketed as James Frey’s memoir of addiction and recovery, and was later criticized for being fictional or having fictional components. I read this book in high school, just after it came out and it completely changed my life. I never got caught up in the controversy, because honestly…regardless of how much of this book is real, it is still a truly incredible account of addiction and recovery. It was this book that helped me decide whether or not I really wanted to pursue a career in addictions counselling.
Go Ask Alice– Anonymous
Go Ask Alice is another controversial book that changed my life. Originally this book was said to be an anonymous journal of a teenage girl and her descent into addiction – it is now known to be a fictional story written (or edited, depending on who you ask) by Beatrice Sparks.
This book is often considered one of the best books on addiction. A combination of real stories from his patients and Mate’s own clinical understanding and research, this book is one of the most compassionate, and real books on the topic that I have read.
Memoirs of an Addicted Brain holds a special place in my collection. As a neuroscientist, Marc Lewis is able to explain his own struggle with an addiction in a way I’ve never heard before. With the unique combination of neuroscience, gritty experience and ultimately triumph – this book makes an impact in the way few books do.
The number of great books on mental health and addiction are endless, these are just a few great titles. If you’re looking for more options check out my Comics for Newbies: On Mental Health post.
If you have any recommendations for books on mental health, let me know in the comments!