Written by : Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC 

6 Must-Read Mental Health Books

Mental health books offer indispensable insights into the complexities of the human mind. Kristian Wilson, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy, says 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,” she says.

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.

The power of bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy is a therapeutic practice and form of self-care that uses 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.

“Reading mental health books can enhance self-awareness by prompting readers to reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,” Kristian says. “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. Books that discuss mental health serve as invaluable guides on your journey toward emotional well-being.

From traditional “self-help” to fictional stories that tackle difficult mental health topics, the books on the following list illuminate the pathways to self-discovery, healing, and personal growth.

1. Darling Rose Gold by 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, the author looks at the dynamic between Rose Gold and her mentally ill mother, taking a bold look at how 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, but also looks at how survivors can reclaim their power from their abusers and move forward.

2. The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Topic: Battling eating disorders

Eating disorders can manifest as coping mechanisms for underlying psychological distress; anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and trauma can fuel their development. Some researchers say 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. 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.

There, Anna meets 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 resilience.

3. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Topic: Coming-of-age

This award-winning novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid may seem an unlikely addition here, but the themes in this coming-of-age story provide insights into the emotional challenges of growing up. 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. It sensitively addresses mental health, showcasing how characters grapple with their emotional struggles, ultimately emphasizing the importance of support, self-acceptance, and personal growth.

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

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 available. In her book The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health, Dr. Rheeda Walker examines crucial mental health issues in the Black community.

She draws from personal experience to look at the Black community’s crisis regarding mental health conditions, including fighting the stigma surrounding them. This 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, this book offers critical insights, tools for emotional resilience, and a supportive framework for fostering mental wellness within a racially unequal system.

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

Topic: Dealing with change and crisis

Sometimes, the best method for addressing a season of poor mental health is talking with someone who shared a similar experience. Psychotherapist and bestselling author Julia Samuel shares stories from actual sessions with patients, allowing readers to make connections to their unique mental health journey. This book fearlessly confronts the crucibles of family, love, profession, health, burnout, overthinking, and self-discovery.

6. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Topic: Conquering depression

Depression is a common challenge for many and can sometimes lead to thoughts of self-harm. While it may be hard to see in the moment, things do get better, and this is something the author reminds readers of in Reasons to Stay Alive. In this compelling memoir, Matt Haig details when, at the age of 24, he was consumed with an overwhelming desire to end his life. As he shares, he eventually discovered how to heal. Cleverly written, Matt uniquely approaches such heavy subject matter, interlacing it with moments of joy and humor.

Write Your Own Chapter of Healing and Growth

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.

Isbell Oliva-Garcia, LMHC, is a licensed mental health clinician in based in Florida. To learn more about how therapy could benefit you, visit Grow Therapy

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