Hello friends & happy May! I’ve been looking forward to today’s post for what feels like ages because today I get to talk about a topic that’s super important: mental health representation in books.
Mental health is a very personal subject to me as I’ve been struggling with it myself since childhood and have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and a depressive disorder. Reading books with mental health representation has been extremely beneficial and honestly life-changing for me. And since May is Mental Health Awareness Month (you can read more about that here!), I wanted to honor it by recommending ten of my favorite books with mental health rep.
***Content warning: I’ll be mentioning mental health related issues and other serious topics in this post (anxiety, depression, trauma, suicide, panic attacks, self harm, abuse, etc). If you feel like you can’t read about those things right now, I completely understand if you don’t continue the rest of this post. I don’t go in to detail about anything, but I know it can still be triggering. It’s more important that you take care and be safe! ❤
Okay, on to the books ~ !
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
This is by far the most well-written depression rep I’ve ever come across (it’s own voices!) and one of the most powerful stories I’ve read in my life. Even though it’s heavy and difficult to read in some places, I appreciate how raw and realistic it is. Not only is this one of my all time favorite mental health books, it’s also one of my all time favorite books in general. It’s a masterpiece.
“I will do my best to always find the sun in the darkness because my life isn’t one sad ending—it’s a series of endless happy beginnings.”
➤Trigger warnings: depression, self harm, suicide/suicide attempt
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesa Zappia
I! love! this! book! It’s about being true to yourself, pursuing your passions, the importance of online communities and fandom, and what it means to live with anxiety in day-to-day to life. It’s similar to Fangirl in some ways, but more serious on the mental health aspect. This was actually the book that gave me the confidence to start participating in the book community and create a blog!
“Our stories have lives of their own- and it’s up to us to make them mean something.”
➤Disclaimer: I wanted to make a quick note that one of the characters at the end of this book (the love interest) handles the main character’s mental health in a poor way. Even though I absolutely loved everything else, I have to admit that part was sort of upsetting to read. Just thought I’d mention it here!
➤Trigger warnings: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, suicide/suicide attempt
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
I feel like I’ve mentioned this book in practically all of my posts lately, but it honestly deserves all the recognition. This story is focused on the affects school, society, and family can have on mental health. It’s one of the most important books I’ve read and it actually changed me in so many ways. I couldn’t recommend it more.
“I’m sure you think I was complaining about nothing. You probably think I’m a whiny teenager. And yeah, it was all in my head, probably. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.”
➤Trigger warnings: depression, mentions of suicidal ideation, emotional abuse
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Hooray for fantasy books with mental health rep!! It’s not as common to come across non-contemporary books that prominently feature mental health, so I’m thankful this series does just that. Each of the characters in here have been through past traumatic experiences, and instead of ignoring that (which tends to happen in other fantasy books), Bardugo made sure to emphasize how much these characters were affected by what they went through. We definitely see how the long-lasting impacts their pasts had on them.
“The trick is in getting back up”
➤Trigger warnings: sexual assault/rape, emotional abuse, anxiety, violence, addiction, mentions of suicide
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
I have some mixed feelings about the ending of this book, but it ultimately made a positive impact on me and I still think it’s an excellent story. I can’t believe this was only just published in 2007 because I feel like it’s already considered a classic? Love this one a whole lot.
“A working brain is probably a lot like a map, where anybody can get from one place to another on the freeways. It’s the nonworking brains that get blocked, that have dead ends, that are under construction like mine.”
➤Trigger warnings: depression, suicidal ideation, mentions of self harm
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
This is one of my more recent reads I really enjoyed! The main character of this book has social anxiety and also experiences emotional abuse from a narcissistic parent, and she must deal with the effects of both. It’s a beautifully written and emotional story with a hopeful ending. I’ve been looking forward to reading more from this author.
“I’ll still question whether people mean something different from what they say. And I’ll probably always feel my heart thump when I think someone is criticizing me.
But I can live with that.
I accept myself.”
➤Trigger warnings: anxiety/social anxiety, emotional abuse
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
More Adam Silvera because he writes some spectacular mental health books. I really like how this one explores the character’s mental illness in addition to other aspects of his life, like friendship and family and grief. This entire story transformed my life in so many ways that I can’t even begin to describe. It’s own voices as well (for the OCD rep), and it’s brilliant, and I could shout about my love for it forever.
“I’m no longer waking up on the wrong side of my life”
➤Trigger warnings: OCD, depression, suicidal ideation
Light Filters In by Caroline Kaufman
I randomly came across this poetry collection at Barnes & Noble a few months ago and decided to read it on a whim. I’m glad I did because this was GOOD and so well-written. I’m forever on the search for more poetry books with mental health rep, so if you have any recommendations, please send them my way!
“It is hard,
but I’m doing it.
And that is bravery.”
➤Trigger warnings: self harm, sexual assault, mentions of suicide, anxiety, depression, abusive relationships
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a favorite book of mine (the plot was a bit messy), but I really appreciated the themes of grief and sadness. Specifically, I liked the way this book explored isolation and loneliness, and how that can dramatically impact someone. It represented depression in a very real and honest way. It’s also gorgeously written and a super fast read, so I’d definitely recommend it!
“It’s a dark place, not knowing.
It’s difficult to surrender to.
But I guess it’s where we live most of the time. I guess it’s where we all live, so maybe it doesn’t have to be so lonely. Maybe I can settle into it, cozy up to it, make a home inside uncertainty.”
➤Trigger warning: depression
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Another fantasy series that actually incorporates mental health issues! I love how Juliette can still be considered a strong lead despite the fact that she still struggles with past trauma. Her journey throughout this series is honestly amazing. Also, in the new trilogy, there’s more representation for anxiety and panic attacks. I have a lot of appreciation for Tahereh Mafi for including these things.
“Things are changing, but this time I’m not afraid. This time I know who I am.”
➤Trigger warnings: past abuse, anxiety, panic attacks (book 4)
Alright, those are ten of my faves! Mental health representation is such a critically important thing to include in media as it spreads awareness and can benefit those who struggle with it. I’m so grateful that these books do that. I love love love them.
One more thing: I tried to include the main trigger warnings, but please take care reading these books as some of them are quite heavy. And if you’ve read any of these and think I missed a warning, just let me know and I’ll add it ASAP!
Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!