Most people are probably aware of mental health in at least a roundabout sort of way. With one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, how could we not be aware of it? Still, we could likely all stand to learn a little bit more about some of the causes behind mental illness, and the measures we can take to lessen their impact. That’s where the Mental Health Foundation’s annual Mental Health Awareness Week comes in. This year, the theme is ‘Stress: Are We Coping?’
While stress isn’t a mental health condition in and of itself, it can act as the catalyst for an episode of an existing mental health problem. Besides, as anyone who is alive in the 21st century will probably know, feeling under pressure is just not conductive to a good mental state in general. So, in addition to the Mental Health Foundation’s advice on managing stress and mental health, which you can find here, we have pulled together a handful of books related to mental health in the hopes that they will be helpful, relatable, or comforting.
Featuring personal stories and solid advice on everything from meds to red flags, Ellen Forney’s companion book to her memoir Marbles (Fantagraphics, 2012) is a survival guide in comic book form. Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life offers tips and tricks for wrangling the symptoms of mood disorders with Forney’s typical wit and candour.
Dr. Faith G. Harper has all manner of zines and books relating to the myriad ways our brains are out to get us. In Unfuck Your Brain, she tackles a range of issues by employing the holy trinity of the truly helpful self-help book; humour, patience, and swearing. She sheds light on some of the defence mechanisms our minds resort to when obsessing over trauma we can’t overcome, and tells you how to retrain your brain to handle “the non-emergencies of everyday life”.
This one is another Dr. Faith Harper title, because she is basically the Don when it comes to these things. This Is Your Brain on Anxiety breaks down the most commonly experienced type of mental illness, giving some insight into the causes and effects of anxiety. It also provides helpful strategies for disrupting anxious thought patterns, and gives tips on arguing with “the neg-gremlins your brain is throwing down”.
How Not To Kill Yourself is a sharp, compelling guide for imaginative pessimists and creative cynics. Set Sytes point-blank refuses to call it a self-help guide, but the book does present advice on… well, on how to not kill yourself. It’s very appropriately titled. Ultimately, How Not To Kill Yourself is an imaginative survival guide to about how to be a human being in a sometimes heinous world.
Frédéric Lenoir believes that it’s possible to achieve true and lasting happiness. It’s within our reach, he says, if only we can equip ourselves with the tools to grasp it. Happiness is an accessible look at how renowned philosophers and religious figures thought of happiness, and sheds light on how to attain it in our own lives.
Elizabeth Swados was a Tony Award- nominated playwright and musician, who also lived with depression for most of her life. Her memoir My Depression is told through expressively scrawled drawings, and acts as a tender reminder to other people with depression that they are not alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, help is available. A list of resources and support lines is available on the Mental Health Foundation’s website.