Books Can Be A Powerful Tool To Help Manage Mental Health

Melissa Boles

At BookClub we believe in the power of books. If that sounds simple it’s because it is — we know from experience that books teach us more over our lifetime than anything else, because they give us the opportunity to see things from the perspective of others. Books can help us understand the things that we might not have ever experienced in our own lives but know others deal with every day.

Mental and behavioral health are a great example of this. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five people will be impacted by a mental health issue or a neurological disorder in their lifetime. The most prominent of these are anxiety and depression —   the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says 19 percent of adults in the US have some type of anxiety disorder, and 7 percent of adults have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last 12 months.

At least, those were the percentages in 2018. In the last two years, and particularly in the last nine months, things have changed dramatically. More people are isolated at home, dealing with unexpected physical health issues, and experiencing new mental health issues. We won’t know how much depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue has increased right away, but anecdotal evidence suggests the US (and likely other countries) are experiencing a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety.

"Everyone is human, so everyone has flaws. The book also demonstrates that everyone carries the power to work through these struggles, especially with help." -Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone

NAMI, Mental Health America (MHA), and other national and international organizations say that talking about mental health not only increases your likelihood of getting support, but helps in decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health. MHA announced that May would be Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949, and it has been prominently celebrated by numerous mental health organizations for the last twenty years. 

Coping with mental health through reading

In April 2019, psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb published Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, a book about her experience with therapy as a patient and a therapist. After her boyfriend, who knew about her son from the beginning of their relationship, decides he doesn’t want children and ends the relationship, Gottlieb starts to spiral. She ends up seeing a therapist named Wendell, who helps her see that the questions her patients are bringing to her are some of the same ones she’s struggling with.

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone is a valuable look at how therapy can help you work through challenging moments in your own life, even when you’re someone who does that for other people. Mental health issues don’t discriminate — anyone can experience depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone reinforces that mental health should be a priority for everyone and that one of the best ways to get help for your mental health is to talk to someone about it.

Earlier this year, USC Annenberg Media’s Zoe Brown had the opportunity to interview Gottlieb and write about her book. “What is most fascinating about this book is that everyone I know who has read it has a different takeaway,” Brown wrote in February. “Mine is that everyone is human, so everyone has flaws. The book also demonstrates that everyone carries the power to work through these struggles, especially with help.”

Roxane Gay is a New York Times best selling author, and her 2018 book Hunger is a deep dive into how mental health can impact people not just mentally, but physically. Gay’s memoir examines food, bodies, and the deep anxieties that develop from the intersection of food, our bodies, and the world around us. Hunger is a great example of not just how mental health impacts physical health, but how one person’s mental health story might teach you about your own. 

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone and Hunger are just two examples of mental health memoirs in the last few years. Reading books like these will teach you about people whose experiences might be very different from yours and will help you to understand mental health better.

Whether you live with mental health issues, have family or friends that do, or are interested in learning more about mental health issues, one of the best ways to learn about mental health is through books written by people dealing with those issues every day. Often these memoirs are insightful and beautiful, and can teach you about how to work with, connect to, and love people dealing with mental health issues every day. If you’re looking for something powerful to read, we recommend you pick up a book about mental health.

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