Stack of books on the left side on a tan background. Graphic logo with “mental health matters” in red letters with blue floral designs wrapped around the words on the right side of picture.

Mental Health Awareness month ()

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month we wanted to introduce you to 10 books that deal with mental health. Some are personal accounts written by authors who have learned to cope with mental health issues. 

Due to the sensitive nature of this content, many of these books deal with “trigger warning” content such as grief, depression, self-harm, etc. I’ve added additional trigger warnings where they may be warranted.

Military OneSource offers 12 free, non-medical, confidential counseling sessions for service members and their families.

Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression” by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah (1998) (Memoir) (Race)  *Trigger Warning (TW)* Sexual Abuse, Child Neglect

Danquah suffered debilitating sadness and depression after the birth of her child. At first, she tried to just deal with it because she was supposed to be “strong.” However, she could only hold up appearances for so long. When she moves back to her hometown and meets two other Black women suffering from depression, she learns how to work through her feelings and experiences.

On Agoraphobia” by Graham Caveney (2022) (Memoir)

Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving the environment you know and/or find safe. Caveney was in his early twenties when his agoraphobia began. He spent the next couple of decades learning to cope with the disorder. On his journey he rediscovers one of his first loves, books. Caveney finds fellow agoraphobics in his literary adventures and learns to navigate the outside world.

The Fix it Friends series by Nicole C. Kear and Tracy Dockray (Illustrations) (2016-2018) (Children’s)

These seven books cover topics like anxiety, teasing, dyslexia, sadness, grief, changing friendships and more. Rather than have it told in the “adult to children” style, Kear tells the stories through the point of view of children for her young readers.

Maybe I Don’t Belong Here: A Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery” by David Harewood (2021) (Memoir) (Psychosis) (Race) (Society)

Harewood experienced a psychotic breakdown when he was 23 years old. He was restrained by six police officers, sedated, hospitalized and, finally, sent to a “locked ward.” 30 years later, Harewood, now a successful actor, writes about processing what happened to him and what led to the breakdown.

Touching Two Worlds: A Guide for Finding Hope in the Landscape of Loss” by Dr. Sherry Walling (2022) (Memoir) (Self-Help) *TW* Suicide

Walling lost her father to cancer and her brother to suicide within six months of each other. This memoir is a story of grief, death and love all rolled together. Not only does Walling share her story, but also reflection exercises, tips for talking to kids about death, marking grief anniversaries and more. Read free chapters on her website here.

Fighting Words” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2020) (Middle Grades) (Realistic Fiction) *TW* Sexual Assault, Child Abuse, Drug Abuse, Suicide

10-year-old Della is left in the care of her 16-year-old sister Suki after their mom goes to prison. Their mom’s boyfriend provided them a place to stay, but at too much of a personal cost to Suki and Della and they must run away. Together, they navigate foster care, trauma and so much more.

Barber Talk: Taking Pride in Men’s Mental Health” by Tom Chapman (2018) (Non-Fiction) *TW* Suicide

When Chapmen lost a friend to suicide, he realized that it was time for men to have real discussions about mental health. Chapman, a barber, is no stranger to men talking in social spaces. In response, he created the ‘Lions Barber Collective’: “an international group of top barbers, all of which came together to encourage conversation and help raise awareness for the prevention of suicide.”

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (2014) (Psychology) (Self-Help)

Trauma is something that everyone deals with, no matter how it manifests in your life. Kolk demonstrates how trauma reshapes the body and the brain and explores innovative treatments to help people cope with their trauma.

Thrive With Schizophrenia” by Kristen Stone (2022) (Memoir)

Stone was hospitalized 13 times before she stopped denying the symptoms of her schizophrenia. Today, she has learned to thrive despite her disorder. Each chapter is a discussion about different aspects of life with schizophrenia.

Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999) (Young Adult) (Realistic Fiction)  (Selective Mutism) *TW* Sexual Assault

Like many millennial women, “Speak” was one of the first books I read that dealt with very serious topics like sexual assault. Melinda has a horrible start to her freshman year of high school: She is ostracized for calling the cops to the end-of-summer party. What everyone doesn’t know is that she was assaulted by an upperclassman at the party. She finds art and uses that as a coping mechanism for her issues at school.

May also recognizes Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 12th, and you can find 10 books by military spouses here

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Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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