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Inspiring books to read about mental health

All of these books I have read that deal with themes of mental health have shown me I am not alone in my own struggles and that change is possible. Even though these books discuss heavy topics, they are important to read because they also help destigmatize mental health issues and encourage people to reach out for help. While I encourage everyone to read them, it is also important to recognize that some of these topics might be sensitive and that these books should be read at your own discretion.

Since I am familiar with Sylvia Plath’s poetry, I decided to pick up her novel, The Bell Jar (1963), and loved it. While doing some research on the author, I learned that this novel is semi-autobiographical and that Plath grew up in Boston. This book is about Esther Greenwood, a talented college student who hopes to become a poet. She is selected for a summer internship as a guest editor of a magazine in New York City. Esther has difficulty fitting in and conforming to societal norms and is very hard on herself. Her struggles lead her to become depressed and eventually admitted to a mental hospital. I like that this book depicts depression in a raw and realistic way. I learned from this book that it is crucial to choose your own path in life and not succumb to external pressures to find fulfillment in life. This book also shows that talented people can still have mental health challenges but they might be overshadowed by their success.  

A book that I find really incredible is Building a Life Worth Living (2020) by Marsha Linehan. This memoir is about how Linehan overcame her mental health struggles as a young adult and went on to help others. Linehan creates Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a type of therapy that is now known to be the most effective treatment for people with suicidal behavior and/or borderline personality disorder. I decided to pick up this book because I am interested in studying psychology. Even though I did read it because of my interest in psychology, I think everyone could benefit from reading this book. Linehan has given many people hope by opening up about the obstacles she overcame in her recovery and her success with creating DBT. This book is inspirational because it shows the importance of not giving up on yourself, even if it seems as though everyone else has. Linehan not only found a way to help herself but also succeeded in creating a new form of therapy that is now helping others. 

A book that I found shocking and eye-opening is A Piece of Cake (2005) by Cupcake Brown. This memoir is very heavy and deals with a lot of serious topics. It is about a girl named Cupcake Brown who deals with the death of a parent, abuse, rape, addiction, alcoholism and many other issues throughout her adolescent years. There is a lot of tragedy in this book that only highlights how incredible it is that Cupcake manages to adapt to new situations in any way possible to survive. I decided to read this book in sixth grade because I liked that the book’s cover had sprinkles on it. This book is definitely not for a young audience, and I would not recommend middle schoolers to read it. 

Another novel I have enjoyed is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (2017) by Gail Honeyman. This book is about Eleanor Oliphant, a woman with poor social skills who does not fit in with her colleagues at work. Eleanor has also had a difficult and traumatic childhood, as she grew up in foster homes and keeps in touch with her mother, who is not very nice to her. Eleanor falls in love with a singer she sees in concert and comes up with a plan to improve herself to get him to fall in love with her. Throughout the book, Eleanor works through her social challenges, trauma and drinking issues and she starts to feel good about her life. There is a good mix of funny and lighthearted parts in the book and some sad parts. There is also good character development throughout the book and I was surprised by the plot twist. I recommend this book to anyone.

One final book I recommend reading is Falling with Wings: A Mother’s Story (2018) by Dianna De La Garza. This is a memoir that Demi Lovato’s mom wrote. De La Garza tells the story about her life, including her dreams of becoming a music star and dealing with an eating disorder and an abusive relationship. After describing her life, De La Garza gets more into Demi Lovato’s upbringing and her efforts to support Lovato through their struggles while growing up in the spotlight. I am a little biased when I say that I enjoyed this book because I have been a fan of Lovato for years, so their story has already intrigued me, but I think it is worth reading even if you are not a fan of Lovato. I found the book captivating, even in the beginning when it was just focusing on De La Garza. I appreciate how candid De La Garza is and that she is not afraid to admit her mistakes. The book also shows how resilient her whole family had to be and is a good example of how one person’s mental health challenges can affect the entire family.

I hope you consider reading any of these books and please let me know if you do decide to read one of them.

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