Book Recommendations: 5 Books That Accurately Represent Mental Health

Cat Caie discusses fictional representations of mental health, comprising a list of five books she feels present the subject in a real, positive and healthy way. Cat Caie is a poet and writer for Totally Wired Magazine. Currently based in Liverpool, she cites inspirations such as Ada Limón, Sylvia Plath and Halsey.

As fascinating as I find psychology can be, I find it much easier to digest information about mental health conditions from fictional books. This isn’t always wise as the media can be very demonising and inaccurate about mental health. Here, I have compiled a list of books that I feel represent mental health in a positive and healthy light.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – Anxiety

I really liked how descriptive this book was. A lot of people mentioned it being slow-paced at the beginning but I think it’s because the blurb lets the content down. Our main character was realistic, annoyingly so. She’s so needy and shy and yet I was still rooting for her. The way the author depicted scenes of the main character’s anxiety felt real and compelling. You could feel yourself get as caught up in her anxiety as she did. At times I got frustrated at the main character but I think she redeemed herself at the end.

I Would Leave Me If I Could: Poetry Collection by Halsey – Bipolar Disorder

Some of the poems really hit differently and I absolutely loved them. Others were still really good but you could tell they were written from the point of view of a songwriter rather than a poet and so had unnecessary rhymes and weren’t as figurative. It’s an angry and vulnerable book that perfectly captures the essence of instability Halsey feels.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom – Bipolar Disorder

Much like It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a teen-fiction that sets the scene for a hopeful future for those living with mental health conditions. This book combines stories and worlds from all the best known teen-fiction classics, including The Perks of Being a Wallflower and repurposes them to fit a new mould. Lindstrom manages to create a female character that is unique and loveable. I just really like the formatting of this book, with handwriting and text messages. It feels quirky and very much worth it for an easy read.

I Am Not Okay With This by Charles Forsman – Depression & Trauma

If you’ve seen the Netflix series, this graphic novel might not live up to expectation. If you haven’t, read it, then watch the show! It took me about an hour to read so it’s an expensive buy in comparison to the time you get out of it. However, I just really like the characterisation of our main character Syd. I also like that her mental health issues become a superpower. It’s a potent thing to be teaching our kids. Of course, the novel ends completely differently to the Netflix series but I’ll leave that for you to find out about. It’s crass but if taken metaphorically, can be very meaningful.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Depression

I don’t have much to say about this modern classic. Partially based on Plath’s own life, it’s hard to envisage the events taking place not being real. It was poetic to the point of confusion at times. A book to be read when you’re feeling pretentious, for sure. I did enjoy it but it was a hefty read. I don’t feel like I read it in the right moment for it to be as impactful as it should be. It is, however, a book I am not opposed to rereading. Hopefully when I do, I will be able to rave about it as much as others do. I’m sure its recognition is well-deserved.

I hope you enjoyed my list of books that depict mental health, at times more subtly than others. It’s always nice to see your flaws being represented positively in the media. I’d confidently recommend any of these books if you’re interested in learning more about yourself or others.

You can read more of Cat’s work here, or follow her on Instagram

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