Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May), a topic that has always interested me and been close to my heart. A major new study by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that over two-thirds of Britons say that they have experienced a mental health problem, with younger people more likely than those over the age of 55 to say that they have experienced an issue. Whilst people are becoming increasingly open and sharing their mental health stories, many people still think talking about mental health is taboo and there’s a big job to be done in raising awareness.
Today I’ve put together a roundup of some books that I’ve read to educate myself and that I’ve found both really interesting and enlightening. I haven’t got the last one on the list, but had to include it as it looks like a great tool for helping manage your own mental health.
As usual, I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of the below and your thoughts on them.
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness. Bryony Gordon has OCD. It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.
Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax
Ruby Wax – comedian, writer and mental health campaigner – shows us how our minds can jeopardise our sanity. With her own periods of depression and now a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy to draw from, she explains how our busy, chattering, self-critical thoughts drive us to anxiety and stress. If we are to break the cycle, we need to understand how our brains work, rewire our thinking and find calm in a frenetic world. Helping you become the master, not the slave, of your mind, here is the manual to saner living.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Susannah Cahalan was a happy, clever, healthy twenty-four-year old. Then one day she woke up in hospital, with no memory of what had happened or how she had got there. Within weeks, she would be transformed into someone unrecognizable, descending into a state of acute psychosis, undergoing rages and convulsions, hallucinating that her father had murdered his wife; that she could control time with her mind. Everything she had taken for granted about her life, and who she was, was wiped out. This is Susannah’s story of her terrifying descent into madness and the desperate hunt for a diagnosis, as, after dozens of tests and scans, baffled doctors concluded she should be confined in a psychiatric ward. It is also the story of how one brilliant man, Syria-born Dr Najar, finally proved – using a simple pen and paper – that Susannah’s psychotic behaviour was caused by a rare autoimmune disease attacking her brain.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth. “I wrote this book because the oldest cliches remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it …Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.
Explore your inner world and be inspired with The Wellbeing Journal. Developed in partnership with Mind, the mental health charity, each page of this gorgeous journal has been thoughtfully crafted and it includes activities, colouring, drawing prompts, contemplative quotes and lots of space for you to write about your own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Creativity and reflection can have a powerful, positive influence on our lives. Now, with The Wellbeing Journal, you can enjoy practising these skills every day and wherever you go.