Fiction portraying characters with a mental illness can increase a reader’s understanding of what it might be like to live with depression, anxiety or other disabilities. That understanding can create compassion. For a person living with mental illness or caring for someone with mental illness, reading about people like themselves can also bring comfort and hope.
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky follows 10th-grader Charlie as he deals with both anxiety and depression in this coming-of-age novel.
- “Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See” by Juliann Garey portrays Greyson Todd, a high-flying movie executive struggling with bi-polar disorder.
- “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon is an inventive novel told in the voice of 15-year-old Christopher Boone, an autistic math genius.
- “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey is narrated by Chief Bromden, a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Oregon, and explores the mistreatment of patients with mental illness.
- “I Know This Much Is True” by Wally Lamb explores the conflicted relationship between twin brothers, one of whom suffers from schizophrenia.
- Ron McLarty’s ”The Memory of Running,” a novel of loss and redemption, portrays characters suffering from alcoholism and schizophrenia.
- “72 Hour Hold” by Bebe Moore Campbell tells the powerful story of a mother trying to cope with her daughter’s bipolar disorder.
- Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” follows Esther Greenwood as she descends into depression and contemplates suicide while interning at a New York City magazine.
- “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini is a humorous account of a New York City teenager’s battle with depression and his time spent in a psychiatric hospital.
Have there been books that have helped you gain greater understanding of mental illness? Please share them in the comments.