43.8 million Americans experience some form of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental IllnessWorld Mental Health Day aims to reduce stigma and raise awareness for mental health issues faced by so many. These books shed light on mental illness, and the lives of those who experience it. 

Compiled by:
Amber M.
The evil hours : a biography of post-traumatic stress disorder

David J. Morris
Adult Nonfiction - 616.8521 Mor

Over a decade into America’s “global war on terror,” PTSD afflicts as many as 30 percent of the conflict’s veterans.  But the disorder’s reach extends far beyond the armed forces.  In total, some twenty-seven million Americans are believed to be PTSD survivors.  Yet to many of us, the disorder remains shrouded in mystery, secrecy, and shame.  Through interviews with people living with PTSD; forays into the rich scientific, literary, and cultural history of the condition; and memoir, Morris crafts a moving work that will speak not only to those with PTSD and their loved ones, but to all of us struggling to make sense of an anxious and uncertain time.

Furiously happy : a funny book about horrible things

Jenny Lawson
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Lawson Law

“I’ve struggled with many forms of mental illness since I was a kid,” writes the author, “but clinical depression is a semi-regular visitor and anxiety disorder is my long-term abusive boyfriend.” Rather than hiding the facts, she openly divulges, in a darkly humorous way, how she copes with rheumatoid arthritis, depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and the days when she is driven to pull her hair out or cut herself. Along with discussions about taxidermic giraffes and raccoons, whether cats yawn, and mobs of swans attacking her, readers learn the particular ways Lawson has learned to cope with those moments that threaten to overwhelm her. She does a solid job exposing the hidden nature of mental illness by putting a direct spotlight on her own issues, thereby illuminating an often taboo subject. Her amusing essays open up a not-so-funny topic: mental illness in its many guises.

Kirkus Review

Hunger : a memoir of (my) body

Roxane Gay
Adult Nonfiction - 800.92 Gay Gay

New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and authority that have made her one of the most admired voices of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen. Hunger is a deeply personal memoir from one of our finest writers, and tells a story that hasn’t yet been told but needs to be.


The man who couldn't stop : OCD and the true story of a life lost in thought

David Adam
Adult Nonfiction - 616.85227 Ada

In a wide-reaching discussion that spans the spectrum of obsession, Nature editor David Adam strikes an impressive balance between humor and poignancy, and between entertaining and informing. Adam seamlessly moves between personal stories of his own struggles with OCD and case studies of other people with the disorder. He also demonstrates that OCD isn’t limited by cultural boundaries, with the chilling story of an Ethiopian girl who ate an entire mud wall and that of Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel, whose fear of poisoning led him to starve himself to death. Adam moves from these full-blown cases to more commonplace obsessions with ease, while his smooth prose ensures an enjoyable read. Not neglecting the darker nature of obsession, Adam manages to end on a note more hopeful than harrowing: the story of how he found happiness and relief from OCD. 

Publishers weekly

No one cares about crazy people : the chaos and heartbreak of mental health in America

Ron Powers
Adult Nonfiction - 362.2 Pow

From the centuries of torture of "lunatiks" at Bedlam Asylum to the infamous eugenics era to the follies of the anti-psychiatry movement to the current landscape in which too many families struggle alone to manage afflicted love ones, Powers limns our fears and myths about mental illness and the fractured public policies that have resulted. Braided with that history is the moving story of Powers's beloved son Kevin--spirited, endearing, and gifted--who triumphed even while suffering from schizophrenia until finally he did not, and the story of his courageous surviving son Dean, who is also schizophrenic. A blend of history, biography, memoir, and current affairs ending with a consideration of where we might go from here, this is a thought-provoking look at a dreaded illness that has long been misunderstood.

On edge : a journey through anxiety

Andrea Petersen
Adult Nonfiction - 616.8522 Pet

A rapid heart rate, chest pains, and shallow breathing are all symptoms of a heart attack. However, for Wall Street Journal health reporter Petersen, those were the symptoms of her reoccurring anxiety attacks. As she notes, those are just a few of the many symptoms she and millions of others with anxiety disorders deal with on a regular basis. Having lived with anxiety for more 25 years, Petersen has been in and out of numerous emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and therapy sessions, and she has tried a variety of drugs and alternative solutions to alleviate her condition, with mixed results. Along with her personal memories of the past two decades, Petersen explores practical information about anxiety and panic attacks, the history and development of anti-anxiety drugs, the methods of therapy used to treat disorders, and the factors involved in the inheritance of genes that lead to the disorders. Petersen’s thoughtful and encouraging treatise on living and thriving despite these disorders will be helpful reading for many, and her honesty opens a much-needed doorway onto a significant health problem that is often underreported but on the rise

Kirkus Review 

Schizophrenia : a brother finds answers in biological science

Ronald Chase
Adult Nonfiction - 616.898 Cha

When bright lives are derailed by schizophrenia, bewildered and anxious families struggle to help, and to cope, even as scientists search for causes and treatments that prove elusive. Painful and often misunderstood, schizophrenia profoundly affects people who have the disease and their loved ones. Here Ronald Chase, an accomplished biologist, sets out to discover the facts about the disease and better understand what happened to his older brother, Jim, who developed schizophrenia as a young adult. Alternating between a fiercely loyal and honest memoir and rigorous scientific exploration Chase explores the stigma of mental illness, the evolution of schizophrenia, the paradox of its persistence despite low reproduction rates in persons with the disease, and the human stories behind death statistics.


Searching for normal : the story of a girl gone too soon

Karen Meadows
Adult Nonfiction - 616.8527 Mea

Karen Meadows shares her family’s journey as she tries to help her daughter Sadie cope with teenage onset mental illness that ultimately ends in her daughter’s suicide. Karen expertly intertwines her own storyline with excerpts from her daughter’s diaries, giving the book a unique perspective of what happens in the mind of a struggling teenager. The years are characterized by Sadie’s heartbreaking bouts of running away, cutting and living with Portland street families while Karen and her husband desperately search for solutions—trying medication, hospitals, therapy, wilderness and residential treatment programs. Ultimately they find themselves among the devastating shortcomings of our Nation’s mental health system. Karen provides hindsight advice along with an extensive list of resources that she wishes someone had provided her.

What made Maddy run : the secret struggles and tragic death of an all-American teen

Kate Fagan
Adult Nonfiction - 921 Holleran Fag

When Maddy Holleran began attending college at the University of Pennsylvania and continued her athletic career as a member of the track team, she and everyone who knew her could only imagine the best for this outgoing and popular 19-year-old. But as her freshman year progressed, Maddy slipped into depression. She attempted to maintain appearances, writing cheery text messages and Facebook posts, but inside, she felt increasingly numb and unhappy. Friends, relatives, and counselors told her it was normal, the type of homesickness and transitional unhappiness almost every first-year student experienced, and that she would get through it. But they were all wrong. Using Maddy’s text messages, emails, letters, and information compiled from family and friends, ESPN columnist Fagan expertly re-creates the last months of Maddy’s life. Interspersed with Maddy’s story is an analysis of the type of commitment that is required to be a college athlete and the building pressure that many college students feel to appear happy, healthy, and successful in their given paths, despite any underlying doubt or despair. The author pays particular attention to the increasingly prominent role of social media and the disparity when one compares the online persona of someone like Maddy, who gave no definite indication that something was seriously wrong, with the actual issues at hand.

Kirkus review