mental health awareness month

You Are Not Alone: Memoirs for Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Inspired by NAMI's (National Alliance on Mental Illness) 2021 Mental Health Month message, "You Are Not Alone," below is a selection of memoirs written by people who have experienced mental health struggles. By amplifying and listening to personal stories, we can help destigmatize mental illness and be reminded that we are not alone.  

I'm telling the truth, but I'm lying : essays / Bassey Ikpi

In I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying Bassey Ikpi explores her life—as a Nigerian-American immigrant, a black woman, a slam poet, a mother, a daughter, an artist—through the lens of her mental health and diagnosis of bipolar II and anxiety. Her remarkable memoir in essays implodes our preconceptions of the mind and normalcy as Bassey bares her own truths and lies for us all to behold with radical honesty and brutal intimacy. 

Hello I want to die please fix me : depression in the first person / Anna Mehler Paperny

Award-winning journalist Anna Mehler Paperny's stunning memoir chronicles with courageous honesty and uncommon eloquence her experience of depression and her quest to explore what we know and don't know about this disease that afflicts almost a fifth of the population--providing an invaluable guide to a system struggling to find solutions. As fascinating as it is heartrending, as outrageously funny as it is serious, it is a must-read for anyone impacted by depression--and that's pretty much everybody.

The collected schizophrenias : essays / Esmé Weijun Wang

An intimate, moving book written with the immediacy and directness of one who still struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness, The Collected Schizophrenias cuts right to the core. Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life...An essay collection of undeniable power, The Collected Schizophrenias dispels misconceptions and provides insight into a condition long misunderstood. 

The body papers : a memoir / Grace Talusan

Grace Talusan’s critically acclaimed memoir The Body Papers, a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection, powerfully explores the fraught contours of her own life as a Filipino immigrant and survivor of cancer and childhood abuse.

Dear friend, from my life I write to you in your life / Yiyun Li

Startlingly original and shining with quiet wisdom, this is a luminous account of a life lived with books. Written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life is a painful and yet richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living...Interweaving personal experiences with a wide-ranging homage to her most cherished literary influences, Yiyun Li confronts the two most essential questions of her identity: Why write? And why live?

Heart berries : a memoir / Terese Marie Mailhot

Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder, Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.

In the dream house : a memoir / Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House is a searing account of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman. Each chapter in this wildly inventive memoir is driven by its own narrative trope—the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman—through which Machado holds her story up to the light, examining it from different angles. She considers her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and widens the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships. Machado’s dire narrative is leavened with her characteristic wit, playfulness, and openness to inquiry. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek, and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction. The result is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

Willow weep for me : a Black woman's journey through depression : a memoir / by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

This moving memoir of an African-American woman's lifelong fight to identify and overcome depression offers an inspirational story of healing and emergence. Wrapped within Danquah's engaging account of this universal affliction is rare and insightful testimony about what it means to be black, female, and battling depression in a society that often idealizes black women as strong, nurturing caregivers. A startlingly honest, elegantly rendered depiction of depression, Willow Weep for Me calls out to all women who suffer in silence with a life-affirming message of recovery. Meri Danquah rises from the pages, a true survivor, departing a world of darkness and reclaiming her life.

Haldol and hyacinths : a bipolar life / Melody Moezzi

Iranian-American activist Melody Moezzi speaks out on behalf of the mentally ill with a bracingly funny and poignant tale of her own suicide attempt, bipolar disorder diagnosis, and reclamation of her life. Both an irreverent memoir and a rousing call to action, Haldol and Hyacinths is the moving story of a woman who refused to become torn across cultural and social lines. Moezzi reports from the front lines of the no-man’s land between sickness and sanity, and the Midwest and the Middle East. A powerful, funny, and poignant narrative told through a unique and fascinating cultural lens, Haldol and Hyacinths is a tribute to the healing power of hope, humor, and acceptance.

Darkness visible : a memoir of madness / William Styron

A work of great personal courage and a literary tour de force, this bestseller is Styron's true account of his descent into a crippling and almost suicidal depression. Styron is perhaps the first writer to convey the full terror of depression's psychic landscape, as well as the illuminating path to recovery.

Broken : (in the best possible way) / Jenny Lawson

With people experiencing anxiety and depression now more than ever, Jenny humanizes what we all face in an all-too-real way, reassuring us that we’re not alone and making us laugh while doing it. From the business ideas that she wants to pitch to Shark Tank to the reason why Jenny can never go back to the post office, Broken leaves nothing to the imagination in the most satisfying way. And of course, Jenny’s long-suffering husband Victor—the Ricky to Jenny’s Lucille Ball—is present throughout. A treat for Jenny Lawson’s already existing fans, and destined to convert new ones, Broken is a beacon of hope and a wellspring of laughter when we all need it most.

The hilarious world of depression / John Moe

Inspired by the immediate success of his podcast of the same name, John Moe has written a remarkable investigation of the disease, part memoir of his own journey, part treasure trove of laugh-out-loud stories and insights drawn from years of interviews with some of the most brilliant minds facing similar challenges. Throughout the course of this powerful narrative, depression’s universal themes come to light, among them, struggles with identity, lack of understanding of the symptoms, the challenges of work-life, self-medicating, the fallout of the disease in the lives of our loved ones, the tragedy of suicide, and the hereditary aspects of the disease.
The Hilarious World of Depression illuminates depression in an entirely fresh and inspiring way.

Shook one : anxiety playing tricks on me / Charlamagne Tha God

SHOOK ONE details how anxiety has been a driving force in Charlamagne’s life since childhood. Even after achieving national prominence as a radio personality, Charlamagne still found himself paralyzed by thoughts that he isn’t going to be able to take his career to the “next level.” But now he is working through these problems with help from mentors, guests on his show, and therapy. He knows therapy and showing weakness is in itself anxiety producing in the black community, but this is one of the reasons he wants to own his truth—to clear a path for others to not feel shame dealing openly with their mental health.

To find more books about mental health, check out this blog post from Mental Health Awareness Month 2020. 

*All descriptions are provided by the publishers.