By Radhika Shah and Saransh Heilige
Despite huge strides in the last few decades, mental health has remained a deeply stigmatized and misunderstood aspect of human health, especially within the popular media and culture. Literature around the globe presents ample evidence to back this claim. However, there has been a growing tide of global voices in the field of literature that de-mystify the theme of mental health. These authors throw light on the impact of mental health on the human condition.
The month of May is recognised as the Mental Health Awareness Month, and we invite you to read with Belongg’s 2021 Reading Challenge on mental health. The original challenge was along the intersections of mental health and identity. However, considering the impact that the pandemic has had on mental health, not just globally, but also in India these past few months, we decided it may serve our community better to focus on books and literature that could help you both learn more about the spectrum of mental health, and also help you find the information you may need for yourself and those around you. We hope that this list, depending on what you need right now, will introduce you to mental health and mental healthcare from a diverse range of perspectives.
This list was made in collaboration with Belongg’s Mental Health Collective.
Author: Sonali Gupta
By clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta, this book dives into the condition of anxiety by using case studies to identify triggers and break down what anxiety really is. Gupta shares a unique glimpse into this mental health condition in India, especially among Gen Z and millennials and recommends strategies and techniques for anxiety-prone readers.
- The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays
Author: Esmé Weijun Wang
Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang in the book The Collected Schizophrenias writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. An essay collection of undeniable power, this book dispels misconceptions and provides insight into a condition long misunderstood.
- Tastes like War
Author: Grace M. Cho
When Grace was fifteen, growing up as an immigrant in a small and xenophobic American town during the Cold War, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life. Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia.
- Darius The Great is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram
Set in Iran, the book tells the story of Darius who has never really fit in at home. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. But when he meets Sohrab, Darius finds something he never had before: friendship.
- The Body Keeps the Score
Author: Bessel van der Kolk
Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score formulates an understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, the book offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy—and a way to reclaim lives.
- It’s All in Your Head, M
Author: Manjiri Indurkar
A memoir that addresses grappling with past trauma and abuse while balancing a life and career in a new city, this is as much a coming-of-age story as it is an exploration of the author’s struggles with mental health. It speaks to all survivors of abuse, offering up a tale of strength and resilience and the ultimate potion of self-care: love and acceptance.
- The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook
Authors: Dr. Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz
In this instant classic of developmental psychology, a renowned psychiatrist examines the effect that trauma can have on a child, reveals how PTSD impacts the developing mind, and outlines the path to recovery. In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Dr. Perry tells stories of trauma and transformation through the lens of science, revealing the brain’s astonishing capacity for healing.
- Side Effects of Living: An Anthology of Voices on Mental Health
Editors: Jhilmil Breckenridge and Namarita Kathait
Side Effects of Living presents the words and verses of survivors, writers, poets, and artists, who are struggling with a mental condition or have watched their loved ones suffer. Through first-person life experiences and moving poetry, they attempt to destigmatise mental health issues, and urge us to reject the shame and blame that often accompanies mental illness.
- Young Mental Health
Author: Amrita Tripathi & Meera Haran Alva
Co-authored by Amrita Tripathi and Meera Haran Alva, and featuring a foreword and key interview with leading child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Amit Sen, Young Mental Health relies on interviews, lived experience and story-telling to share a unique insight into what it means to be an adolescent or young adult in India today, the kinds of pressure and stressors they face and how to start approaching some serious––even life-saving––conversations.
- A Grief Observed
Author: C.S. Lewis
A Grief Observed is a collection of C. S. Lewis’s reflections on the experience of bereavement following the passing away of his wife, Joy Davidman, in 1960. It probes the “mad midnight moments” of Lewis’s mourning and loss, moments in which he questioned what he had previously believed about life and death, marriage, and even God.