Books That Feature Characters With a Mental Illness
This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I have been pretty open on my blog about my own mental health struggles. It is something I will have to live with every day for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have times where I am coping really well with things and my outlook is positive but for every good day there are bad days lurking around the corner.
That is why I feel it is of the utmost importance for mental health to be portrayed in a sensitive but realistic manner. I think that in order to remove the stigma that has long been associated with mental illness we need an accurate depiction in books and I love being able to read about characters with similar issues.
Here are my top picks for books that feature characters with a mental illness:
1. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
I love this book so much. It really gets to the heart of what depression is and shows how it can affect not only the sufferer but their family as well. Francesca is a fully-realized character who is devastated when her mother falls into a deep depression.
It is also something of an enlightenment for Francesca as well as she comes to terms with the fact that she too has depressive symptoms. | Goodreads
2. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
This book gave me all the feels. It was so bleak at times but there was always a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. It is about a story about two tortured souls who bond whilst committing themselves to a shared suicide pact. This book goes very dark at times but it is so worthwhile and the characterisation is fantastic. | Goodreads
3. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
Urgh. This book. It is such a powerful novel. I can’t even begin to think of the words to describe it (handy, eh?) but all I can say is if you haven’t read this book – go out and track it down immediately. Trust me, you will not regret it. | Goodreads
4. Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
This book almost broke me but I am so thankful to have read it. I love the main character Alexi, who is recovering from a trauma that is hinted at throughout the novel, and copes by hiding in her closet and compulsively scratching the back of her neck.
Bodee is a character dealing with a personal loss of his own and the bond they form is just beautiful. Seriously, I was so moved by both of them (my babies). | Goodreads
5. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
it may come across as a strange choice (considering it is about zombies!) but dammit if this book didn’t have just about the most realistic depiction of severe depression I have ever seen in a novel. It is more of a character study really and the book is all the better for it. | Goodreads
6. Bruised by Sarah Skilton
This is another powerful book which gives insight into the affects of PTSD. I really related to the main character Imogen and saw a lot of myself in her (although I have, thankfully, never experienced anything quite as traumatic as the events in this book). A great read. | Goodreads
7. Suicide Watch by Kelley York
This is honestly such a heart-wrenching story. All of the main characters are suicidal (they actually meet on a web forum about suicide) but the relationships they form go a long way to ultimately saving them (without giving too much away here!!) | Goodreads
8. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
This book is such an honest and sometimes brutal portrayal of trauma and depression. It is also about self-discovery and healing so even though some of the book is hard to stomach, it more than makes up for it in other parts. | Goodreads
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I am more familiar with the television show here (I’ve actually not actually read the book… my bad!) but I had to include it here because I feel there is an important message to be found.
Some have criticized the show (and book) saying that it actually romanticises suicide and that the whole getting revenge on people after the fact would be an appealing thing for teens. I can see where people might get that impression but I found the show’s depiction of Hannah’s suicide to be beyond brutal and not at all impressionable. But that is just my opinion, YMMV and all that. | Goodreads
10. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Okay, I want to quickly point out here that not all mental illnesses are caused by trauma (although a lot are) but nearly all my picks have a trauma-related – go figure lol. Anyways, this is an underrated book IMHO.
The protagonist Annabel can be frustrating at times as she turns her trauma inwards and you just want to scream at her to let it out and confide in Owen, the boy she is starting to fall for. However, it is a very realistic look at how people internalize their emotions and feelings. | Goodreads