14 Books About Depression That Will Help Reduce The Mental Illness Stigma
Ever since I was an angsty teen, I've dealt with some form of depression. It's hard to explain to those who might not understand. Books about depression can help readers identify and comprehend this mental illness better.
Depression isn't about sadness, at least not exactly, it about emptiness, about carrying a heaviness in your chest that you don't realize is there at first. The main feeling you feel is the emotional equivalent of watching paint dry, and it can seem never ending. One of the things I took so much comfort in was the understanding that I was not alone in these feelings, that it was nothing to be ashamed of. That was definitely one of the things that pulled me out of it.
We live in a society that has been taking steps to reduce the stigma for those who suffer from mental illness. Mentally ill characters are becoming more than punchlines on television, celebrities are becoming more open with their own diagnosis, and more people are contact each other to say "hey, you're not alone". To celebrate this fact, I've compiled a list of 14 books to help understand depression a little better. I warn you, by nature of this article these books deal with very dark themes, but take a look!
1. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
It's 1955, and Frank and Alice Wheeler seem to have everything: a nice house, a solid marriage, two beautiful children. Things are off, though; Frank hates his job, Alice doesn't think she can be a housewife, and the two of them are plagued by depression and dissatisfaction. Until Alice tries to convince Frank to leave his boring job and move to Paris to become an artist. It's a bleak, truthful examination of the fact that although someone may have everything that society thinks makes a happy life, it doesn't necessarily mean that that person is going to be happy.
2. The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath
Esther Greenwood is an incredible talented and beautiful woman. She's also in the middle of a breakdown, and this one may be the last one she ever has. Those who appreciate honest depictions of depression in their literature most likely have this poetically written novel memorized, but those who are new to the game and would very much like to understand a woman's slow descent into illness should add this to their reading list immediately.
3. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
The five Lisbon sisters live very secluded lives, oppressed by their overbearing mother and their submissive workaholic father. Told through the eyes of the boys in the neighborhood, this is more than just a study on how depression can have an impact on an entire community, but also how women can be over-idealized in the eyes of the males around them.
4. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Hyperbole and a Half is more than just a memoir, it's a series of colorful illustrated stories by Allie Brosh, focusing on the different aspects of her life. While a lot of them have to do with her dogs and her childhood, a significant part of the book is devoted to her struggles with depression. It's a heartbreaking look at it, made all the more realistic by the fact that the author lived through it herself. The added bonus is that not only will it make you feel less alone, it will make you laugh until milk comes out of your nose.
5. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
When I was lost in the throes of my own depression, I often obsessed about going somewhere new in the hopes that my perceived problems would go away with the new location. The Magicians centers on Quentin Coldwater, an 18-year-old boy wracked with depression who suddenly learns that not only is magic real and the fictional Narnia-like world of Fillory real, but absolutely none of that is going to make him happy unless he works on himself first. If you love fantasy but still want a completely honest view of depression in its many forms, this trilogy is for you.
6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Clay Jensen had a crush on Hannah Baker, who tragically committed suicide. Coming home from school one day, Clay discovers a mysterious box filled with 13 audio cassette tapes. Turns out Hannah had 13 reasons why she wanted to end her life, and Clay is one of them. This is a rough, heartbreaking read that follows the thought process of a depressed teenager, but also takes a look at the waves her suicide created in the world around her.
7. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
When Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of their school's bell tower, neither of them are sure about who saved whom. While Finch is fascinated by death, Violet is just trying to run from the pain her own sister's death caused, and the two forge a strong connection based on their mutual pain. A heartbreaking tale about two people suffering from mental illness and the struggles they have as they try to help each other and themselves.
8. Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff
The morning after Sam gets into a terrible fight with his best friend Hayden at a party, he arrives at his friend's house to discover he has committed suicide. The only thing left for Sam is a playlist of 27 songs and a suicide note that reads "For Sam — listen and you'll understand." Sam listens and tries to piece together the circumstances of Hayden's life (and death).
9. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
It's Leonard Peacock's birthday, and he plans to celebrate it by killing his former best friend and then himself. As he makes his way through the day, preparing to say good-bye to the four most important people in his life, he slowly reveals his secrets and motivations in the hours leading up to the final confrontation. This story is a disturbing look into the thought processes of a dangerously depressed teenage boy.
10. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Sixteen-year old Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death, but she's not sure if she can go about it alone. After discovering a website with a section called SuicidePartners, she meets a fellow teenager named Roman, and their spark is immediate. As the depressed pair get to know each other (and while they continue to plan their suicide), Aysel begins to yearn for more time so they can figure out the growing attraction between them, but Roman isn't so easily convinced.
11. Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke
Imogene Keegan has been in and out of therapy ever since her mother died seven years earlier, taking solace only in the theater at school. But now that her cruel stepsister, Ella Cinder, has moved in down the hall, Imogene isn't so sure it can help this time. After enjoying a moment in the spotlight at the school musical, several pages of dark thoughts from Imogene's diary are released in school. Now Imogene needs to decide whether to embrace her mental illness or allow herself to be crushed by its weight.
12. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
This Song Will Save Your Life centers on 16-year-old Elise, a girl who has never had a very easy time making friends. After spending an entire summer attempting to be "cool," she soon realizes that the people at school will never be her friend. Falling into a depression, Elise believes that her only recourse is suicide However, she stumbles across an underground dance party, meets an entirely new set of "misfit" people, and discovers a latent love (and talent) for DJing.
13. A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma
Flynn is one of the top pianists at the Royal College of Music when nominated for a concert that could be the opportunity of a lifetime. While he would normally be delighted, depression has begun to take hold of him. With the concert looming, Flynn must learn to come to terms with his illness or risk losing everything. This one is an honest look at manic depression.
14. Her by Christa Parravani
Christa and Cara Parravani were identical twins and considered themselves to be closer than regular siblings. They did everything together, that is until Cara veered off the path of the lives they were living and succumbed to a deep depression that eventually led to her death. Her is more than just a memoir about the loss of a loved one, it's also a heartwrenching study of mental illness from the point of view of a family member.