According to the most recent data from the National Institute of Mental Health, one is six adults in the United States live with a mental illness. Despite the fact it is so common, individuals who don't suffer from a condition, and even those who do, still struggle to understand mental illness in 2018. Luckily, there are some pretty incredible books about the topic coming out this year that shed an important light on a difficult topic so many of us still have a hard time making sense of.
As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety disorders, I have to admit, the nasty rhetoric around Donald Trump's mental instability in the wake of Fire and Fury's sensational publication is a painful one to endure. Whether it is on the news, social media, or in the checkout line, I can't seem to avoid conversations about our "crazy" president. While I agree that Trump is an unfit candidate for office — his lack of experience, his failed business record, his dangerous nationalist views — I can't help but feel totally misunderstood, if not personally attacked, by a narrative that insists mental health is a measurement of someone's ability to be successful. It's just simply not true.
From famous people like The Good Place star Kristen Bell to average Americans like the successful owner of my local yoga studio, there are millions of individuals who have a mental illness, but who still lead happy and productive lives. So why is it that, when we talk about depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, and those who suffer from them, we insist on believing the same old lies about mental illness? The truth is, despite the fact that over 43.8 million Americans live with various conditions, mental illness is still largely misunderstood.
If you are struggling to cope with your own experiences, or trying to understand those of someone you love, here are 10 new and upcoming books about mental health that will provide you with the insight you need, and the nuance the topic deserves.
'Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression — and the Unexpected Solutions' by Johann Hari
In his new book about the underlying causes of common mental illnesses and how to address them, bestselling author and award-winning journalist Johann Hari argues that depression and anxiety are a direct result of our cultural norms, societal expectations, and the way we live our daily lives. Drawing from personal experience as well and interviews with social scientists actively working in the mental health field, Hari introduces readers to a whole new way of examining mental illness. Bold and thought-provoking, Lost Connections is a must-read for anyone trying to understand depression, anxiety, and how to address the two biggest issues threatening America's mental health.
'A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia' by Sandra Allen
In this thought-provoking book about schizophrenia, Sandra Allen has crafted a fearless narrative about what it is really like to grow up under the weight of mental illness, based on the real-life experiences of her uncle Bob. A thoughtful adaptation of his own erratic memoir, Allen's autobiography includes rich details of their shared family history, the cultural and historical context, and Bob own experiences coming of age in the 60s and 70s, when he was simply called "crazy" during a time when America was still struggling with terms like "schizophrenic." Honest, heartbreaking, and often humorous, this remarkable book offers a window into an experience of mental illness that many people often never get the chance to see through.
'Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss' by Stephanie Wittels Wachs (Feb. 26)
One of the most commonly misunderstood mental illnesses of our modern time is addiction. In her searing memoir about losing her comedian brother to a heroin overdose, debut author Stephanie Wittels Wachs gets to the heart of what makes the disease so hard to understand, and what makes forgiving those who suffer from it even harder. Raw and unapologetic, this commanding debut will reshape the way you see addiction, addicts, and those who love (and lose) them.
'The Kevin Show: An Olympic Athlete's Battle with Mental Illness' by Mary Pilon (March 6)
You may have laughed while watching Jim Carrey's 1998 film The Truman Show, about a man whose life was actually an elaborately planned television program, but this true account of Olympic sailor Kevin Hall's struggle with a psychiatric syndrome that makes him believe the same thing will truly make you think. A captivating narrative that details the many challenges Hall has faced as a result of his disorder, whether it be the dangerous Director in his head urging him to drive his car into the ocean, or the medical community even his own family's inability to understand his illness. Sharp and compelling, this highly entertaining account will reframe the way you see mental health in everyday life.
'The Astonishing Color of After' by Emily X.R. Pan (March 20)
In this dazzling debut, author Emily X.R. Pan has created a spellbinding narrative about love, family, and what it means to grieve. When Leigh Chen Sanders's mother commits suicide, she is convinced that she was transformed into a bird, and even more convinced that, if she looks hard enough, she just might be able to find her. When she travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time, Chen throws herself into the search for her mother, and along the way, has to come face to face with the one thing she has tried to avoid: her grief. A sweet and poignant story about loss and letting go, this book is a great introduction for young readers who are trying to understand mental illness and its potential consequences.
'Defying the Verdict: My Bipolar Life' by Charita Cole Brown (April 3)
When she suffered an extreme psychotic episode during her last semester in college, Charita Cole Brown's doctors were doubtful that she would be able to manage her new diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Despite the odds being stacked against her, however, Brown has managed to live a full life in the face of her illness, one that she chronicles with honesty and understanding in this moving, must-read memoir.
'The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath' by Leslie Jamison (April 3)
In her penetrating narrative about addiction and its aftermath, bestselling author of The Empathy Exams dismantles everything you thought you knew about recovery. Drawing from her own life, other addicts' personal experiences, history, literature, criticism, and reporting, Leslie Jamison breaks down the stereotypes that plague our commonly held notions of addiction and presents a refreshingly new way of looking at recovery. Smart, moving, and relevant, The Recovering is a classic mental health resource in the making.
'First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety' by Sarah Wilson (April 24)
There have been countless books written about anxiety, but few have talked about the illness as a source for power in the way Sarah Wilson's new book about her own journey conquering her condition. In First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, the author draws from her personal experiences with chronic anxiety and the years she devoted to researching her illness to create a completely new outlook on living life with the disease, one that believes in embracing, not running scared from, the condition. Inspiring and insightful, this part-memoir, part-guidebook is the perfect read for anyone struggling with their own mental health.
'The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery' by Barbara K. Lipska with Elaine McArdle
What is it like to have your mind thrust into the depths of madness and pulled back out again? In startling detail and with keen insight, Barbara Lipska, leading neuroscientist and mental illness expert, describes her own harrowing, albeit temporary, descent into extreme mental illness in her moving new memoir. While her nightmare only lasted eight weeks, Lipska's experience — one she fully remembers — upended the way she looked mental illness, in herself and others. A remarkable story about strength, endurance, and human's capacity for recovery, The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind truly captures what it is like to struggle with mental illness.