Mental health charity, Mind, recently announced the shortlist for their 30th annual prize acknowledging the best books published in the year that address mental health issues and help improve the understanding of the subject. The nominees are as follows:
Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me by Bobby Baker
Grace Williams Says it out Loud by Emma Henderson
The Woman who Thought too Much by Joanne Limburg
The Gossamer Thread: My Life as a Psychotherapist by John Marzillier
What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam
Teach us to Sit Still: A Sceptic’s Search for Health and Healing by Tim Parks
Broken Places by Wendy Perriam
This Party’s Got to Stop by Rupert Thomson
The list above features a mix of novels, art and memoirs, with many coming from writers who suffer from mental health difficulties themselves, or have worked with patients as medical staff.
Brief synopses are available on the Mind website, along with plenty of interesting information and advice from the charity about mental health. With this prize in its 30th year it is clear that this is nothing particularly new, but The Reader Organisation has brought mental health and literature together for some time now, with our involvement with Mersey Care and other organisations, providing reading groups in areas including acute psychiatric wards and alcohol/drugs detox. The books we read with service users tend to be works of great literature/poetry, but do not always relate directly to mental health. For example, Project Worker Eleanor McCann has recently been reading with her group the cult sci-fi favourite The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
The acknowledgment of works that articulate the experience of undergoing mental health problems is highly commendable, and demonstrates that literature can have the power to help people understand something that may be fairly alien to them. Unfortunately mental illness is a topic that is still associated with numerous stereotypes, and hopefully these books can assist in educating people about psychiatric issues and challenging incorrect pre-conceptions about some of these conditions.
Amongst the books are stories (fictional and factual) of ‘life and love in a mental hospital’; ‘the courage of the human spirit in the face of mental illness’; a memoir of ‘three brothers [who] take their dad’s old pills and tear the house apart in their bid to confront his sudden death, as well as each other.’ You really need to read about all eight of these books (click on the link above), as each one sounds captivating in its own right.
Maybe you’ve read one or more of the shortlisted books, if so, what did you make of it? What books about mental health have you read and appreciated? Have Mind missed something out? Let us know with a comment below.
Also, Jane Davis will be talking on Radio Scotland’s Book Cafe today (listen again here) about the relationship between reading and mental health.