Close Menu

A Reading List for Mental Health Awareness Month

The National Library of Medicine recommends adding these titles to your reading list during Mental Health Awareness Month this May.
Six books to add to your reading list during Mental Health Awareness Month.

A Reading List for Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to help destigmatize mental illness, the U.S. National Library of Medicine has provided a list of recommended books to read.  

Mental illness is a treatable and common condition that affects a reported 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. each year, and public outreach efforts like this reading list contribute to creating greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of people suffering from the condition.  

The list features six books ranging from creative non-fiction to fiction stories that present real life individuals or fictional characters who experience mental illness and provide insights into managing mental health.  


Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker 


What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother, to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations. With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author, Robert Kolker, uncovers one family's unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope. 


Little Panic by Amanda SternLittle Panic by Amanda Stern  


Growing up in the 1970s and 80s in New York, Amanda experiences the magic and madness of life through the filter of unrelenting panic. Plagued with fear that her friends and family will be taken from her if she's not watching, that her mother will die, or forget she has children and just move away, Amanda treats every parting as her last. Shuttled between a barefoot bohemian life with her mother in Greenwich Village, and a sanitized, stricter world of affluence uptown with her father, Amanda has little she can depend on. And when Etan Patz disappears down the block from their MacDougal Street home, she can't help but believe that all her worst fears are about to come true. Tenderly delivered and expertly structured, Amanda Stern's memoir is a document of the transformation of New York City and a deep, personal, and comedic account of the trials and errors of seeing life through a very unusual lens.​ 


Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori GottliebMaybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb  


Every year, nearly 30 million Americans sit on a therapist’s couch- and some of these patients are therapists. In her remarkable book, Lori Gottlieb tells us that, despite her license and rigorous training, her most significant credential is that she’s a card-carrying member of the human race. “I know what it’s like to be a person,” she writes, as a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but. As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients' lives- a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can't stop hooking up with the wrong guys-  she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell. 


Everything Here is Beautiful: A Novel by Mira T LeeEverything Here is Beautiful: A Novel by Mira T Lee  


Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister's protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life-changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it's Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs- even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor's diagnosis. Determined, and impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale until, inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in- but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them? 


Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love by Zack McDermott Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love by Zack McDermott 


Zack McDermott, a 26-year-old Brooklyn public defender, woke up one morning convinced he was being filmed, Truman Show-style, as part of an audition for a TV pilot. Every passerby was an actor; every car would magically stop for him; everything he saw was a cue from "The Producer" to help inspire the performance of a lifetime. After a manic spree around Manhattan, Zack, who is bipolar, was arrested on a subway platform and admitted to Bellevue Hospital. So begins the story of Zack's free-fall into psychosis and his desperate, poignant, often hilarious struggle to claw his way back to sanity. It's a journey that will take him from New York City back to his Kansas roots and to the one person who might be able to save him- his tough, big-hearted Midwestern mother, nicknamed the Bird, whose fierce and steadfast love is the light in Zack's dark world. 


RX: A Graphic Memoir by Rachel Lindsay RX: A Graphic Memoir by Rachel Lindsay 


In her early twenties in New York City, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Rachel Lindsay takes a job in advertising to secure healthcare coverage for her treatment. But work takes a strange turn when she suddenly finds herself on the other side of the curtain, developing ads for an antidepressant drug. Day after day, she sees her own suffering in the ads she helps to create, trapped in an endless cycle of treatment, insurance and medication. Overwhelmed by the stress of her professional life and the self-scrutiny it inspires, she begins to destabilize and finds herself hospitalized against her will. In the ward, stripped of the little control over her life she felt she had, she struggles in the midst of doctors, nurses, patients and endless rules to find a path out of the hospital and this cycle of treatment. This is the author's story of being treated for a mental illness as a commodity and the often-unavoidable choice between sanity and happiness. 

Additional resources 

Earlier this month the team from Arizona Health Sciences Library – Phoenix, who shared the reading list from the National Library of Medicine, provided a mental health awareness guide as a resource for improving wellness and helping yourself, friends and loved ones who may be struggling. These materials are traditionally shared on display inside the library; however, with social distancing protocols in place, the staff created a virtual resource. 

Campus Health remains open during the campus closure to provide counseling services. Call Campus Health during business hours Monday-Friday at 520-621-9202 or after hours 520-570-7898. You can also consult Campus Health’s online resources to help deal with stress related to COVID-19. 

Life & Work Connections offers regular 15-minute video workshops to help you expand your personal wellness. Topics include meditation, balancing work and family life, finance and more.