'I felt seen': Readers share the books that transformed their mental health
To many of us, a book can feel like an escape or a warm hug.
And reading is proven to do wonders for our mental health, with research showing it reduces our stress levels by 68%.
So, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked Metro readers to share the books that they feel have have improved their mental wellbeing the most – and why.
From managing negativity, accepting the limits of your control and new perspectives on loneliness – there is something for everyone on the list.
My Shit Therapist & Other Mental Health Stories by Michelle Thomas
Gabriella Petrucci, 26, runs her own bookstagram gabsbookshelf, and says that she picked up My Sh*t Therapist by Michelle Thomas after coming across it on Instagram.
She says: ‘I was going through therapy at the time – I fortunately had a really great therapist – but I was intrigued by the author’s experience. Why was her therapist shit?
‘This might sound weird, but it made me feel lucky. A lot of the submissions from the public and the author are really heart breaking – not being believed by GPs or their friends.
‘Reading those snippets made me grateful to have a GP that believed me – especially eight years ago, when mental health wasn’t spoken about as much. My GP believed me straight away and gave me options for help. I also had a great therapist who really transformed my life and way of thinking, as well as wonderful friends and family that I could talk to.’
Gabriella adds that this is ‘everything’ she wants in a mental health book/
She adds: ‘It felt like a lovely warm hug; I felt seen, I felt heard.
‘The book is split into multiple aspects of life when dealing with mental health; university, jobs, friendship, etc.
‘The author details her life, experience and advice, but you also see essays from strangers. The whole book feels very sincere and I really recommend it.’
In short, Gabriella says: ‘It just made me feel lucky I got the experience I did but sad that others have to fight so hard for the same help.’
All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami
Hena Bryan is a writer and self-proclaimed ‘bookish babe’ who also runs a bookstagram henajbryan. She said that All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami was a gamechanger for her.
Hena was sent the book by the publisher, Picador, who knew of her love for Japanese fiction.
She says: ‘I was in a terrible cycle with generalised anxiety disorder and depression.
‘The book didn’t help me with one specific experience, but it helped me process the reality of my mental health overall.
‘Out of all the narratives that I’ve read that explore loneliness, anxiety and depression, All the Lovers in the Night is possibly the most accurate.
‘Mieko doesn’t present mental health as a quirky-character-building life experience that’s easily remedied, but a struggle that is often tedious, long-winded and isolated.
‘All the Lovers in the Night reminded me that finding balance takes time and that – even after 224 pages – things may not be perfect, but it’ll all be okay.
‘The book made me feel less isolated in the struggle and after reading it, I made strides to find balance and joy.’
Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King
Luke Collins, 23, recommends Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King, which is a Sunday Times bestseller, and was recommended by a friend.
He says: ‘I came to this book pretty soon after a fairly messy break up, and I felt like I didn’t have any sense of direction in life.
‘It was recommended by a mate at university who’d been through the same thing a couple months prior, and found this book really helped him, so he gave it to me.
‘I read it within the week I started it – which is quick for me, as I don’t really read otherwise.
‘It definitely got me back on track for university and social life. I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone struggling with their mental health.
‘It helped put everything into perspective. It was about recognising what made you happy and how to cut certain negative aspects out, or manage negativity into a positive spin.’
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Charlotte Greaves, 33, is a PR manager and assistant TV producer and she says the books that helped her mental health was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
She says: ‘It’s a book that really helped me. It touches on subjects such as loneliness and suicide. Loneliness is something at times we all feel, and the year previously I’d lost a friend to suicide.
‘The book is beautifully written, I even tweeted about it and Matt Haig even replied!
‘The image on my tweet is the last page of the book. It made me cry, but also gave me such a sense of relief.’
F*ck It by John Parkin
Joanna Oliver, 39, is a PR lead from Kent and recommends the book F*ck It by John Parkin after Fearne Cotton mentioned it.
She says: ‘F*ck It was invaluable to me when I was really struggling with my mental health and at my lowest.’
Joanna has since had a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) but she read the book before being diagnosed.
‘I knew I wasn’t just depressed and anxious,’ she says. ‘Everything is heightened with BPD so a lot of my relationships with my husband, family, friends, colleagues and work life suffered – I was in need of reassurance constantly, I felt anger, jealousy and rage, I was reactive and impulsive, and had a fear of abandonment.
‘I think the book helped me to step back a bit, and say no to a lot of things which were triggering or intensified those emotions.
‘It helped me to let go more, and do what was needed for me rather than anyone else.
‘It was so great for me to read while in my 20s – now in my 30s, and I still try to live by it.’
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
Carys Boty, 23, who spends her time travelling, recommends The Lonely City by Olivia Laing.
Carys says: ‘The Lonely City explores the experience of moving to a new city without any prior connection. The author looks at the experience of loneliness through art and artists’ depictions of loneliness, like those by Warhol and Henry Darger.
‘But what I found most useful was the author’s personal accounts. She speaks about being in urban spaces that are supposed to provide social interaction, but these spaces also provide intense loneliness and the grandness of a city can facilitate isolation.
‘It’s something I struggled with at first when I moved to Italy to study abroad – I was meeting new people and having new experiences, but I’d never feeling more alone.
‘There is a part where she speaks about how it’s not the number of relationships you have, but the depth of those connections. That really resonated with me.
‘I found it really comforting to read and it helped me work through my own experience.’
The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
Senior lecturer Sandie Cleland recommends The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.
She says: ‘The Happiness Trap was lifechanging for me. It helped me understand that you can’t always control what happens to you, you can only control how you respond.
‘He also wrote a book called The Reality Slap, which is just as good. Sometimes bad stuff happens, but it’s how you respond to it that’s important.’
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