As you may or may not know, September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. On this day, organizations across the world work together to promote a message of suicide prevention and mental health awareness. To help do our part to contribute to the cause, here’s are some books that effectively represented the lived realities of mental health to read this year!
WARNING: These books deal with issues related to mental health and suicide.
Project Semicolon by Amy Bleuel
Project Semicolon is an organization that aims to reduce the number of suicides around the world through the creation of a connected community with access to adequate information and resources. In Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn’t Over, members of the Project Semicolon community share their stories of living with various mental health issues and surviving suicide attempts. The one thing that connects each story is the semicolon – each person that contributed a story to the book has a semicolon tattoo somewhere on their body as a visual reminder of the continuation and value of life. To date, Project Semicolon has helped over 5.2 million individuals around the world.
The Humans by Matt Haig
The first in a Matt Haig double feature, The Humans is the story of an alien who takes over the body of a brilliant mathematician and the family he must kill to return to his world and prevent the destruction of humankind. Yeah, it really is that wild. Perhaps the most interesting plotline, however, is the story of Gulliver, Andrew Martin’s son who is struggling to cope with being the son of an absentee father and a social outcast. At one point, Gulliver struggles with suicidal thoughts and Alien-Andrew-Martin responds (in part) with a six-and-a-half-page, 96-point list that details ways to live our day-to-day lives with meaning, hope, and love.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
More Matt Haig! This one, however, doesn’t have anything to do with aliens or murder. When he was 24-years-old, Matt Haig stood on the edge of a cliff, planning to jump. Reasons to Stay Alive is the story of why he didn’t and how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. Much like Andrew Martin’s 96-point list, Reasons to Stay Alive is, at its heart, a book to help us live with meaning, hope, optimism, and love, in a world that is extremely lacking in all of those characteristics. In the Canadian edition of this book, the inside cover is lined with photos of people sharing their reasons to stay alive – their children and families, their friends, nature – and prompts to continue the conversation on social media. It’s really quite something.
That Time I Loved You by Carrianne Leung
That Time I Loved You is a series of interconnected short stories set in one Scarborough subdivision in the 1970s. Though every story in this collection is utterly perfect, the first story – “Grass” – is the one to remember. I could talk about it in great deal, but I’ll let Carrianne Leung’s writing speak for itself:
1979: This was the year the parents in my neighbourhood began killing themselves. I was eleven years old and in Grade 6. Elsewhere in the world, big things were happening. McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran and Michael Jackson released his album Off The Wall. But none of that was as significant to me as the suicides.
Right?! There’s just something about an eleven-year-old talking about suicides in such a frank, honest, and childish manner.
Birdie by Tracey Lindberg
Bernice Meetoos will not be broken. Bernice is a Cree woman with a dark, tragic past, who was left her home in northern Alberta to travel to Gibsons, BC. She’s on a vision quest of sorts, searching for family, home, and understanding. As she becomes more in touch with her Cree heritage and traditions, she begins to gain answers, but not all of them are what she was expecting. Alternating between moments of heartbreak and comedy, Birdie is a vital discussion of abuse and intergenerational trauma that is such a great, important book.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Caden Bosch is the head artist on a ship that’s plotting a course towards the southern part of the Marianas Trench, the deepest point on Earth. Caden Bosch is also a gifted high school student whose friends and family start to take notice of his odd behaviour and the fact that he’s increasingly absorbed by the troubling throughts in his head. Told in fast-paced chapters and complete with beautiful illustrations, Challenger Deep is the powerful story of one young man’s struggle to make sense of his reality.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr Carter lives two distinct realities: she lives in a poor neighbourhood, but attends school at a fancy suburban prep school in the city. The delicately created balance between these worlds collapses, however, when she witnesses the murder of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. What follows is the story of Starr Carter as she discovers her voice and begins to speak out against the injustices in this world. Though the story is very much the story of Starr and her family, the grief that haunts each line and each moment is so palpable. Unfortunately, the psychological effects of grief is often overlooked in discussions of mental health representations. In The Hate U Give, though, grief is brought to the fore, as the novel builds up to the utterly devastating – yet uplifting – final page, where Starr Carter’s (loosely) fictional world collides with our reality in the most heartbreaking way possible.
First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson is a bestselling author, journalist, and entrepreneur that has helped over 1.5 million people live better, healthier lives. Sarah Wilson is also someone who has struggled with anxiety her entire life. In First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson traces her journey with anxiety from her early struggles to learning to live with it later in her life. Along the way, she talks triggers and treatments, fashion and fads, and personal stories of struggle and resilience.
What books have you read lately that deal with mental health in a positive manner? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @SavvyReader!