Three Novels That Promote Mental Health Awareness

Sometimes the best way to deal with mental health issues and the awareness of them IRL is, first, through characters of fiction.


TW: This article contains details of suicide and struggles with other mental illnesses such as OCD and depression.

The green ribbon, which is widely overlooked by many people, signifies raising awareness for mental health. With 1 out of 5 young people suffering from mental illness, one would consider mental illness as an issue that must be addressed. However, many people are unaware of the effects that come with the lack of a healthy mental state. 

Books are magic portals that introduce one to different struggles of the world. This is a list of the top 3 books with the intention of fostering mental health awareness and bring us a little bit closer to empathy. 

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

The book opens by introducing sixteen-year-old Aza and her best friend, who are determined to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of Aza’s childhood friend’s father, billionaire, Russell Pickett. However, this book’s more compelling mystery is the constant tumult raging inside Aza’s brain. Aza suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which forces her to feel more disconnected from the world than others. John Green intended to show the two narratives in a person’s brain as she suffers from OCD.

Aza constantly struggles distinguishing her own thoughts and the compulsive unwanted sensations that take over her thoughts. To describe the struggle of OCD, Aza explains, “the thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.” Turtles All The Way Down helps readers understand how the mind works when the brain has its own mind.  The book carries the reader inside of Aza’s debilitating thoughts and urges them to feel and understand the anxiety and incapacity that she wanders through each instant and every day.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes follows the classic trope of boy-meets-girl, however, this book is not a love story. Sixteen-year-old Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without cringing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father who has a criminal background, Aysel is ready to turn her potential spirit into insignificance. However, she endeavors the courage to do it alone, and as she constantly questions whether or not she wants to go through with suicide.

She discovers a website called “Suicide Partners,” where she meets Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, and is also in search of a partner. As Roman and Aysel grow closer to each other, the suicide pact becomes more concrete. Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Eventually, she must pick between wanting to die or attempting to influence Roman to live and explore the potential of their energy together.

The book is intended to raise awareness for suicide. It tends to give readers reasoning for why to live as it states “one spark can change everything,” which signifies the main plot of the story.

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson

The book’s main plot, as Sarah Wilson states, is around this Chinese proverb that before you can conquer a beast, you must make it beautiful first. The Beast in this memoir is anxiety. At first, Wilson addresses her intense focus on investigating skills upon her lifelong enemy, anxiety. In her memoir, she lists the triggers, treatments, and strains of anxiety.

She reads extensively and surveys fellow sufferers, mental health specialists, and scholars processing all she learns through the prism of her own wisdom. Wilson offers readers comfort, humor, connection, and advice for surviving with the Beast. It will strengthen the endless souls who dance with this condition to embrace it as a part of who they are, and investigate its potentialities for a more flourishing and fuller life.