Mental health issues are on the rise, be it in the form of the depression we have been trying to hide, or the suicidal thoughts that make it difficult for us to live life to the fullest. For the longest time, mental illness has been considered a taboo topic. Today, though, it is heartening to see that more people are willing to acknowledge this and ask for help. Here is a list of eight such books which portray how people have battled mental illness. With books covering topics like depression, ADHD, anorexia, bipolar disorder and OCD among others, these books will hopefully help those who need it.


I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

Joanne Greenberg

Caught in an imaginary world, 16-year-old Deborah struggles with the inner demons of her schizophrenia. Her parents admit her to a mental hospital thinking it would be for a short period of time. She spends the next three years working with a therapist to try and leave her fictionalised world where she speaks a foreign language and get accustomed to an uncertain life in the real world. This semi-autobiographical novel breaks down the unique culture in the mental institution and its inhabitants.

Buy it here.


The Weight Of Our Sky

Hanna Alkaf

Melati, a Beatles loving teenager, battles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) amid the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. When the riots break out in the streets, Melati, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman. She later hears that her mother, a nurse in her village, has been called in to help with the casualties that are piling up in the hospital. Melati must struggle to find her mother while the terrors in her mind push at her ability to cope. Alkaf’s debut novel beautifully narrates a rarely represented history of Malaysia with Melati’s OCD episodes adding to its inner turmoil.

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Em And The Big Hoom

Jerry Pinto

Em, a mother riddled with mania and prone to suicide, struggles to raise her family as The Big Hoom, the father, tries to hold the family together in a one-bedroom house in Mahim. Though Imelda used to be an energetic woman, a deep depression began to take root post the birth of her children. Between good days and bad days, the family of four rally around their beloved mother. Jerry Pinto, in his semi-autobiographical debut novel, presents us with a beautiful portrait and narrative of a beloved mother with a different mind. 

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Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf

In a post-WWI Britain, Mrs Dalloway is disenchanted with the hollow illusion of life that she leads. In a seemingly unrelated storyline, Septimus Smith, a shell-shocked war veteran, suffers from what we now know and identify as post-traumatic stress disorder. The entire narrative takes place in a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. Clarissa and Septimus never meet but his suicide at the end of the novel resonates across the storyline. Using the path-breaking stream of consciousness technique, Woolf takes us into the inner workings of the characters’ minds.

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Far From You

Tess Sharpe

Ever since Sophie and Mina survived a fatal car accident at 14, Sophie has been addicted to OxyContin. When Sophie eventually gets clean, she gets framed for a drug deal gone wrong which led to Mina’s murder, which leads to a further stint in rehab. Sophie must now try to uncover the murderer who framed her and bring justice to her friend. But all is not easy as she struggles with her addiction, and her family and friends are reluctant to believe her. Author Tess Sharpe focusses on Sophie’s difficult journey of battling addiction in an evocative manner, and shows us the amount of patience and courage needed to conquer any addiction.

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Depresso: Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Embrace Being Bonkers


Tom Freeman, a political cartoonist, is nearly driven to madness by a world of leaders and their insane policies and too many citizens. Diagnosed with depression, Tom goes on a hilarious journey that unfolds over several years in China and the UK, where he encounters varieties of Western medicine and alternative therapies. Part travelogue, the story describes the crannies of the UK health system, while looking at the toll depression can take on the people close to the patient. Brick is the nom de plume of John Stuart Clark who says the graphic novel is semi-fictional and partly facilitated his recovery and coming to terms with his inner depresso.

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Playing Tyler

TL Costa

Tyler MacCandless’s older brother is in rehab, and a drunk driver has killed his dad. To pile on to his misery, he has ADHD, which makes it difficult for him to concentrate in school. The only bright spot in his life is his fascination with video games, and a chance to beta test a flight simulator game. During the process, he gets tangled up in a romance and discovers there is something sinister that lies behind the game which might just put him in grave danger. T. L. Costa’s Playing Tyler is a thrilling novel, and portrays Tyler’s ADHD quite realistically, showing his frustration and his confusion in an effective manner.

Buy it here.


Binary Star

Sarah Gerard

In Binary Star, we see a young woman balancing her long-distance relationship, her dream of becoming a teacher and her eating disorder, while her boyfriend deals with alcoholism and pill addiction. They go on a road trip where they find solace in veganarchism, which makes them hopeful for a future free from their habits. In a society that sells quick solutions like diet and sleeping pills, weight loss pills and seemingly magical fixes, this book is an eye-opening saga of two people caught up in such culture, and the protagonists’ hardships in dealing with her anorexia.

Buy it here.