Mental health is often a taboo topic, especially in the Philippines. While conversations about it are gradually being initiated, many still find themselves struggling to feel seen, heard, and understood.
As we collectively work on shining a light on the stories of real people with mental health conditions to help them get the support they need from society, literary works that touch on these topics may help us individually understand what it's like to live with mental illnesses. While majority of the books on the list are fictional, a few of them are inspired by the authors' real-life personal experiences with their own mental health struggles.
Warning: Some books might contain themes related to depression, anxiety, phobias, suicide, and other potentially triggering content.
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Darius Kellner, who is half-American and half-Persian, gets to visit his relatives in Iran for the first time. It's not exactly the smoothest trip for Darius, especially with the looming feeling of being a disappointment to his family--particularly his father. He cannot speak the language in Iran, he has to take medicine for his depression, and he just cannot impress his American father--it seems Darius cannot fit in anywhere. Through the book, readers get introduced to a culture they probably haven't encountered before as well as to a character readers might initially feel frustrated with but also relate to on a personal level.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan
On the same day Leigh Chen Sanders got to kiss her crush, her mother died by suicide. While still reeling from her mother's passing, Leigh encounters a bird that seemingly called out her name, which she believed to be her mom. Leigh and her father travel to Taiwan to reconnect with her mother's parents--her grandparents. Here, she learns about her mother and her condition a little more and goes on a journey to process the grief over the loss of a loved one. Not only does it shine a light on the experiences of those with mental health conditions but also on the people around them.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
This novel by famed YA writer John Green touches on the ugly but real experiences of having anxiety and a spiral of intrusive thoughts through the character Aza Holmes. Despite an action and mystery-filled world happening around her (it involves a search for a missing millionaire), there is a whole other world that unfolds inside Aza's mind.
A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar
If you're not as interested in fiction, this biography about mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John Nash might be more to your liking. The book chronicles his college life all the way to when he started his family. It also touches on his experiences with schizophrenia.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
The novel is told through the perspectives of Solomon, a 16-year-old guy with agoraphobia, and Lisa, an ambitious aspiring college student hoping to pursue psychology and who wishes to "fix" Solomon to help her get an advantage in college. The story provides a raw approach on anxiety disorders and panic attacks laced with themes of friendships through its flawed but relatable characters.
Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
Veronika was young and attractive, and nothing was inherently wrong with her life. One day, however, for her own personal reasons, Veronika decided that she would end her life--only her attempt failed. The book delves deeper into Veronika's psyche and shines a light on how people's struggles with their mental health manifest differently. The book also touches on other characters' complex stories as they interact with Veronika during her "final" days.
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