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Mental Health Books

Books about bipolar disorder and mental health.

Notes on a Banana:  A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression

by David Leite

The stunning and long-awaited memoir from the beloved founder of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria—a candid, courageous, and at times laugh-out-loud funny story of family, food, mental illness, and sexual identity.

Born into a family of Azorean immigrants, David Leite grew up in the 1960s in a devoutly Catholic, blue-collar, food-crazed Portuguese home in Fall River, Massachusetts. A clever and determined dreamer with a vivid imagination and a flair for the dramatic, “Banana” as his mother endearingly called him, yearned to live in a middle-class house with a swinging kitchen door just like the ones on television, and fell in love with everything French, thanks to his Portuguese and French-Canadian godmother. But David also struggled with the emotional devastation of manic depression. Until he was diagnosed in his mid-thirties, David found relief from his wild mood swings in learning about food, watching Julia Child, and cooking for others.

Notes on a Banana is his heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, yet tender memoir of growing up, accepting himself, and turning his love of food into an award-winning career. Reminiscing about the people and events that shaped him, David looks back at the highs and lows of his life: from his rejection of being gay and his attempt to “turn straight” through Aesthetic Realism, a cult in downtown Manhattan, to becoming a writer, cookbook author, and web publisher, to his twenty-four-year relationship with Alan, known to millions of David’s readers as “The One,” which began with (what else?) food. Throughout the journey, David returns to his stoves and tables, and those of his family, as a way of grounding himself. Read more here.

Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania

by Andy Behrman

Electroboy is an emotionally frenzied memoir that reveals with kaleidoscopic intensity the terrifying world of manic depression. For years Andy Behrman hid his raging mania behind a larger-than-life personality. He sought a high wherever he could find one and changed jobs the way some people change outfits: filmmaker, PR agent, art dealer, stripper-whatever made him feel like a cartoon character, invincible and bright. Misdiagnosed by psychiatrists and psychotherapists for years, his condition exacted a terrible price: out-of-control euphoric highs and tornadolike rages of depression that put his life in jeopardy.

Ignoring his crescendoing illness, Behrman struggled to keep up appearances, clinging to the golden-boy image he had cultivated in his youth. But when he turned to art forgery, he found himself the subject of a scandal lapped up by the New York media, then incarcerated, then under house arrest. And for the first time the golden boy didn’t have a ready escape hatch from his unraveling life. Ingesting handfuls of antidepressants and tranquilizers and feeling his mind lose traction, he opted for the last resort: electroshock therapy.

At once hilarious and harrowing, Electroboy paints a mesmerizing portrait of a man held hostage by his in-satiable desire to consume. Along the way, it shows us the New York that never sleeps: a world of strip clubs, after-hours dives, and twenty-four-hour coffee shops, whose cheap seductions offer comfort to the city’s lonely souls. This unforgettable memoir is a unique contribution to the literature of mental illness and introduces a writer whose energy may well keep you up all night. Read more here.


By C. J. Spammer

This is a story about love, heartache, mental illness and the secrets we keep. Sara, a mother with Bipolar Disorder, abandons her baby daughter because she feels she is unworthy of being a mom. Follow her on a nostalgic journey through the past, and witness how, in the present, her secrets are inevitably revealed. Read more here.


Searching For Normal

By Karen Meadows

Karen had a normal, happy family until depression consumed her daughter and at age eighteen, Sadie died by suicide. Karen's story, intertwined with excerpts from Sadie’s journals, describes their roller coaster ride into the depths of her troubled teen’s mind and through the maze of inadequate mental health treatment and services. This book will help parents of struggling teens feel less isolated and better equipped to navigate their teenager’s mental illness.

Karen Meadows shares her family’s journey as she tries to help her daughter Sadie cope with teenage onset mental illness that ultimately ends in her daughter’s suicide. Karen expertly intertwines her own storyline with excerpts from her daughter’s diaries, giving the book a unique perspective of what happens in the mind of a struggling teenager. The years are characterized by Sadie’s heartbreaking bouts of running away, cutting and living with Portland street families while Karen and her husband desperately search for solutions—trying medication, hospitals, therapy, wilderness and residential treatment programs. Ultimately they find themselves among the devastating shortcomings of our Nation’s mental health system. Karen provides hindsight advice along with an extensive list of resources that she wishes someone had provided her.

While Sadie’s story ends in tragedy, her legacy in this book provides community, awareness, and hope for other struggling teens and parents. Read more here.

Poetic Ramblings of a Lonely Mind

by Sheryl Griffin

In Poetic Ramblings Of A Lonely Mind, Ms. Griffin's poetry explores and examines forces common to all our lives. We all search for possibilities, are holders of secrets, have moments of self-doubt and have questioned faith and fate. She openly and honestly bares her soul in a poetic journey in search of self.

Enter the world of bipolar magnification; visit life from the darkness of depression to the glorious elation of victorious spirit. "For others to understand you, you must first understand yourself" Questioning emotions are part of life's cycles. The joy of anticipation, the giddiness of consummation, the warmth of satisfaction, the disappointment of broken promises, the hurt of neglected emotions; all lead one to question their worth.

The poet holds you close to let you see how she gets past the pain, fights off the darkness and survives to love and trust again. Poetic Ramblings Of A Lonely Mind will awaken and challenge your spirit. Read more here.

 In Search of Our Identity: Understanding Behavior in Bipolar Disorder (The Bipolar Expert Series Book 2)

by John McManamy 

If only it were just bipolar. From our singular way of thinking to our sensitivity to our social environment, our biggest challenge is to somehow fit in while remaining faithful to our true "normal."

What's holding us back, surprisingly, is not our ups and downs. It's dealing with people. We are social animals, after all. In addition to "knowing thyself," we need to learn to "know others."

Brace yourself for a wide-ranging journey of discovery that takes us from the micro world of genes and cells and circuits to the macro world of environment and evolution to our own world of all of us simply trying to get through another day.

Prepare to have your thinking challenged. Expert patient John McManamy weaves the latest research from fields as diverse as anthropology, genetics, neuroscience, behavioral psychology, evolutionary biology, and ancient history into a compelling narrative that seeks to explain why so many of us experience a profound sense of disconnect with the world around us.
Bringing the narrative to life are the author's own personal observations and experiences, plus those of fellow patients and loved ones. The result is a worthy companion to his highly acclaimed first book in The Bipolar Expert Series, NOT JUST UP AND DOWN. Read more here.

Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament

by Kay Redfield Jamison

The definitive work on the profound and surprising links between manic-depression and creativity, from the bestselling psychologist of bipolar disorders who   wrote An Unquiet Mind.

One of the foremost psychologists in America, “Kay Jamison is plainly among the few who have a profound understanding of the relationship that exists between art and madness” (William Styron).

The anguished and volatile intensity associated with the artistic temperament was once thought to be a symptom of genius or eccentricity peculiar to artists, writers, and musicians. Her work, based on her study as a clinical psychologist and researcher in mood disorders, reveals that many artists subject to exalted highs and despairing lows were in fact engaged in a struggle with clinically identifiable manic-depressive illness.

Jamison presents proof of the biological foundations of this disease and applies what is known about the illness to the lives and works of some of the world's   greatest artists including Lord Byron, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf. Read more here.

Black Sails White Rabbits: Cancer was the Easy Part

by Kevin A. Hall 

Young sailor and aspiring Olympic competitor Kevin A. Hall's biggest dream was to raise a family. But within the space of a year, he was diagnosed with both testicular cancer and bipolar disorder, putting his family and Olympic dreams on hold. He soon found that surviving cancer was the easy part.

At the age of twenty, Hall began experiencing the exhilarating highs and terrifying lows of bipolar disorder--along with delusions that could make his reality seem like a waking nightmare. And in what could have been a final blow, after four years of struggling to provide love and support, his soul mate chose self-preservation and walked away.
Now a renowned Olympic and America's Cup sailor with a wonderful wife and family, Hall shares a behind-the-scenes look at his struggles with mental illness in the riveting memoir Black Sails White Rabbits. In the face of crushing ups and downs, hospitalizations, and family drama, Hall has learned to weather the ever-changing tide of health struggles and personal woes, achieving success despite seemingly impossible odds. A courageous look at a life filled with overwhelming challenges, this frank and fierce memoir also contains a surprising love story at its core, a tribute to the woman by his side. Read more here.


by Susan Safayov

Watch our webinar with Susan here.

University of Pittsburgh law student, Maggie Hovis, battles an enemy she cannot escape—her own brain. Her family calls her a drama queen. Her fiancé, Sam, moves out after she throws a shoe at his head. Maggie knows there is only one way to get him back—control her moods. So she takes the step most of her family is against: therapy. After a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder, Maggie begins to investigate her family tree—which is plagued by mental illness and hidden relatives—and develops empathy for her deceased Great Aunt Ella, who lived her life in a mental institution. But Maggie’s journey leads her into fear and insecurity, afraid she’ll end up like Ella and never get Sam back. But what about Nick, her super-sexy old flame, who wants to reignite their passion? And does it even matter, anyway? Won’t mental illness stop any man from loving her? Read more here.

The Book of Whispers: A Father and Son's Battle with Bipolar Disorder

The story of Mickey and Jake McClain Driver, as told to Beverly Freeman

The Book of Whispers is the story of a young man's courageous battle with bipolar disorder. It was a battle he lost. But not without a fight. Jake McClain Driver was a talented, passionate, brilliant young man with a tortured mind. His creativity and wit were astonishing. He was a gifted writer and played amazing guitar. He wrote songs and poetry, painted, drew and made pieces of art. He had a great sense of humor, an innate ability to connect with others, and as a result, he loved and was loved. Jake also had an illness. One moment he was sweet, loving and engaging. In the next, he was agitated, erratic and disruptive. He worked hard to overcome his problems. He went to doctors who prescribed treatment plans involving medications and therapy. He was hospitalized multiple times. He was shot by a police officer. He served time in jail. Finally, at age 26, he took his own life. Among Jake’s creative work was a series of poems he called The Book of Whispers. No one knows why he gave his book of poetry that name, however, those of us who were close to Jake believe his verses may have been whispers to him that helped silence or quiet the chaos in his head that he experienced with his disease. Through his poetry Jake weaves his own personal experience as he battles demons and pain that might seem unfathomable to others. Some of the verses are whimsical and downright funny. Others are thought provoking. A few are sad. In preparing to publish Jake's book, the goal was simply to share his poetry with others. As the project progressed, we came to understand that his poetry is more meaningful when read within the context of Jake's all-too-short life. We hope that Jake's story makes a difference to others. If even one person who is experiencing the ravages of mental illness - their own or that of a loved one - is helped by hearing about Jake's journey or by reading his poetry, the effort to publish it will have been worth it. Read more here.

Splinters of Glass: Poetry of a Life

by Arleen Watson

Splinters of Glass is a revelatory, introspective and uplifting book from poet Arleen Watson who used her poetry as an outlet for her life’s successes, trials and tribulations. As with all great poetry, the themes of Arleen’s poems are universal to us all – joy, love, loneliness, heartbreak, survival, family, memories, and relationships. Splinters of Glass is an inspirational blend of joy and despair, love and loss, and calm and chaos. She loved to dance and laugh and dream big. Her motto was “ Never, never give up on your dreams” and she never did. The privilege of viewing the world as Arleen did will transform the reader’s perspective about their own life. Splinters of Glass is a collection of nearly fifty of Arleen’s most passionate and thought-provoking poems. Read more here. 


Tristimania: A Diary of Manic Depression

by Jay Griffiths 

"There are galaxies within the human mind, and madness wants to risk everything for the daring flight, reckless and beautiful and crazed. Everyone knows Icarus fell.But I love him for the fact that he dared to fly. Mania unfurls the invitation to fly too high, too near the sun..."

Tristimania is a stark and lyrical account of the psyche in crisis. It tells the story of a devastating year-long episode of manic depression, culminating in a long solo pilgrimage across Spain. The book is rare in recording the experience of mania and shows how the condition is at once terrifying and also profoundly creative, both tricking and treating the psyche. In exploring its literary influence, Griffiths looks at Shakespeare's work, and examines the Trickster role, tracing its mercuriality through the character of Mercury. An intimate, raw journey, the book illuminates something of the universal human spirit. Read more here.

Mad Girl: A Happy Life With a Mixed-Up Mind

by Bryony Gordon 

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it's time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness. Read more here.



Escape from Myself: A Manic-Depressive's Journey To Nowhere

by Tom Roberts 

This is the memoir of a man who had everything: family, good job, house. He walked away from it. Why? Tom Roberts learned five years after he just walked away and lost everything he had bipolar disorder II and the reason he left all that he had was because he was in a manic episode. Tom’s memoir takes the reader from what appeared to be a comfortable college professor’s life to the dirty streets of Hollywood, CA. He was living in a fantasy that he could earn a living as a film actor just as he dreamed when he was in high school. His “escape” as he calls it, was triggered by medical treatment following a horrible depression that had lasted six months by the time he was hospitalized. He was prescribed the new antidepressant Prozac and it turned out to be the worst anti-depressant for a yet undiagnosed manic-depressive. Tom’s story begins, however, 30 years earlier in a family dominated by his Father’s undiagnosed mental illness and then the sudden death of his 34-year-old Mother. Tom lived through the suicides of his brother and later his step-sister. The end surprisingly, is back in Hollywood as a working voice-over actor with several on-camera film credits. How he got there is the rest of the story and the final destination of his journey that went from nowhere to “now here”. Read more here.

Lily and Dunkin

by Donna Gephart 

The story begins with a chance meeting between two 13-year-olds—Lily ( a transgender girl in the beginning stages of her transition ) and Dunkin ( a cisgender boy with bipolar disorder who recently moved to Lily's neighborhood from his childhood home in New Jersey ) in the waning days of summer.

One of the through lines in the book concerns Lily's desire to get hormone blockers while Dunkin, who's been taking two medications for his bipolar disorder, is actively skipping his daily medication dosages.

This book is great for readers who want to understand what it means to be transgender and/or those who want to know how bipolar disorder affects young people. Read more here.

The Tree of Happiness

by Cynthia Stevison

The Tree of Happiness explores the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. This story offers encouragement and empowerment to those willing to accept it and climb into their true potential. This book converts decades of personal and professional healing strategies into a proven process that equips readers with the tools to create their own Tree of Happiness. Readers will Discover how to unveil the roots that bind them. Find answers to help those that suffer from mental illness. Experience comfort that they are not alone. Discern how mental disorders can be managed. Unpack how recovery is possible. Read more here. 

Mental Health Reform: A Holistic Approach

by Stephanie Mae Grey

A small, easy to read handbook showing why we need mental health reform that is holistic. Our mental health system needs a collaboration of mental, physical and spiritual resources to ensure all get equal and just care.

Stephanie Grey is a public health nurse and director of Be Healthy Ministries, Inc. She promotes health education which aims to prevent diseases, and also provides health advocacy and research. She believes a holistic approach is what is needed to address the many public health and safety challenges we face in this 21st century. Read More Here.


One Green Bottle

by Debrah Anne Nixon

An attack by a swarm of bees brings on a panic attack for Jennifer Hartley, a small-town farmer’s wife and mother of two young children. She is admitted to a psychiatric facility where she is surrounded by patients whose lives, like her own, are steadily disintegrating. Interaction between the inmates of the facility is wise and often lively and entertaining in spite of their shared mantle of mental illness. 

Filtered through a highly sensitised and sensory consciousness, Jennifer Hartley’s story swings back and forth between ward life and periods of rest in her home environment. In repeated admissions to psychiatric ward care, her condition is variously described and diagnosed. The health professionals hover on the margins of this world. They are experienced by the patients of the facility as aloof and enforcers of a regimented treatment regime. There is some hope for those who suffer mental illness, however, and it is often found in unlikely places. Read more here.

Not Just Up and Down

by John McManamy

Not Just Up and Down challenges the simplistic notion that bipolar disorder is an episodic illness characterized by extreme shifts in mood from depression to mania. Instead, John McManamy presents a more coherent picture of bipolar as a cycling illness with the brain in perpetual motion, extremely sensitive to nature's slightest whims. 

In this book, award-winning mental health journalist and author John McManamy seamlessly integrates expert scientific and patient wisdom, as seen through the eyes of someone who must face the daily challenge of his illness. Read more here

The Price of Silence: A Mom's Perspective on Mental Illness

By Liza Long (IBPF Board Member)

Like most of the nation, Liza Long spent December 14, 2012, mourning the victims of the Newtown shooting. As the mother of a child with a mental illness, however, she also wondered: “What if my son does that someday?”

The emotional response she posted on her blog went viral, putting Long at the center of a passionate controversy. Now, she takes the next step. Powerful and shocking, The Price of Silence looks at how society stigmatizes mental illness—including in children—and the devastating societal cost. In the wake of repeated acts of mass violence, Long points the way forward. Read more here.


Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt

By Kevin Hines (IBPF Board Member)

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable structures to define a modern city. Yet, for author Kevin Hines the bridge is not merely a marker of a place or a time. Instead, the bridge marks the beginning of his remarkable story. At 19 years old, Kevin attempted to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge - a distance which took four seconds to fall. Recently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, Kevin had begun to hear voices telling him he had to die, and days before his attempt, he began to believe them.

The fall would break his body, but not his spirit. His story chronicles the extraordinary will of the author to live mentally well in the face of his mental illness: bipolar disorder with psychotic features. With each mental breakdown, however, the author’s desire to live mentally well-- and to be a mental health advocate-- pulls him from the depths of his condition. Kevin’s story is a remarkable testament to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder to us to love the life we have. His story also reminds us that living mentally well takes time, endurance, hard work, and support. With these disciplines in place, those living with even very difficult diagnoses can achieve better lives for themselves and those who help to support and care for them. Read more here.

Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from Madness

By Suzy Favor Hamilton

During the 1990s, three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton was the darling of American track and field. An outstanding runner, a major sports apparel spokesperson, and a happily married wife, she was the model for an active, healthy, and wholesome life. But her perfect facade masked a dark truth: manic depression and bipolar disorder that drove her obsession to perform and win. For years after leaving the track, Suzy wrestled with her condition, as well as the loss of a close friend, conflicted feelings about motherhood and her marriage, and lingering shame about her athletic career. After a misdiagnosis and a recommendation for medication that only exacerbated her mania and made her hypersexual, Suzy embarked on a new path, and assumed a new identity. Fueled by a newfound confidence, a feeling of strength and independence and a desire she couldn’t tamp down, she became a high-priced escort in Las Vegas, working as “Kelly.”

But Suzy could not keep her double life a secret forever. When it was eventually exposed, it sent her into a reckless suicidal period where the only option seemed out. Finally, with the help of her devoted husband, Suzy finally got the proper medical help she needed. In this startling frank memoir, she recounts the journey to outrun her demons, revealing how a woman used to physically controlling her body learned to come to terms with her unstable mind. It is the story of a how a supreme competitor scored her most important victory of all—reclaiming her life from the ravages of an untreated mental illness. Today, thanks to diagnosis, therapy, Kelly has stepped into the shadows, but Suzy is building a better life, one day at a time. Sharing her story, Suzy is determined to raise awareness, provide understanding, and offer inspiration to others coping with their own challenges. Read more here.

All the Things We Never Knew

By Sheila Hamilton

Even as a reporter, Sheila Hamilton missed the signs as her husband David’s mental illness unfolded before her. By the time she had pieced together the puzzle, it was too late. Her once brilliant, intense, and passionate partner was dead within six weeks of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, leaving his nine-year-old daughter and wife without so much as a note to explain his actions, a plan to help them recover from their profound grief, or a solution for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that they would inherit from him.

All the Things We Never Knew takes readers from David and Sheila’s romance through the last three months of their life together and into the year after his death. It details their unsettling descent from ordinary life into the world of mental illness, and examines the fragile line between reality and madness. Now, a decade after David’s death, Sheila and her daughter, Sophie, have learned the power of choosing life over retreat; let themselves love and trust again; and understand the importance of forgiveness. Their story will resonate with all those who have loved someone who suffers from mental illness. Read more here.

 A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction

by Patrick Kennedy and Stephen Fried 

Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, details his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health care's history in the country alongside his and every family's private struggles.

A Common Struggle weaves together Kennedy's private and professional narratives, echoing Kennedy's philosophy that for him, the personal is political and the political personal. Focusing on the years from his 'coming out' about suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction to the present day, the book examines Kennedy's journey toward recovery and reflects on Americans' propensity to treat mental illnesses as "family secrets." Read more here.

Station 23: Begegnungen in der Psychiatrie 

by Hartmut Haker (Written in German)

Ein junger Mann findet sich eines Tages in der Psychiatrie wieder, hat aber nur wenig Erinnerung daran, warum er hier gelandet ist. Hartmut Haker macht sich in seinem autobiografischen Buch auf die Suche nach den Ursachen für seine Erkrankung. Gleichzeitig beschreibt er das Leben auf seiner Station mit dem erzwungenen Zusammenleben mit anderen Kranken, mit Pflegern und Therapiesitzungen mit seinem Psychiater. Read more here.



 Listen: Poems on being Gay, Bipolar, and Alive

by Andres Fragoso Jr

Growing up was not easy for me; I had to understand and accept that I am gay. If that was not difficult enough for me, I was also very hyperactive. I drove my mother mad with my temper tantrums, mood swings, screaming, yelling, misbehaving, and whatever I could think of. I came to terms with my homosexuality. However, I was diagnosed with Bipolar as an adult. Which explains most of my behavior growing up. I had to do something with my time, so I wrote short stories, suicide notes hiding within poems that expressed my fears, wishes, love, hate, acceptance of being gay and society's, expectations of a Mexican man. Read more here.


Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue

Edited by Amy Ferris

“This book belongs to all of us who have ever felt the pang of despair or the full blown crush of depression, or worried about someone precious who may be struggling this very minute.” —Nina Gaby, editor of Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women

A silent epidemic, depression affects millions of people and takes dozens of lives every day, while our culture resists frank discussions about mental health issues. The writers in Shades of Blue share real and unforgettable stories of their personal battles with depression, grief, and suicide, offering solidarity, and hope for all those who feel as if they’re struggling alone. Read more here.