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Thread: best books about mental illnesses, or mental health institution?

  1. #1
    figuring it all out Sweetix's Avatar
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    best books about mental illnesses, or mental health institution?

    hello,
    i am currently writing a book about mental illness and mental health institution, so i would like to get a little inspiration from others books, because i practically don't know anything about this subject. i would really like to see how it is in the patient's mind and stuff. do you have any recommendations?

  2. #2
    Professional Book Designer gtbun's Avatar
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    The Liar by Stephen Fry has elements of mental illness in it. If you want a wonderful book about it, that isn't fiction, then Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind is a must. It's a really beautiful memoir on manic depression.

  3. #3
    figuring it all out EmilyEmily's Avatar
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    Alexander Maksik's Shelter in Place is narrated by an (untreated) bipolar man. It is unexpected and sad and lovely.

  4. #4
    professional dilettante Lakey's Avatar
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    Obvious answer is obvious so here it is: Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, which, though it's more than half a century old, still paints a chilling and relatable picture of crippling depression. Part of what makes it so effective is that while the narrator is very insightful and aware of her own thought processes in some ways, she's out of touch with her own depression in other ways. Thus she relates some of her more disturbing thoughts and activities in a fairly matter-of-fact way, as though, for instance, throwing all one's clothes off the roof of a high-rise hotel is a perfectly normal thing to do. It also contains a lot of material on life in a certain kind of mental hospital in the 1950s, including a pretty harrowing account of shock treatments. In short, it's a classic, and foundational in my opinion if you're new to the subject.

  5. #5
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    Shadows in the Sun by Gayathri Ramprasad is a beautifully written look at depression from onset to healing.

    I have not read The Glass Castle, but I understand it's an excellent look at an insane family.

    Blessings,

    Siri Kirpal
    "The only freedom any of us ever has is the freedom to choose how we will not be free."

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    "Mental illness" is a huge and vague category. You might do better to get more specific about your character's problem. Paranoid schizophrenia is a very different thing from chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder is a very different thing from bipolar disorder, and in each of those (and many other) categories, there is a spectrum of severity and manifestations. Many people suffer from a multitude of these things, too.

    A nonfiction account of a battle with personal depression by a famed fiction author is Darkness Visible, by William Styron (I have a signed copy).

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    I agree. You have kind of cast a wide net. What kind of mental illness are you writing about? Mood disorders or psychosis? Are you writing nonfiction or fiction? If you're writing fiction, what genre?

    Me, as a YA buff, I would recommend Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. The protagonist is a teenage boy who has been sliding into psychosis for a while and is reaching the point where he can no longer hide it. What makes this novel even better is that Shusterman based the experiences of the protagonist on those of his son, Brendan, who was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder as a teenager. The protagonist's drawings in the book are ones that Shusterman's son had done while in the grips of his disorder. The book is a real labor of love for Shusterman and it shows from beginning to end.

    If we're talking about nonfiction, Madness by Marya Hornbacher is amazing. It's about her struggle with Bipolar I. She had also written a book about her eating disorders called Wasted for those interested, and it really is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject. It strips away whatever misconceptions/romanticizations one might have about eating disorders and drives home the point that it's not simply a matter of "just start eating."

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    The OP hasn't been here in a year. Just saying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lakey View Post
    It also contains a lot of material on life in a certain kind of mental hospital in the 1950s, including a pretty harrowing account of shock treatments.
    If anyone needs a recent account of someone's experience with electroshock...well, you can PM me. I've had it.

  9. #9
    figuring it all out EmilyEmily's Avatar
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    I just finished Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. If you are into YA, this is a very original depiction of...I can't say without giving spoilers. But be assured that the MC suffers a horrific mental illness, and the ending/reveal is shocking.

  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I would recommend girl, interrupted

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