Friday, 5 April 2013

Top mental health books: Part 1

I've been on holiday this week - the plan was to sow all my veg for the coming season. But it's been so cold that not a single seed has gone in!

So, plan B. Reading. I asked my colleague Laura (she is much more well-read than me!) to recommend some of her favourite mental health books - which she has. And then I thought - it would be good to share them with a wider audience. So, here it is, the first of an occasional series of top reads on mental health:

Living with Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery 
Published by PCCS books in association with Birmingham City University. There is a range of contributors, including Professor Marius Romme, Dr Sandra Escher, Jacqui Dillon and Professor Merwyn Morris. 
Laura says: I think this is a great book, I couldn’t put it down. It gives so much insight into people's experiences and in my opinion shows how questionable the level of medicalisation that we do around these behaviours, thoughts and emotions is (i.e. the view of voice hearing as a sypmtom of mental illness). A bit like your grief post - the people’s stories in this book tell us about personal trauma and stress and in my opinion their very human responses (e.g. hearing voices) to these adversities rather than a symptom of an illness.

Thinking About Suicide: Contemplating and comprehending the urge to die 
By David Webb, published by PCCS books. 
The author completed the world’s first PhD on suicide by someone who has attempted it. 
Laura says: I found this book really interesting and it really made me question just how dangerous some of our knee jerk responses to people talking about wanting to die might be. It also made me think more deeply about responsibility and confidentiality. Could our reactions (i.e. individuals and services) and actions (e.g. sectioning, treatments) stop people from being able to openly and honestly talk about their feelings of wanting to die? How valuable is it for people considering suicide to be able to talk about these feelings without fear of what others might do in response? 

The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz and Szasz under Fire edited by Jeffery A Schaler
Published by Harper Collins and Open Court Publishing respectively. 
Thomas Szasz was a psychiatrist and academic who criticised the medical approach to treating mental distress. 
Laura says: I can honestly say that Thomas Szasz changed my life by changing my ideas. When I first read The Myth of Mental Illness I found it hard going, his views were so alien to everything I had ever understood about mental illness since my first experiences of psychiatry in my early teens. Szasz’s ideas challenged everything. My issues with the book are not though a reflection on his writing, he is one of the most clear and logical authors I have every come across.  As I read other books about these ideas my understanding became clearer and I particularly found the book Szasz Under Fire useful.

Anatomy of an Epidemic
By Robert Whitaker, published by Broadway Books. 
This award-winning journalist explores why with every passing year so many more Americans are labelled as "mentally ill", and considers whether the increasing use of psychiatric medicines could be contributing to this rise. 
Laura says: Robert Whitaker would be a must for me. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Trauma - From Lockerbie to 7/7: How trauma affects our minds and how we fight back
By Gordon Turnbull and published by Bantam Press.

Laura says: This book was my introduction to the subject of post traumatic stress disorder in any detail and I became interested in the similarities between this diagnosis and other "mental illness" diagnosis. I also found it fascinating to read the journey of PTSD as a "mental illness" diagnosis in and out (and in again) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Gordon’s use of people’s live experiences alongside his own clinical knowledge journey are really thought provoking. His insight into why two people might experience the same external trauma and yet respond and cope very differently is also in my opinion very relevant to our wider understanding of mental health.

So, this should get us started! We'll post again in future with more recommended reads, and also include some fiction works.  In the mean time we will be ordering copies of these books at our local Powys libraries, so if you want to get hold of a copy why not get in touch with your library, details of which you can find here.

If you have any reading recommendations that you think we should share then please do get in touch.
Happy reading from all at Powys Mental Health!

PS: for those still troubled about the gardening... you could always try Cold Climate Gardening by Lewis Hill....


  1. Great and informative post.. I am going to look for these books at my favorite online bookstore.. These books sound quite informative regarding health.