13 books about mental health everyone should read

13 books about mental health everyone should read
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The right mental health books can offer so much more than self-help tricks. They can teach critical lessons about lifelong wellness, emotional health, and how your mind and body are connected. In fact, the health of your body affects the health of your mind and vice versa. So they’re both so important to prioritize. And understanding yourself, and your students, better can only help you be a better teacher. You don’t have to be an expert in mental health, but taking the step to broaden your understanding will not go unappreciated.

In recent years, more and more attention has been paid to the importance of mental health for people of all ages, and for a good reason. But even though discrimination against mental health care has decreased, many people still don’t know some fundamental concepts regarding mental health, nor do they know how to practice them effectively.

Luckily, psychiatrists, counselors, and famous entertainment personalities have written countless popular books about mental health. If you don’t know where to start building your mental health book library, read on.


Best-selling mental health books

The mental health book genre is very popular. If you’re not interested in wading through tons of titles to find the ideal book for your needs, check out these best-selling mental health self-help books.

The Body Keeps the Score

bessel van der kolk

First on the list is The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. In this book, you’ll discover recent, comprehensive scientific discoveries that reveal how trauma impacts the mind and body alike.

Lots of people grow up thinking they can just “get over it” whenever they encounter a traumatic event or harmful personal experience. But in reality, trauma can affect you much more deeply than you might think. And it can leave marks on the mind that may result in long-term negative effects and mental health consequences. Understanding this can help you be more informed with your approach to educating your students. And can help you be more gentle with yourself.

The Body Keeps the Score will help you find your way out of trauma and practice therapeutic mental health approaches like eye movement desensitization and yoga. Through its step-by-step guidance, you’ll discover how to improve your mental health no matter what life throws at you.

Ultimately, it’s a phenomenal book if you want to learn more about how trauma might affect you, even years after the fact, especially if you are trying to get over a traumatic incident in your past.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

mental health struggles

In Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, you’ll discover the ins and outs of stress and its effects on both the body and the mind. Burnout is more common than ever, partially due to a combination of the hustle culture and rising workplace expectations with decreasing salaries. And for creators, burnout can creep up and surprise them at the worst time of their creative journey.

The book, written by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, Ph.D. and DMA, respectively, delves deep into what burnout is, how it can occur without you noticing, and the long-term effects of not solving burnout. More importantly, the book breaks down how you can understand your body’s unique response to stress and close the typical stress cycle loop.

Through problem-solving, research, and worksheets, you’ll gain the tools you need to thrive, even in a high-stress environment. You’ll also learn how to prevent stress from ruling your life.

Emotional First Aid

mental health care

Emotional First Aid is the perfect book about mental health for those dealing with feelings of loss, low self-esteem, guilt, or other emotional damage. As the title suggests, the book teaches you how to treat the emotional injuries you may sustain throughout your life. Almost anyone can benefit from reading this book. Especially considering that 20% of American adults will experience a mental illness at some point.

It’s written by Guy Winch, Ph.D., with the goal of providing real-world strategies that those in need of emotional healing can use. Everyone gets emotionally wounded at some point in their lives, whether from an unexpected loss, injury, or something else. You can use this book to get the strategies and tools you need to build a so-called “emotional first aid kit.”

Emotional First Aid is an effective strategy guide to treat yourself for emotional hurts you have experienced or may experience in the future.

What Happened to You?

oprah winfrey

What Happened to You? is written by bestselling author Oprah Winfrey, though it also contains partnered insights by the trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry. In this book, Winfrey and Perry collaborate to shift readers’ focus away from what they may have done wrong during a traumatic incident and focus more on what happened to them.

Lots of people suffer from mental health damage because they don’t fully process or comprehend injury when it occurs. What Happened to You? will help you recognize the signs of trauma and mental injury, plus provide you with the tools you need to experience higher mental resilience and strength.

Above all else, this is a great book for recognizing potentially toxic or problematic behaviors that you display without realizing it.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

personal experience

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is one of the best books about depression, anxiety, and therapy. It’s for anyone feeling uneasy about potentially going to therapy. The psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb wrote this book partially from experience on both sides of the therapy journey.

Read this book, and you’ll find humor, honesty, and actionable advice to overcome any hurdles you have about seeking therapeutic assistance. The book is great for exploring the major benefits of therapy, particularly for those struggling with mental health challenges they can’t approach with anyone else. Issues like suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can’t and shouldn’t be weathered alone.

This book can also be a good gift if you believe someone is struggling but needs a little extra push to get on the path to recovery. Mental health issues can be difficult to acknowledge, but reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone could be the first step toward overcoming mental health struggles.

Books on mental health for women

Women face unique psychological and emotional challenges, and plenty of mental health books reflect that. Here are a few top female-oriented mental health books to read.

Healing the Trauma of Abuse: A Women’s Workbook

books on mental health for women

Healing the Trauma of Abuse: A Women’s Workbook is another excellent book about mental health, especially for women. It’s best read by women who have experienced partner abuse or other types of intimate trauma.

Unfortunately, intimate trauma is a common experience among women. But this book may help you understand your trauma and discover new, problem-solving-focused strategies to rebuild your self-esteem and heal your mind.

In this book, you’ll discover an assessment you can take to discover whether you are ready to undergo healing exercises. If you are ready, you’ll learn how to practice self-soothing techniques, better understand female sexuality, learn new communication strategies, and much more. Most importantly, you’ll learn to accept yourself and find new value even after experiencing a traumatic event.


bestselling author

In this intimate book about mental health by Glendon Doyle, women will discover an emotional, motivating story about the author as she breaks down her life of fear, challenges, and mistakes. This is essentially a memoir-style book, so it doesn’t have the same focus on clinical practices or self-help strategies as some of the other books on this list.

That said, Untamed can still be an excellent book for tackling mental health challenges, thanks to its inspirational nature. Women will see themselves in Doyle and her past difficulties, particularly her focus on staying busy and making excuses to fix the broken parts of herself in her heart. It’s great for women looking to branch out and take a risk whether that be in their professional lives or their personal ones.

Untamed ends very strongly, as Doyle explains how to acknowledge one’s truth, set healthy boundaries, and forgive others for their transgressions. Overall, it could be a very useful and resonating mental health book for those who learn more effectively through storytelling instead of practice or workbooks.

Good mental health books to read for men

Just like women, men face specific mental health pressures and difficulties throughout their lives. These mental health books for men may help you overcome your challenges and attain better emotional control.

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: The Definitive Work on Self-Esteem by the Leading Pioneer in the Field

mental health books for men

Many men experience mental health challenges that are directly related to their self-esteem and self-worth. Even today, men are frequently judged based on what they do or their professions, not who they are as people. This can lead to a variety of professional and personal problems, as well as the development of low self-esteem complexes.

This book, by psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, leverages the knowledge he’s gained from clinical studies and practices to break down why confidence is key to self-worth and happiness. More importantly, it teaches men who read this book how to build more self-confidence over time. It’s a particularly good book thanks to its comprehensiveness, as it examines self-worth from family, parenting, educational, and cultural angles.

The Highly Sensitive Man: How Mastering Natural Instincts, Ethics, and Empathy Can Enrich Men’s Lives and the Lives of Those Who Live Them

books about mental

Many men struggle with sensitivity, particularly given the masculine culture they live within. Men, in particular, are taught to push down their emotions and not be sensitive in any context. This can cause a lot of problems, according to cognitive behavioral psychotherapist Tom Falkenstein.

In his book, Falkenstein looks at these unique struggles and experiences and offers both validation and insight for men who may not feel masculine or tough enough to thrive. It’s a very valuable book about mental health for men, as it teaches that sensitivity and emotional feelings are not toxic, negative, or weak.

If you’re a man who has struggled with mental health in the past, it’s a good chance this book could help you overcome elements of toxic masculinity you may have inadvertently internalized.

Mental health books for teens and young adults

Teenagers and young adults experience turbulent years as they grow from children to mature individuals. Their mental health challenges deserve special consideration, which is why we recommend these mental health books for teens.

The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

mental health books for teens

The book The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When the World Overwhelms You is helpful for those who might notice that they’re deeply moved by their emotions. In this book, you’ll learn effective mental health and emotional wellness tools and techniques you can use to stay steady, strong, and comfortable, even in draining environments.

A highly sensitive person or HSP might feel overwhelmed by bright lights, loud sounds, and other excessive physical stimuli. Between 15% and 20% of the population count as highly sensitive, so it’s well worth reading this book if you think you are in that group. The Highly Sensitive Person will help you better understand yourself and learn how to accept your unique traits as gifts, not liabilities. Over time, you’ll grow confident in yourself and your abilities.

Why is it a good pick for teens and young adults? Many adolescents and emerging adults don’t yet know how to deal with the world’s various pressures, like jobs, romance, bills, workplace strife, etc. The Highly Sensitive Person is a great tool for growing, highly sensitive teenagers who need help navigating new difficulties.

It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How To End the Cycle

mental health books for young adults

It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How To End the Cycle is a book all about understanding past trauma and how it can affect your modern mental health and emotional wellness.

Written by Mark Wolynn, an international expert on inherited family trauma, It Didn’t Start With You, is an insightful and informative breakdown of how cyclical or familial trauma can manifest in multiple people over generations. However, it doesn’t just overview the problem; it also explores how you can recognize negative or inherited toxic tendencies and prevent yourself from demonstrating them in the future.

Note that this book is among the most intense on this list. Be prepared to read and learn potentially uncomfortable things about yourself when you first take a look. Still, it can be a great tool for young adults and teenagers who recognize that there are toxic elements in their family dynamics. With this book, teens and young adults can overcome residual guilt they may feel and notice and arrest negative, trauma-induced behaviors as their personalities cement.

Children’s books about mental health

Kids can benefit from learning about mental health at an early age. That’s why there’s a growing sub-genre of kids’ books about mental health that explore complex ideas in child-friendly ways, often with engaging illustrations.

Cory Stories: A Kid’s Book About Living With ADHD

children's books about mental health

Kids struggling with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) will appreciate Cory Stories, which invites readers to picture themselves in the book and its black-and-white illustrations. In this tale, kids will learn about Cory’s challenges while also discovering the solutions he uses to overcome those difficulties.

It’s a good book for kids with ADHD who feel different from other children. It’s also a great tool for parents who want to build up their kids’ self-esteem, as the book’s primary message is simple yet timeless: nobody has to be good at everything, but kids can be good at a lot of things, even if they are a little different.

Don’t Feed the WorryBug

kids mental health books

This kids’ book, written and illustrated by Andi Green, is another great choice if your child is a worrier. Whether they actually have anxiety or are simply sensitive or nervous personalities from the get-go, Don’t Feed the WorryBug can be a helpful tool by framing these emotional struggles in a metaphorical tale.

The titular WorryBug grows until it can’t be ignored, so the protagonist, Wince, has to overcome his anxiety. This is a directly-applicable story for kids who struggle with anxiety and daily fear, as it teaches them that they need to focus on overcoming their worries instead of letting them control their decisions.


Any of the above books about mental health could be perfect tomes to crack open if you’re feeling down, need help with a specific mental health problem, or just want to learn more about the field. They can also be great for creators looking to learn more about themselves and their students. No matter what you teach, that understanding can help you better serve your students.


Why is mental health important?

Mental health is important because it directly affects your well-being, including your body’s physical health. Poor mental health can lead to psychosomatic effects, such as chronic pain, anxiety, and more. It’s vital to take care of your mind just as much as you take care of your body. Good mental health is the only path to a satisfying, enjoyable life.

What can I read to calm anxiety?

Hope and Help for Your Nerves: End Anxiety Now is an excellent book to read to calm your anxiety. This book, in particular, will help you understand that anxiety is a mental health condition, plus teach you techniques to stabilize yourself in everyday life and after rattling events.

Does reading books help with mental health?

Absolutely! Books can provide you with a basic foundation to better understand mental health topics, techniques, and the importance of a balanced mind. More than that, they allow you to focus on and practice mental health on your schedule without necessarily having to contact a medical professional.

That said, if you have a mental health condition or disorder, you should immediately connect with a therapist or psychiatrist. Trained specialists are well-equipped to help you understand your mind and practice better mental health care in the long term.

Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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