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Books for Mental Health Awareness Week

Finding a Voice

Books that acknowledge or explore mental health issues can help to increase awareness, encourage dialogue, reduce stigma and develop real understanding. The following suggestions offer a spectrum of different perspectives and are well worth seeking out. 

The suggestions include books that explore emotions for discussion with younger children, plus a range of teen/young adult reads that feature mental health issues.

  • The Mystery of the Colour Thief

    Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz Illustrator: Sophie Gilmore (front cover)
    Publisher: Zephyr

    The book paints a convincing picture of a harrowing time in a young life, and the time, talking and friendship that helps her to process trauma. But this is by no means a gloomy read, offering ample humour, hope and optimism.

  • Under Rose-Tainted Skies

    Author: Louise Gornall
    Publisher: Chicken House

    Seventeen-year-old Norah is essentially trapped in her own home, caught in the vice-like grip of Agoraphobia and OCD. Then one day a new young neighbour on the street arouses her curiosity. Honest, brave and utterly compelling.

  • The Colour Thief

    Author: Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters Illustrator: Karin Littlewood
    Publisher: Wayland

    Drawing on personal experiences of living in a family blighted by depression, this unusual, yet important, book may help youngsters to make sense of an illness they cannot see.

  • The Goldfish Boy

    Author: Lisa Thompson
    Publisher: Scholastic

    Matthew has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Can he help an investigation into the abduction of a child, perhaps without even leaving his house? A captivating read, combining a compelling whodunit with an engaging protagonist.

  • Michael Rosen's Sad Book

    Author: Michael Rosen Illustrator: Quentin Blake
    Publisher: Walker Books

    The subject of bereavement is treated in an unusual way in Michael Rosen's Sad Book, which deals with the death of the author's own son.

  • The Pond

    Author: Nicola Davies Illustrator: Cathy Fisher
    Publisher: Graffeg Books

    A young boy and his father are planning a pond in their back garden - but they only get as far as digging a muddy hole when Dad passes away. A raw, emotional but ultimately hopeful take on grief, loss, nature and love.

  • The Colour Monster

    Author: Anna Llenas
    Publisher: Templar

    An original and entertaining picture book using colour, collage-effect illustrations and a delightfully cute monster to help youngsters identify and understand different emotions.

  • Running on the Cracks

    Author: Julia Donaldson
    Publisher: Egmont

    Julia Donaldson's first novel for young adults is a tense thriller about a runaway. Donaldson addresses numerous issues in her gripping text, including abuse, mental health, mixed-race families and, above all, loyalty.

  • Bang, Bang, You're Dead!

    Author: Narinder Dhami
    Publisher: Corgi

    Dhami's thriller takes us from a dysfunctional home, where twins Mia and Jamie live with their divorced mother – who has bipolar disorder – to a school siege in which a pupil holds a class hostage. Compelling.

  • Optimists Die First

    Author: Susin Nielsen
    Publisher: Andersen Press

    Petula's life is ruled by anxiety, fear and pessimism after her little sister died two years before. Then she meets Jacob, and an unconventional love story unfolds. Another five star read from Susin Nielsen: one of the most talented teen writers working today.

  • The Illustrated Mum

    Author: Jacqueline Wilson Illustrator: Nick Sharratt
    Publisher: Random House

    This is a moving yet unsentimental account of two children coming to terms with their mother’s depression, mental instability and alcohol problem.

  • More Than This

    Author: Patrick Ness
    Publisher: Walker Books

    Carnegie Medal-winning author Patrick Ness tackles weighty questions of life and death head on in this provocative and challenging novel. Combining elements of a sci-fi thriller with the abstract and philosophical, this is bold, unusual and beautifully written. 

  • Scarlet Ibis

    Author: Gill Lewis
    Publisher: Oxford University Press

    At times heart-rending, this is a powerful story which skilfully gains our sympathy for those who are often misjudged, feared and derided by society.

  • Finding a Voice

    Author: Kim Hood
    Publisher: O'Brien

    This is an engaging story about the two-way nature of friendship and the risks of making assumptions. The overriding message is uplifting, whilst also leaving the reader with a powerful reminder that good intentions aren't always enough.

  • The Ghosts of Heaven

    Author: Marcus Sedgwick
    Publisher: Indigo

    The Ghosts of Heaven is an excellent book that will open up new avenues of thought and future reading and introduces teenage readers to a more inventive understanding of storytelling.

  • Am I Normal Yet?

    Author: Holly Bourne
    Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd

    This is a powerful and engrossing read that successfully informs, shocks, reassures and entertains in equal measures.

  • Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

    Author: Horatio Clare Illustrator: Jane Matthews
    Publisher: Firefly

    This fabulously illustrated book addresses the difficult subject of parental depression, at once describing the horror of Aubrey’s dad’s experience but also remaining upbeat and full of surreal humour.