Books to support mental health awareness
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.
These include books that explore emotions for discussion with younger children, plus a range of teen/young adult reads that feature mental health issues.
Author: Jo Cotterill Illustrator: Maria Garcia Borrego
An absorbing school story that looks at the pressures and mental health challenges for young people when trying to live up to expectations. Part of a series that provides age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers.
Author: Lisa Williamson
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Fourteen-year-old Ro Snow’s got a secret: her house is filled to the doors with her mother’s hoarded rubbish. A brilliant, thoughtful read that explores Bonnie’s mental health issues and their effect on Ro with compassion.
Author: Kate Di Goldi
Like his desk, Frankie likes life to be orderly and neat. But then Sydney arrives, and disturbs Frankie's carefully organised world, forcing him to ask a hitherto unspoken 10pm question.
Author: Hannah Cumming
Publisher: Child's Play
Everyone loves art class; everyone except the little girl who sits alone and draws nothing, a black cloud glowering above her
Author: J H Diehl
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Thirteen-year-old Alice is trying to stop her family falling apart. A very beautiful and sensitively handled book that touches on themes of mental health, family relationships, friendships and love.
Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz Illustrator: Sophie Gilmore (front cover)
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.
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.
Author: Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters Illustrator: Karin Littlewood
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.
Author: Lisa Thompson
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.
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.
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.
Author: Anna Llenas
An original and entertaining picture book using colour, collage-effect illustrations and a delightfully cute monster to help youngsters identify and understand different emotions.
Author: Julia Donaldson
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.
Author: Narinder Dhami
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Author: Kim Hood
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.
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
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.
Author: Holly Bourne
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
This is a powerful and engrossing read that successfully informs, shocks, reassures and entertains in equal measures.
Author: Horatio Clare Illustrator: Jane Matthews
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.
Author: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
The perfect blend of words and pictures, this is a wonderful book to share with anyone suffering from depression or uncertainty