Books on mental health can be pretty daunting reads. The range is wide as well. On one side you have academic style books using technical language, so you need a dictionary beside you as you read. On the other you have blessed thoughts that feel nice to read, but sometimes lack weight, and without background knowledge to ground them, they can feel like a ‘happy thought’ that doesn’t bring real insight to you personally.
When I am struggling to understand mental health, whether it be my own or someone else, my default is to read up, gain knowledge. What I have discovered through my studies as a counsellor, is that, this kind of knowledge is useful, but it cannot give you a full insight.
If you follow me on Facebook you’ll know I always prefer an eye witness account. I love to hear people tell me about their experience. I guess that is one of the reasons I became a counsellor. Telling the story can make a difference to the speaker, and hearing the story brings understanding to the listener too.
My favourite books on mental health, by a long way, are picture books. I started buying these under the illusion that they were for my children, but they were really for me. So I thought in this blog post I would share a few of my favourites. Some are explicitly about mental health, others are beautiful stories that leave you with a deeper understanding of an experience, without ever explicitly stating they are about emotional intelligence.
The Sad Book - Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake
This is my favourite book on the list. It is a beautiful description of Michael Rosen’s experience of sadness. Mainly in relation to the death of his son. Anyone who has experienced depression will relate to the book. What it feels like to be sad, what happens when he is feeling sad, and the things he does to try and figure out a way of being sad that don’t hurt so much. I also love that it doesn’t tie sadness up neatly at the end. He isn’t all sorted by the end of the story. So often we like nice neat endings- happily ever after, and they don’t always fit.
Cry Heart But Never Break - Glenn Ringtved and Charlotte Pardi
You will need hankies for this one. Exploring death and bereavement, 4 children try and talk Death out of taking their beloved Grandmother. This story helps me hold onto all of the emotions that bereavement throws into the air. It may be helpful if you are suffering following a loss of a loved one.
Perry Panda - Helen Bashford and Russell Scott Skinner
This is quite a recent acquisition, and is the first book I have come across that is specifically written to help parents suffering with depression to talk to their children about it, and explore what is going on, and most importantly that if Mummy or Daddy are feeling sad, it’s not the child’s fault, but they can help their loved one feel a little bit better.
There’s No Such Thing As A Dragon - Jack Kent
The story of Billy Bixbee and the dragon - that his mother says doesn’t exist. But Billy can see the dragon, and every time his Mother says it doesn’t exist, it gets bigger, and bigger, until it can’t be ignored anymore. This is a mischievous little story, and always brings a smile to my face, and a reminder to always listen and believe what someone says even if it challenges how you see the world.
I would love to hear if you have any favourite picture books that have helped you or a loved one through a tough time.
I recommend you treat yourself to a picture book. Buy it for your inner child - they will appreciate it.