Prescribing Books for Mental Health

April 15, 2016 Discussion 2

So I was meant to be posting a review today, but then one of my friends shared an article with me and it was something that I really wanted to talk about.

The article, which you can read here, spoke about how GPs (as well as counselors and school nurses) can now prescribe certain books to young people suffering with mental health issues. The ‘Reading Well for Young People’ campaign, launched by the Reading Agency is aimed at ages 13-18 year of which it is estimated that 1 in 10 suffer from some form of mental illness.


The list includes books like I’ll Give You the Sun (Jandy Nelson), Every Day (David Levithan), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Hadden) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky).

You can find the full list here.

“The list can be recommended by GPs but also you can explore it at your own pace, which I think is really good because if more people educate themselves and have better understanding of mental health generally, it will make a difference.”

One thing I really like about the list is that it’s not full of self-help or non fiction books although there are some great non fiction books included. But there is a whole pile of fiction in there too with books about characters going through things like depression, anxiety and identity issues.


Novels are not written to educate or impart advice and there will be a lot of young people who find it easier to read about a character going through the exact same thing as them with the emotional connection to them too.

Another great thing about this list is that it heavily features books which are YA. There are a lot of skeptics out there that consider YA to be a lesser subset of “real books”. But they could not be more wrong! YA is just as diverse, has just as many talented writers and is just as worthy of being recognised as any other non YA book and now it will be, and as something that can help young people.

“I think fiction, if anything, works better for young people – a lot of young adult books deal with things young people go through, and through relation to the characters, it can be a way of getting advice without being told [what to do],”

I’ve quite a few books with feature mental illness, especially over the past year, and I think one of my favorite has to be My Heart and Other Black Holes which deals with suicide and which I think would make a great addition to this list.

Mental illness is something very real that we will all come into contact with at some point in our lives (whether ourselves or through people we know and love) and I think it’s great that this campaign has been started to help people even more. I’m not saying that books are better than medication but I just think it’s a great additional way to support people.

“Books can be a safe space – it’s so much easier to talk about the characters in, say, The Perks of Being A Wallflower than to say ‘I’m depressed’.” (Juno Dawson) 

There have been so many times in the past that I have had a really bad day and I’m feeling particularly down about something, and without even thinking about it the first thing I do is pick up a book. Reading is like therapy to me. It calms me down, it lets me escape, but it also lets me see how blessed I am with my life when I read about people in worse off situations than I’m in. Plus I have learnt so much through reading.

So what do you think? Do you think the right book could help someone with a mental illness?

What do you think of the approved list? What would you add to it?

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2 Responses to “Prescribing Books for Mental Health”

  1. Cait @ Paper Fury

    Wow, this is SUCH an amazing idea!! I’m so amazed that doctors are actually acknowledging the helpfulness of books. :’) I think it’s also good to read them because it makes you feel less alone?
    Although I’m going to be that annoying person (sorry!!) and point out that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime isn’t about mental illness. Autism isn’t an illness. 🙂

    • Brocs Bookcase

      I know, I was so impressed when my friend sent me the article 🙂
      I think, although it is being called a reading list for people with mental illness it is also for young people who are struggling with things like sexuality, disabilities, bullying, eating disorders etc. If you check out the full list is does specify next to each one what its focus is on and it’s not all mental illness. Maybe they shouldn’t have advertised it as books for mental illness since it covers a whole range of things?