Books On Mental Health Issues

With Sighs Too Deep for Words: Grace and Depress
The stigma around mental illness in our culture has had a damaging effect on those who suffer from its grip. As a priest and bishop, Robert Hirschfeld has quietly and secretly been in treatment for depression for decades but now shares his own experience publicly. In this book, he offers short meditations, prayers, and suggestions of how one can follow and call upon Jesus for strength and peace during times of emotional upheaval.

Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness, and the Journey to Wholeness is Nancy Kehoe’s compelling, intimate, and moving story of how she brought her background as a psychologist and a nun in the Religious of the Sacred Heart to bear in the groups she formed to explore the role of faith and spirituality in their treatment – and in their lives. Through fascinating stories of her own spiritual journey, she gives readers of all backgrounds and interests new insights into the inner lives of the mentally ill and new ways of thinking about the role of spirituality and faith in all our lives.

When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness: A Handbook for Family, Friends and Caretakers  By Rebecca Woolis, M.F.T.
This book about love and mental health addresses the short-term, daily problems of living with a person with mental illness, as well as long-term planning and care.  The book addresses many topics including suggestions for handling the stress of the holidays.   

When Your Family is Living with Mental Illness    By Marcia Lund
Mental illness is a disease like any other. Those dealing with mental illness, whether in their family or with a friend, can be confused or frustrated by a disease that is unpredictable and detrimental. With straight-forward spiritual guidance, this volume is perfect for anyone affected by mental illness. The author, Marcia Lund, uses practical suggestions for encouraging the reader to reconnect spiritually with God. This book can help sufferers resolve issues and find peace.

Voices in the Rain: Meaning in Psychosis   A Memoir by Marcia A. Murphy
This is the story of a woman’s struggle with mental illness through which she finds spiritual meaning and, ultimately, God. As a person who has experience severe psychiatric illness and landed on her feet, the author offers a unique first-person perspective. She is qualified to tell what such illness is like, its symptoms, stigmatization, hospitalizations, and daily life. Ms. Murphy takes you into her world and provides insights into the spiritual meaning of her illness. Her story gives desperately needed hope to others who are ill, their families, psychiatric professionals, as well as to those who know someone who is ill. Experts in the field from Harvard, Yale, Boston University, the University of Iowa and elsewhere have endorsed this memoir.

A Common Struggle By Patrick J. Kennedy & Stephen Fried    
Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, details his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health care’s history in the country alongside his and every family’s private struggles.

You Are My Beloved, Really?      By Dr. Harold G. Koenig
Simple and easy to read, this book is intended for everyone, Christian and non-Christian, those who are religious or spiritual or neither. It explores how God feels about us. Are we his beloved, as some claim? Or is this just fantasy and wishful thinking. The author, Dr. Harold G. Koenig, is a psychiatrist and medical researcher.  He examines the evidence for God’s love from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu perspectives based largely on the sacred scriptures from these traditions. Not a theologian, the author draws from his 30 years in clinical practice, his research, and his personal life in taking a practical approach to the subject. Those of any age with an open mind will find this book enlightening, if not inspiring.

The Mike File: A Story of Grief and Hope       by Stephen Trimble     
Authors story about when his older brother Mike, at the age of 14 was committed to the Colorado State Hospital in 1957 and was released to a group home in 1976. Millions of families cope with such heartbreak.  Imagen a vision of how we could have done right by Mike and an alternative effective version of mental health care in America.  

Sources For Additional Book Club Books On Mental Health  go to:

In our families, we desire peace. The one thing that is within our control is to let peace begin with us. We cannot make others be peaceful. BUT, we can start the process by bringing a peaceful heart, peaceful words, and to set peaceful boundaries to protect the peace we seek. Let the words inspire peace within.

Books for Caregivers

Grace for the Unexpected Journey: 60-Day Devotional for Alzheimer’s & Other Dementia Caregivers by Deborah Barr, 2018

Caring For Nigel: Diary of a Wife Coping with Her Husband’s Dementia by Eileen Murry, 2013

The Conscious Care Giver: A Mindful Approach to Caring for Your Loved One Without Losing Yourself by Linda Abbit, 2014

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook: Sixth Edition by M. Davis, E Robbins Eshelman, & M. McKay, 2018   
Stress reduction strategies to relax & better manage stress and well-being.

The Caregiver’s Companion: A Christ-Centered Journal to Nourish Your Soul
by Deb Kelsey-Davis & Kelly Johnson
2020 Third-place award in general interest books from the Association of Catholic Publishers.

Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges

Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges: A Guide to Life with Emotionally Complex Kids   by Deborah Vlock, 2020

Mental Health Children’s Fiction & Picture Books

How to be a Real Person in Just One Day    by Sally Warner. Knopf, 2001.   
12-year-old Kara lives with her mother, who has a mental illness with severe mood swings. Her father takes a job a few hours away from their home, and Kara becomes her mother’s caregiver.  Kate’s mother has a relapse because she stops taking her medicine. Kate is determined to not let anyone, even her best friend, know how serious her mother’s illness has become. However, eventually the situation is resolved in a positive and realistic manner. This is a well written story, written with honesty and humor.

Avery G. and the Scary End of School  by Sivan Hung, 2022
The end of the school year brings with it many changes that can be hard on little kids.  This is a social story created to help children express their feelings about the end of school. It is perfect for neuro-diverse (autism, ADHD, dyslexia, etc.) & neurotypical kids who struggle with change, worry about new things & are working on being flexible. Avery G. will help teach them how to tackle change, including movement breaks & belly breaths.

Anna and the Cat Lady    by Barbara M. Josse, 1992   
When nine-year-old Anna rescues a stray kitten, it leads her into friendship with Mrs. Sarafiny, an eccentric old woman with many cats and a paranoid conviction that the Martians are after her.

Can I Catch It Like a Cold? A Story to Help Children Understand a Parent’s Depression by C. Nault & G. Kelbaughm   
A story of Alex and his struggle to understand his father’s depression. It gives the child knowledge to open discussion about depression.

Eclipse by Kristine L. Franklin
The summer after sixth grade holds promise for Trina as she anticipates junior high and the new arrival of a baby sister or brother, but then her father sinks into a debilitating depression.

Facing Mighty Fears About Health by Dawn Huebner, 2022 
This teaches four steps to manage ‘false alarm’ fears. Fun Facts about the body engage children, and a Note to Parents and Caregivers as well as a supplemental Resource section.

Edward, the Crazy Man by Marie Day   
A story of triumph over misunderstanding. It is a touching, funny, humane, and dynamic tale of one boy’s efforts to help one man and to change perceptions about homelessness and schizophrenia.

Helicopter Man by Elizabeth Fensham      
Pete has a close and loving relationship with his father, who has schizophrenia with paranoid features. His life is turbulent as his father becomes progressively more delusional, and must go to hospital. Pete goes into an excellent foster home, where he begins to experience a normal life, eventually understanding and accepting that his father has a mental illness.

Mama One, Mama Two  by Patricia MacLachlan, 1982     
Simple story about a young child who has been placed in foster care because her mother has slipped into a deep depression. This story may give hope for children who have had similar experiences, or who are being placed in foster care.

Meeting Miss 405 by Lois Peterson, 2008    
A story about a child named Tansy whose mother has to go away to a treatment program for depression, her father must work, and she is cared for by an old, eccentric babysitter with beautiful wrinkles named Miss Stella (or Miss 405). Tansy deals with bullies at school, issues with friends, missing her mom, and learns that depression is a treatable illness, not something to be ashamed of.

Our Gracie Aunt by Jacquelin Woodson, 2002.  
This story describes two children whose mother has a mental illness, and has left them alone.  A social worker arranges for them to go to live with their aunt Gracie. They visit their mother in the hospital, and she explains that “even when a mama loves you, she can’t always take care of you.”

Sad Days, Glad Days by DeWitt Hamilton, 1995.    
Amanda, is an elementary school-aged girl and is she experiencing her mother’s unpredictable episodes of recurrent depression. The mother also clearly experiences anguish when she sometimes cannot respond to her child’s needs.  Her mother and father both help Amanda understand that her mother loves her and that the mother’s depressive episodes are not Amanda’s fault.  Amanda conceptualizes her mother’s moods as colors.  Amanda and her mother learn that despite recurrent depression, the mother can still find ways to show her love for Amanda.

Sometimes I’m Afraid by Wendy Kuskey, 2022        
Sergio is a preschooler who cries and screams when he is afraid. With his therapist, he learns practical actions that help with his difficult feelings. This educational book is perfect for younger children who struggle with anger and their peers.

Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry by Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005     
A story about an African American girl living with her mother who has a mental illness. The mother has unpredictable and severe mood swings, causing her to be both angry and depressed. Annie has a plan to cope with her mother’s illness, which includes calling her grandmother, making her own snack, putting herself to bed, and getting herself ready in the morning. She is helped by her loyal friends, her Grandma, her teacher, and her community. This book won the National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)’s prize for distinguished literature. It is honest and will prompt meaningful discussion with children. There is an introductory note to adults, explaining that bipolar disorder is an illness.

Tell Me a Story, Paint Me the Sun by Roberta Chaplan, 1991   
This is an illustrated book, appropriate for elementary school children and younger adolescents.  It describes a girl whose father loses his job and becomes depressed.  Children may relate to the chapter about the child’s disappointment when her father missed her school play.  Although he does not seek treatment or improve, she spends some time with her teacher making art, and gains insight into her own special qualities.  This book is useful for the child who must learn to cope with a chronic parental mental illness.

The Bipolar Bear Family: When a Parent Has Bipolar Disorder by Angela Holloway, 2006       
This picture book is about a young cub who struggles to understand his mother’s behavior and her subsequent diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The author is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and has four children with her husband, who has bipolar disorder.

4 Kids Speak Up: Shining Light on Mental Illness.
Part of the Lasting Impression Series, from Canadian Mental Health Association. The three booklets in this set are well written and useful with children and parents. The child’s book, Kids Speak Up, is excellent for generating discussion with children.

Someone in My Family Has a Mental Illness by Lyne Brindamour, MSW, 2000   
This workbook may be out of print.  A free electronic copy is available on the resource link at .

Why Are You So Sad? A Child’s Book About Parental Depression by Beth Andrews, 2002    Colorfully illustrated book that clearly explains parental depression to children. It includes a note to parents. It has many ideas to help children understand and cope.

Why Is Mommy Sad? A Child’s Guide to Parental Depression by Paul D. Chan M.D., 2005  
Written by a M.D. to help parents explain their depression to their children. It is short, simple, and has attractive, bright illustrations and thoughtful information which promotes a helpful discussion between adults and children.  

Wishing Wellness: A Workbook for Children of Parents with Mental Illness   by Lisa Anne Clarke, 2006  
An excellent workbook with activities and explanations of mental illness for both parents and children.  There are many exercises designed to increase self-esteem, help children deal with common problems, and help parents, teachers, or counselors find the language to explain mental illness.  The activities are well suited to being done by the parent and child together. It is also a good basis for a 6 – 8 week group.

Free Workbooks & Material for Children of Parents & Family Members with Mental Illness  

Someone In My Family Has A Mental Illness Workbook    By LYNE BRINDAMOUR, MSW from Family Services of the North Shore

For additional reading NAMI recommendations for ages 3 – 12 on understanding emotional and learning challenges go to: NAMI

Teens Dealing With Parents & Loved Ones With Mental Illness

Note: When teens and children read these books. Encourage them to discuss what they read with parents, their therapist, teachers, or other adults they trust.  This may help them gain better insight and ask questions they may have.

A Blue So Dark   by Holly Schindler. Woodbury, Minn., Flux, 2010     
As 15-year-old Aura struggles alone to cope with the increasingly severe symptoms of her mother’s schizophrenia, she begins to fear that her own artistic ability and genes will one day result in insanity. However, Aura discovers that art, love, and the family are profoundly linked and together may offer an escape from her fears. This is a well written book about an interesting, resilient teen.

Homecoming   by Cynthia Voight. Fawcett Press,1987    
The Tillerman kids’ mentally ill mother left them one day in a car in a mall parking lot. Their father, too, had left them a long time ago. Thirteen-year-old Dicey, the eldest of four, takes care of her family, and eventually leads them on a long journey to find the grandmother they hardly know. It is a difficult, but successful reunion, and Dicey and her siblings must begin to learn to accept their grandmother’s care.

Dicey’s Song   by Cynthia Voight. Fawcett Press, 1987.
Dicey’s Song continues the story of Dicey and the Tillerman children. This book was awarded a Newbery Medal for Children’s Literature.

Just a Story  by Steven Keewatin Sanderson & Sean Muir The Healthy Aboriginal Network, 2009            
This graphic novel (comic book size) is about a brother and sister who develop symptoms of anxiety and depression as they cope with alcoholic parents.  They receive help from their teacher and school counselor.

Psychoeducational Resources: I’m Not Alone: A Teen’s Guide to Living with a Parent Who Has a Mental Illness by Sherman, M. & Sherman, D, 2006           
This excellent book provides readable, accurate information for adolescents, and includes an experiential component that helps them process their own experience while they develop and improve their coping strategies. This book could be worked through with an individual young person, or used as a curriculum for a youth group.

The Flying Troutmans  by Miriam Toews. Knopf, 2008  
Canadian novel about a woman who takes her sister’s children on a road trip to find their father, after her sister is hospitalized with psychosis. The writing and characterization are excellent, and it is a positive story.

Pictures in the Dark by Patricia McCord. Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2004      
This novel is set in 1950s Seattle.  Twelve-year-old Sarah and her older sister, Carlie, know that their lives are different from those of their peers.  Their mother clearly suffers from a serious mental illness, but their father does not seem to recognize the difficulties his daughters are having.  This story describes family dynamics when one parent is suffering from a mental illness and the other fails to recognize the problem.  The bond between the sisters grows and is strengthened through adversity.  Though there is no clear resolution, the book has a strong message of hope, love, and forgiveness.

Please Don’t Cry, Mom by Helen Denboer, 1994    
This is an illustrated book, written for elementary school aged children.  However, its description of recurrent major depression is excellent and could be valuable for adolescents and some adults.  It describes a boy’s feelings about his mother’s depression and her resistance to treatment.  Her husband sets limits, and she does accept treatment and begin to improve.  The book describes the importance of family participation in the mother’s treatment and the importance of taking one’s medication regularly.

Wild Roses by Deb Caletti, 2005      
A novel about 17-year-old Cassie Morgan, who lives with her stepfather, a brilliant, world renowned violinist and composer.  He develops a serious mental illness, and Cassie tries to hide his behavior from the outside world, while she falls in love with his gifted student.

What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson. Henry Holt & Co., Macmillan, 2005     
This story tells about 11-year-old Cal Lavender, who must go to a foster home when her mother, who has always been eccentric, is taken to a mental hospital.  Cal is cared for by an elderly lady who teaches her, and the other 4 girls in the home, how to knit, and in the process, they share their stories. Cal is happily reunited with her mother in the end.