15 Audiobooks About Mental Health
Whether it’s through characters in fiction, or real experience described in nonfiction, books about mental health can help everyone understand the affect they can have on daily life.
Research has shown that two thirds of people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes. The list below features our favourite 15 audiobooks on this topic, from the serious to the humorous:
All the Bright Places: Jennifer Niven
Violet Markey and Theodore Finch meet at the top of the school bell tower, both intending to jump. Violet is struggling with feeling guilty after surviving the car accident that killed her sister and grieving for her. She finds solace in Finch, who gives her a reason to keep going. Finch, however, does not want the same from her. He tells her he isn’t ‘something to be rescued’ but a person distinct from his undiagnosed mental illness. Poignant and heartbreaking, All the Bright Places is a book with mental illness at its centre that is difficult to forget.
Members can download or stream All the Bright Places from Listening Books.
Cheer Up, Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate
Susan Calman’s describes her depression as the ‘Crab of Hate’. She says this is because it ‘climbs up my back, pinches both of my earlobes and whispers gently to me.’ These whispered things are similar to thoughts many people with depression have experienced: ‘Why do you even bother? Everyone laughs at you when you leave the room. You’re useless. And you smell.’ This memoir is both touching and hilarious. It deals with some of the harder aspects of daily living with a mental illness, but intersperses these with lots of fun stories about Susan’s four cats – Oscar, Pickle, Daisy Fay Harper, and DCI Jane Tennison.
Members can download or stream Cheer Up, Love from Listening Books or request it on MP3 CD number 14352.
Option B – Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband suddenly she felt certain she could never experience joy again. Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build. This audiobook is about how to build resilience and bounce back from crises.
Listening Books members can download or stream Option B from our library.
The Beauty That Remains – Ashley Woodfolk
After a deep loss affects a Autumn, Shay and Logan, they struggle to come to terms with it. Somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan is a guy who can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger who’s struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered. Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.
Listening Books members can download or stream The Beauty That Remains from our library.
The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath
This book is often recommended, and this list of audiobooks about mental health could not be complete without it. It is a semi-autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath following Esther Greenwood as she spirals into depression. The first half deals with her internship at a magazine in New York, and the second her return home and electric shock treatment. The Bell Jar was published in 1963, only a month before Sylvia Plath took her own life, and it resonates with anguish.
Reasons to Stay Alive: Matt Haig
At age 24, Matt Haig had a mental health crisis. He stood on a cliff edge and wondered whether to jump off. He decided to stay living, and once he had walked back inside his house, he threw up from the stress. His memoir is about the three years of depression and anxiety that followed. He tells stories of how he struggled to even walk to the corner shop without severe panic. The book charts his journey back from the edge with a frank honesty and compassion for anyone experiencing something similar. A short, but important book.
Listening Books members can download or stream Reasons to Stay Alive or request it on MP3 CD number 13585.
The Shock of the Fall: Nathan Filer
The Shock of the Fall spans ten years and examines the effect of the death of a young boy on his brother, Matthew. The narrative is made up of Matthew’s writing therapy as he struggles to cope with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and being sectioned. Nathan Filer trained as a psychiatric nurse before writing this, his first book, and it is no surprise that the state of mental health services are explored, though they are done so with honesty and sensitivity. An unsettling, but beautiful book.
Members can download or stream The Shock of the Fall from Listening Books or request it on MP3 CD number 13877.
Mrs Dalloway: Virginia Woolf
In June 1923, Clarissa Dalloway is planning a party. Among the people she meets is Septimus Smith, who is still struggling with PTSD after the First World War. Many of the depictions of mental illness in Mrs Dalloway are similar to Virginia Woolf’s own experience of bipolar disorder. It takes an in depth look at the treatment of mental illness nearly a century ago, and does not come to a positive conclusion.
Members can download or stream Mrs Dalloway from Listening Books or request it on MP3 CD number 07577.
Challenger Deep: Neil Shusterman
Neil Shusterman’s ambitious novel is set out as two dual narratives, one following Caden as he is hospitalised, and the other from Caden’s perspective as his schizoaffective disorder causes him to have delusions and difficulty regulating his emotions, as well as frightening episodes of paranoia. Slowly, the narratives start to bleed together. This is an audiobook about mental health that aims to demonstrate the experience of living with a scattered mind, which is based on Shusterman’s personal experiences.
Members can download or stream Challenger Deep from Listening Books.
Monkey Mind: Daniel B. Smith
What is it like to live with anxiety? This is the central question at the heart of Daniel Smith’s memoir. He tackles it with a lot of humour, taking the listener through his life from his first severe experience at age 16, and describing how events and choices have been influenced and shaped by anxiety. He also talks about how he learned to make peace with anxiety after trying a variety of different aids from medication to meditation. A great audiobook to help anyone struggling with anxiety or wanting to understand more about it.
Members can download or stream Monkey Mind from Listening Books.
Thirteen Reasons Why: Jay Asher
Thirteen Reasons Why has inspired a wide range of opinion, especially since it was made into a Netflix series. After Hannah Baker commits suicide, she leaves cassette tapes describing the thirteen reasons that contributed to her decision to her classmate Clay Jensen. The tapes include a range of complex issues like anxiety, bullying, and abuse as well as suicide, and concludes that small actions can have a large effect.
Members can download or stream Thirteen Reasons Why from Listening Books.
Calm – Fearne Cotton
In today’s always-on world, for many of us it seems impossible to relax, take time out or mute the encircling ‘noise’. It is easy to feel trapped in this frenzied state of mind: we are surrounded by negative stories in the press, weighed down by pressures from work, family life or school and subject to constant scrutiny under the all-seeing eye of social media. In Calm, Fearne Cotton has everything, from expert advice to ideas to activities, to help remind us all that we can find a calm place in ourselves.
Listening Books members can download and stream Calm or request it on MP3 CD number 14533.
Thinking Out Loud – Rio Ferdinand
In 2015, Rio Ferdinand suddenly lost his wife to cancer. In Thinking Out Loud he shares his experience with grief to help others. He shares the difficult journey he has taken with his three children, the struggle he felt in coping with the grief and his new role as both mum and dad, and the advise that helped them all. Rio’s BBC1 documentary, Being Mum and Dad, touched many people and won huge praise for the honesty and bravery he showed in talking about his emotions and experiences, and this audiobook is no different.
Listening Books members can download or stream Thinking Out Loud or request it on MP3 CD number 14555.
Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella
An anxiety disorder stops Audrey from being able to enjoy her life. She can’t leave the house, or even take her dark glasses off inside, because making eye contact with anyone triggers a serious panic attack. After she meets her brothers friend, Linus, and with her help of her doctor, she slowly starts to feel that she can make small steps towards getting her life back again. This is a charming and heartwarming audiobook about mental health that features anxiety front and centre.
Members can download or stream Finding Audrey from Listening Books, or borrow it on MP3 CD number 12729.
A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled: Ruby Wax
Ruby Wax’s A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled is a practical, accessible and funny guide to mindfulness. She describes her own experiences with mental illness to show how mindfulness can be useful, and makes many other references to a clearly extensive level of research. While it is quite easy to think of mindfulness as a practice that involves sitting cross-legged on a hill listening to a single wind chime, Ruby Wax shows how it is more about the ability to pay attention and learning not to be afraid of thoughts and feelings. A great listen.
Members can download or stream A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled from Listening Books.
What audiobooks about mental health would you recommend? Let us know in the comments!
You may also enjoy our posts: 11 Mental Health Day Tweets with Important Messages and How Audiobooks Changed My Life, a guest blog from a member describing how audiobooks helped her anxiety.
This post was written by Abigail Jaggers.