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Essential Mental Health Reads for Every Stage of Life

In today’s world, physical health often takes centre stage, and it’s easy to overlook the significance of our mental well-being. But here’s the truth: mental health is just as crucial as our physical health, if not more. As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s essential to shine a light on the books that can serve as powerful allies in our journey toward mental wellness. From braving through the ups and downs of adolescence to finding peace and fulfillment in later years, these books are here to guide and inspire you.

So, let’s say yes to taking care of ourselves and explore how books can help us feel good!

 

 

Divorce is Normal
Divorce is Normal || Shasvathi Siva

A divorce rate of around 1 per cent is often boasted about with pride in this country, without much critical thought spared for what it actually means. When Shasvathi Siva decided to end her marriage, she realized exactly how difficult getting a divorce was in our society and legal system. Since then, she has been working towards ensuring that others have it easier, and this book is an endeavour to share her learnings with great empathy and sagacity. Divorce Is Normal is an invaluable companion for anyone contemplating separation and divorce, and a necessary reminder for everyone else that divorce is normal. Through her story, Siva brings to readers fresh insights on unhappy marriages and divorce in the Indian context, helping expand perspectives so that people can overcome societal stigma and accept a brighter, happier future. Filled with practical tips, comforting stories and endless compassion shaped by a lived experience, this book acts like a warm hug and a stern friend all at once.

 

Take Your Time & Hurry Up
Take Your Time & Hurry Up || Joey Kidney

Have you ever felt lost or alone in your thoughts, feelings and experiences?

Take Your Time and Hurry Up continues Joey’s experiences as he leaves his early twenties and heads toward adulthood. This book appeals to anyone who is navigating ‘adulting’ without a compass or a map, and who is searching for a sense of belonging.

Joey gently encourages his audience to find comfort, mindfulness, guidance and connection. A clear theme is woven through each passage: a reminder to slow down. After all, what’s the rush.

How to Win an Election
How to Win an Election || Menaka Raman

The middle school elections are coming up and everyone is in a frenzy of making posters, promises and predictions.

When Sachin is disqualified from contesting the elections, he sets out to help his best friend Mini win. But their path to victory is littered with runaway lizards, incriminating bathroom graffiti, hacked videos and dangerous baked goods.

Which candidate fears Mini so much that they will descend to such villainy? Mini and Sachin must find out—or be disgraced forever.

 

Living with Adi
Living with Adi || Zarin Virji

Adi Krishnan is different!
He is a bright student, who loves to read, and remembers everything down to the smallest details—yet he has no friends. His unusual view of things makes his classmates and teachers regard him as a weirdo.
Will the bullying ever end? Will people accept him as he is? Will he gain the respect of others, especially his dad?
Award-winning author Zarin Virji creates the extraordinary journey of an ordinary boy, narrated by him, his family, classmates and a teacher. And how, despite the challenges, living with Adi is, in fact, unexpected, delightful and funny.

 

sad glad
Sad Glad || Sidhartha Mallya

One morning, Sid wakes up feeling different. He can’t quite put his finger on why. The day seems gloomy, and Sid doesn’t feel like getting out of bed.

Luckily, Duke, Sid’s best buddy, senses that Sid needs comforting. He gently encourages Sid to accept all the different emotions he is feeling.

A helpful companion for a dull day, this assuring picture book is filled with many feelings and thoughts that offer a lot of hope!

 

The Myth of Normal
The Myth of Normal || Gabor Maté, Daniel Maté

Over four decades of clinical experience, renowned physician and addiction expert Dr Gabor Maté has seen how health systems neglect the role that trauma exerts on our bodies and our minds. Medicine often fails to treat the whole person, ignoring how today’s culture stresses our bodies, burdens our immune systems and undermines emotional balance.

Now, in his most ambitious and urgent book yet, Dr Maté connects the dots between our personal suffering and the pressures of modern-day living – with disease as a natural reflection of a life spent growing further and further apart from our true selves. But, with deep compassion, he also shows us a pathway to health and healing.

Filled with stories of people in the grip of illness or in the triumphant wake of recovery, this life-affirming book, co-written with his son Daniel, proves true health is possible – if we are willing to reconnect with each other and our authentic selves.

 

What Happened to Grandpa
What Happened to Grandpa || Nandini Nayar

Something strange is happening to Grandpa. Words and names are slipping away, and favourite faces and places are becoming distant memories.

As Grandpa’s family seems to be losing him, it is up to Neha to remind them about the things he stood for. She shares his adventures and spins his stories, but will that help them remember Grandpa and celebrate him?

In this heartwarming picture book about love, loss, and remembering, discover the priceless bond we have with grandparents and how their memories live on.

 

The Body Keeps the Score
The Body Keeps the Score || Bessel van der Kolk

The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations. Here one of the world’s experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for treatment, moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

 

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?
Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? || Dr Julie Smith

Drawing on years of experience as a clinical psychologist, online sensation Dr Julie Smith shares all the tools you need to get through life’s ups and downs.

Filled with secrets from the therapy room, this is a must-have handbook for optimising your mental health. Dr Julie’s simple but expert advice and powerful coping techniques will help you stay resilient no matter what life throws your way.

Written in short, bite-sized entries, you can turn straight to the section you need depending on the challenge you’re facing – and immediately find the appropriate tools to help. From managing anxiety, dealing with criticism or battling low mood, to building self-confidence, finding motivation or learning to forgive yourself, this book tackles the everyday issues that affect us all and offers easy, practical solutions that might just change your life.

 

When the Body Says No
When the Body Says No || Dr Gabor Maté

Drawing on deep scientific research and Dr Gabor Maté’s acclaimed clinical work, When the Body Says No provides the answers to critical questions about the mind-body link – and the role that stress and our emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases.

When the Body Says No:

– Explores the role of the mind-body link in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
– Shares dozens of enlightening case studies and stories, including those of people such as Lou Gehrig (ALS), Betty Ford (breast cancer), Ronald Reagan (Alzheimer’s), Gilda Radner (ovarian cancer) and Lance Armstrong (testicular cancer)
– Reveals ‘The Seven A’s of Healing’: principles in healing and the prevention of illness from hidden stress.

 

 

Mum in a Mess
Mum in a Mess || Sanjana Kapur

When Mum breaks a coffee jar, it does not seem like a big deal. But then, Mum starts acting very strangely. What is Vishi to do?

 

Conversations with the Career Doctor
Conversations with the Career Doctor || Saundarya Rajesh

India ranks among the bottom end of countries when it comes to women’s participation in the workforce, as per research conducted by the International Labour Organization and other reputed institutions. Despite pushing gender inclusion to the forefront and making considerable progress, it is clear that Indian women don’t have it easy today. Conversations with the Career Doctor is a ready-reckoner that women can refer to whenever they are confronted with a challenge. It provides a powerful toolkit for every Indian woman professional to lead a strong, secure and successful career.

 

Buddha in Love
Buddha in Love || Geetanjali Pandit

Geetanjali’s quest for happiness in relationships . . . failed. Time and again. A short-lived abusive marriage and its subsequent emotional, mental and social fallout forced her to question all her assumptions about romance and relationships.
Buddha in Love distils all she learnt. We are not born relationship-ready. A loving partnership takes effort, and, contrary to what you might expect, to achieve it you have to work on yourself. What does it take to be in a successful relationship? Do all relationships look the same? Does a relationship equate to happiness? Why and when should you marry?

Vocabulary of the darkness

Inside a Dark Box is a simple book about what depression can feel like. When you get trapped in darkness, finding your way out can be a long and lonely battle, especially when the war is within your own head.

Today, we have with us Rujuta Thakurdesai, the illustrator of the book, who talks about her own experience of suffering from depression and what prompted her to take up the project of illustrating Inside a Dark Box.

 

By Rujuta Thakurdesai

 

Inside a Dark Box || Ritu Vaishnav

Till about I was fifteen, I would call each and every negative emotion boredom. It may be anxiety, dullness, anger, agitation, sadness, missing, but I would just be ‘bored’. I was thought of as a fickle-minded and disinterested child. In reality, I never meant ‘bored’, but I just had absolutely no idea about how to convey these feelings I was experiencing.

Most of us belong to communities that don’t treat physical and mental wellbeing equally. We don’t talk about anxiety and heartbreaks as openly as we talk about indigestion and fractured bones. This leaves kids with no safe space to understand their minds or tools to diagnose themselves. “You are too young to understand this!” is not a true remark about mental health issues anymore. With changing societal structures, technology, violence and kids’ exposure to it, makes them as susceptible to depression and anxiety as adults.

The opportunity to work on creating this safe space to address these issues came to me in the form of Ritu Vaishnav’s Inside the Dark Box. Ritu had expressed her journey with depression in the form of a short piece reflecting emotions and a few doodles. She wanted to work with someone who had their own experience with depression and could relate to the writing in order to create visuals for it.

Our first meeting was not about discussing the illustration briefs and layouts like any other picture book but was mostly a very deep and personal conversation about our experiences and how our art (writing for her and for me, illustrating) helped us process it. We agreed that we wanted to create a book that would be a conversation starter rather than a how-to guide.

 

A spread from the book showing the overwhelming darkness

 

We focused on relatable and friendly yet dark and unsettling art style. Developing a character that has no gender, skin colour or cultural connotations made them just a human, representing all of us. The world around this character is a surreal space that can exist in one’s mind and doesn’t really have physical boundaries. As the book is also intended for kids and young adults, we never tried to dumb it down or overly simplify things. We both believe that kids are much smarter and emotionally evolved than we give them credit for. We created layered images that would evoke emotions every time you look at them.

We used darkness and light as the central metaphor to depict bleakness and hope. Banking on a simple concept like this that everyone can inherently comprehend, we made the story more accessible for all ages. The visual vocabulary used to express the angst in the scribbly ink strokes and calm of the whites is not really hard to decipher either.

 

The process of developing an artwork from thumbnail to print

 

Even though it was not easy to talk about my own experience with depression, it gave me deeper understanding and a voice to show what it means to be in the dark box.

The simplicity of Ritu’s writing makes the topic less intimidating and in a way her voice echoes that little voice in your head, making it so much more relatable. Our journey from words to rough thumbnails and then rendered artworks was focused on highlighting the discomfort felt by someone going through a mental illness and creating situations in the book that would resonate with you. The book is one of the most seamless mediums to discuss the delicate topic of mental health. It gives you the freedom to pace it the way you want, interpret it in a way relatable to you and if it becomes too intense, you can close the book and take a breather to open it again and find something new you didn’t see before.

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