People on social media have so much to say about mental health. Throughout 2022, online commentary about subjects like trauma, eco-anxiety, social-emotional learning, anti-LGBTQ legislation, mass shootings, cyberbullying, and dangerous TikTok challenges have given rise to complex conversations about our individual and collective well-being. In fact, this year marked a span of time in which the internet and mental health arguably became more entwined than ever, with people turning to TikTok for diagnoses and others pointing out the possible ways screen time can harm kids and teens.
Some of this discourse is truly informative, especially when it comes from widely respected mental health experts and people who thoughtfully share their lived experiences with mental illness. But many of the exchanges lack important context — like insights from scientific research — and overlook or exclude marginalized voices. If we’re being completely honest, a frightening number of influencers who share content related to mental health and wellness are looking to turn their followers into a source of income, regardless of whether the advice they share is trustworthy.
All of this is why Mashable has assembled this list of the 11 best mental health books, in alphabetical order, from 2022. As a reporter who’s covered mental health for a decade, my definition of mental health and well-being is expansive. These books cover a lot of ground, exploring ideas like rest as a radical act of resistance, loving someone who experiences suicidal thoughts, fixing a mental health system that fails so many people in the U.S., and mindfully spending time in nature.
The list incorporates my own favorite titles, as well as recommendations from experts I know and trust. The books don’t universally touch on the way the internet intersects with our mental health, but even if you pick just one of them, you’ll gain valuable insight into ways to understand and talk about emotional and psychological well-being — and perhaps bring a more informed perspective to the online conversations you have in 2023.
Here are 11 of the best books on mental health published in 2022:
Selected by Dr. Jessica Gold, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
It seems almost symbolic that the book I recommend is the book my own therapist recommended to me. Even as a psychiatrist I struggle to understand the role of big feelings in my life, particularly the ones that feel “negative,” like sadness. I feel like they “get in the way” or “I just want them to stop.” In the middle of yet another conversation about this, my therapist stopped me and said, “Have you read Susan Cain’s new book?” The rest was history.
Like her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, which helped people who were introverted feel seen, Bittersweet helped me see that sadness has power and importance for all of us. It also normalized a lot of my, and my patient’s, experiences. I am grateful to my therapist for the recommendation and hope it helps some of you, too.
Selected by Chanel Tsang, creator and host of the Peace Out podcast
The chapters in Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America are short and sweet, and authors Peter Wohllenben and Jane Billinghurst provide a gentle guide on how to engage your senses while walking in the woods, with interesting facts and stories about forest life lining the way (banana slugs are fascinating!). The book also includes fun activities you can try, such as “forest telephone” (tapping one end of a fallen tree trunk with a rock while someone else listens at the other) or looking for signs and stories of wildlife.
Of course, I especially loved the chapters dedicated to exploring nature with children. There are so many amazing health benefits to walking in nature, including lower stress and anxiety, improved sense of well-being, and relaxation. Forest walking has inspired me to be more intentional and mindful during my walks, reigniting my curiosity and interest in exploring the outdoors. Or, in the authors’ words, to simply “go out and enjoy.”
Editor’s note: Tsang also recommended the children’s book Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness, written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Pete Oswald. Tsang wrote: Looking for a book for kids? Maria Gianferrari’s Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness is a sweet and funny picture book that does a lovely job of explaining mindfulness to kids and includes some fun and easy mindfulness activities to try together.
Selected by Rebecca Ruiz, senior reporter, MashableEco-anxiety is one word used to describe the difficult and sometimes intense emotions that arise when contemplating the disastrous effects of climate change. Taking this all in can become overwhelming, thereby shutting down the ability to believe that our bleak future might ultimately look different with the right policies in place.
The researcher Britt Wray, who studies the mental health effects of living through the planetary crisis caused by climate change, has spent years sensitively and rigorously looking for ways to respond to this dread. In this book, she proposes developing critical skills, like reframing eco-anxiety as “super fuel” to learn how to cope and find one’s purpose; turning to resilience-building practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude journaling to alleviate despair and burnout; and prioritizing social connections, which can help tremendously during times of crisis.
As I wrote earlier this year, “Wray’s approach is holistic, weaving together various strands of thought from psychology and public health to help readers cultivate the resilience and emotional intelligence they’ll need to fight for the planet — and to survive the calamities that might come.”
Selected by Rebecca Ruiz, senior reporter, MashablePlenty of books have been written about the crises adolescent and teen girls face today. What sets Girls on the Brink apart is science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s ability to weave together her own compelling reporting and well-explained scientific research on child development. We hear moving stories from girls and their parents about their experiences, but Nakazawa matches those anecdotes with science-based insights whenever possible.
The resulting text gives readers expert guidance for how to help girls thrive amidst intense pressures, including the siren song of social media. When I spoke to Nakazawa earlier this year, we talked about the importance of protecting a girl’s “in-between years,” from age seven to 13; being someone a girl can talk to about hard things; noticing and praising a girl’s positive behaviors and qualities; and helping girls create their own in-person community. You can read all about these and other strategies in Girls on the Brink.
Selected by Juan Acosta, influencer, on behalf of the Seize the Awkward campaign
This year, I was highly moved by the book Healing, written by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Thomas Insel, which addresses our current mental health care system. He acknowledges that what has worked in the system has benefited only a few people, leaving many others unsupported and lacking access.
As I read this, I was struck by how much it really resonated with my lived experience with mental health. Dr. Insel proposes a path forward, a path toward healing that must include addressing people’s social support using what he identifies as the “three P’s”: people, place, and purpose. These are often overlooked, he says, which I found to be powerful, as I have — in my darkest moments — been most supported by my family and friends.
His spotlight on the need to address people’s social support gave me hope for the future of mental health care, and it reaffirmed how important it is for us to connect with those around us. In a time of rising mental health crises around the nation, Healing is a reminder that our social support system can play a huge role in our collective mental health.
Selected by Rebecca Ruiz, senior reporter, MashableDr. Stacey Freedenthal, Ph.D., comes at her book with unique expertise. She treats patients who experience suicidal thoughts, once attempted suicide herself, and supported her son when he experienced a suicide crises as a teen. In this thorough guide, she compassionately walks readers through feelings and scenarios they might be terrified to handle.
Freedenthal skillfully points out distinctions between certain types of suicidal thinking — fleeting versus obsessive, vague versus specific — and dispels myths about suicide, like the notion that everyone who contemplates suicide experiences mental illness. She offers tips and scripts for talking to a loved one who is suicidal. In many ways, the book is a public service in a culture that still judges suicide harshly.
By offering practical information, shared through the lens of professional expertise and personal experience, Freedenthal empowers readers to lovingly support someone who’s suicidal. (Note: The publication date of Loving Someone with Suicidal Thoughts is technically January 2023, but the book was made available for purchase and delivery in late 2022.)
Selected by Thérèse Cator, founder of Embodied Black Girl, leadership coach, and somatic experiencing practitioner
Tricia Hersey, also known as The Nap Bishop and founder of The Nap Ministry, invites us to snatch our pillows, find a couch, a bed, a hammock, or a patch of earth, and rest our worn bodies, not as a productivity hack but as a way back to our humanity, which has been stolen by capitalism and white supremacy.
Through vivid storytelling and soul sermons, we travel to the Black churches of Hersey’s youth and find our roots in womanism and Black Liberation theology. Her words become a healing balm and a portal that invites us to surrender to the DreamSpace. In the DreamSpace, we move beyond the death grip of grind culture and embrace our humanity and divinity. This manifesto is not only for those of us who are weary and exhausted, it’s for everyone. Ms. Hersey has handed us a map for dreaming worlds that liberate us all, and it all begins with creating space to rest.
Selected by Rebecca Ruiz, senior reporter, MashableEarlier this year, I set out on a quest to use only one browser window at a time versus juggling dozens of open tabs. It only made sense to call author and journalist Johann Hari, whose book Stolen Focus smartly explains the many ways that technology hijacks our attention. Whether your particular Achilles heel is TikTok’s engrossing algorithm or responding to fruitless political debates on Facebook, Stolen Focus will help you understand how major technology companies design products that exploit features of human psychology.
Importantly, Hari provides a lot of context at the outset. He recognizes that we live in a culture that’s increasingly hostile, or inhospitable, to acts like resting and daydreaming, which makes us more prone to the perfectly-designed temptations we find in our digital worlds. We’re constantly invited to interrupt ourselves by checking social media, for example, and often rewarded for doing so in the form of a “like” or positive comment on something we’ve posted. Soon, we’re consumed by the checking and posting, with less time to sleep or let the mind wonder, both of which are essential for well-being. As Hari charts how we’ve gotten to this point, he talks to scientists who study attention, among other related subjects, and explores his own relationship with technology.
But Hari is clear that he hasn’t written a self-help book. He can offer no single solution to the problem at hand. What he does instead is explain how we arrived here, share his own insights, and envision a radically different future.
Selected by Rebecca Ruiz, senior reporter, MashableSo much of the online discourse about mental health revolves around the rise of so-called “trauma talk.” I’ve previously written that trauma, including sexual trauma and childhood trauma, is actually more widespread than people understand. If you see commentary that people overuse the word “trauma” to describe their experiences and thus render the term meaningless, you can point to this book as a compelling counterargument.
Dr. Maté, a physician and addiction expert, makes an ambitious effort in The Myth of Normal to marshal scientific research and evidence suggesting that stress and trauma are pervasive, harmful forces in people’s lives. He helps draw and emphasize connections between stress and trauma and people’s physical and mental health, convincingly arguing that we live in a toxic social and economic culture that “generates chronic stressors that undermine well-being in the most serious of ways.”
While Maté is more comfortable outlining the challenges we face, he also attempts to chart a path toward healing. For this, he sketches a blueprint based on a combination of ideas, including what he describes as the “four A’s” (authenticity, agency, anger, acceptance), that can guide people toward wholeness. Maté isn’t sure how to fix our broken society, but he does call for “visioning a saner society.” At nearly 500 pages long, The Myth of Normal is one of the most comprehensive accounts of trauma, illness, and healing you could pick up right now.
Selected by Dr. Stacey Freedenthal, Ph.D., author of Loving Someone with Suicidal Thoughts: What Family, Friends, and Partners Can Say and Do, psychotherapist, and associate professor of social work at the University of DenverThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a publication that classifies mental illnesses, is notorious for pathologizing common experiences ranging from grief (persistent complex bereavement disorder) to profound shyness (social anxiety disorder), but it misses the opportunity to recognize a condition recognized by many others: complex post-traumatic stress disorder, aka, C-PTSD. You’ve no doubt heard many times of PTSD, but not everyone with PTSD has the “C,” which is the result of prolonged, repetitive trauma, not a single traumatic event.
Stephanie Foo’s book casts much-needed light on the painful challenges of C-PTSD. Foo’s telling of her own story of how childhood trauma led to C-PTSD is captivating. Using her talents as a journalist and radio producer, she also synthesizes research, theory, and expert commentary. The book goes into inherited trauma, dissociation, epigenetics, and other heavy topics, but she does so in a down-to-earth (read: not boring) way. And Foo also illuminates abundant possibilities for healing. The book will give solace to those who suffer, feel alone, and don’t have a name for their constellation of symptoms that the DSM doesn’t recognize.
Selected by Rebecca Ruiz, senior reporter, MashableDr. Ken Duckworth is a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for and supporting people with mental illness and their loved ones. You Are Not Alone is an impressive, exhaustive guide based on Duckworth’s own expertise and interviews with 130 people from diverse backgrounds who live with mental illness or love someone who does.
The book covers the basics of mental illness, including details about common conditions, best practices, and how to find help. It also addresses more challenging issues, like what recovery can look like, how to become an advocate for one’s self in different spheres (personal, public, or legal) to aid recovery, and how to make meaning of suicide loss. Duckworth watched his own father grapple with bipolar disorder, and his knowing, empathetic voice is exactly the one you want as your guide.
If you’re feeling suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis, please talk to somebody. You can reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988; the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Text “START” to Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, or email email@example.com. If you don’t like the phone, consider using the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Chat at crisischat.org. Here is a list of international resources.