#NoShame in Mental Illness: A Reading List

Photo: Kelsey
Photo: Kelsey

Even though I’ve lived with mental illness for years, I’m still learning about self-care, support systems and valuable resources. One of these resources is No Shame Day, initiated by poet and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi. Ikpi founded The Siwe Project, which provides special mental health support for the Black community and other minority groups. On the first Monday in July, people take to social media and use the hashtag #NoShame to talk about living with mental illness and overcoming stigma and silence. Here, I’ve collected several stories about mental illness, many written by writers of color.

1. “Disrupting Domesticity: Mental Illness and Love as a Fact.” (Ashley C. Ford, The Toast, July 2015)

Ashley C. Ford interviews her partner, Kelly, about living with a person with mental illness–how to love her better, comfort her during panic attacks and hold her accountable. Kelly’s love for Ashley is so strong: “I love you for who you are. Anxiety is part of you. That part of you also shaped the person I love.”

2. “My Daughter, Who Lost Her Battle With Mental Illness, is Still the Bravest Person I Know.” (Doris A. Fuller, Washington Post, April 2015)

Doris’ daughter, Natalie, suffered a psychotic break in college, and she never recovered: “My daughter lived more than six years with an incurable disease that filled her head with devils that literally hounded her to death, and she did it while laughing, painting, writing poetry, advocating and bringing joy to the people around her. She was the bravest person I have ever known, and her suicide doesn’t change that.”

3. “We Don’t Talk About Mental Illness in My Family.” (Larissa Pham, BuzzFeed Ideas, May 2015)

Silence surrounded mental illness in Larissa Pham’s family, until she broke the silence and bonded with her mother over their shared experiences with depression.

4. “Discussion: Romanticizing Mental Illness.” (L. Lee Butler, S. Jae-Jones, & Alex Townsend, Disability in Kidlit, May 2015)

How do you feature mental illness and advocate for mental health in kidlit and young adult fiction, without moralizing or simplifying these issues?

5. “What is it Like to Play in a Band When You’re Living With a Mental Illness?” (Andy Curtis-Brignell, Noisey, February 2015)

Andy Curtis-Brignell loved metal as a teen, but he wasn’t sure if its themes of power and dignity were compatible with his diagnoses. Now, he’s a badass metal musician. At Noisey, Curtis-Brignell shares how he copes with depression, bipolar disorder and more while performing and collaborating.

6. “Why We Need to Talk More About Mental Illness in Tech and Business.” (Jeff Bercovici, Inc., July 2015)

“Any reporter would feel like garbage upon learning that someone to whom he’d been professionally unkind had taken his own life. I probably feel more garbagey than most.” Jeff Bercovici reported on the entrepreneur Austen Heinz several times, not favorably. Less than a year after their initial meeting, Heinz killed himself. Bercovici reckons with his family’s history with mental illness and his responsibility to his subjects.

7. “What Do You Say When Someone Tells You About Their Mental Health Diagnosis?” (Esme Wang, June 2014)

This is so, so important! I myself have mental illness and often disclose my diagnosis to little fanfare, but I don’t always know what to say when someone shares details of their medical, mental or emotional experiences with me. I’m going to copy these into my journal and memorize them. I want to be respectful and sensitive and kind.

8. “Black Girls Don’t Read Sylvia Plath.” (Vanessa Willoughby, The Hairpin, November 2014)

“I needed a patron saint of suffering, of potential cruelly wasted. The public library wasn’t going out of their way to stock Toni Morrison or bell hooks or Angela Davis or Nikki Giovanni or Alice Walker or Lorraine Hansberry or Zora Neale Hurston by the truckload … Why Plath? Why not? She exposed the dirty truth about depression: sometimes it never got better. Sometimes you could be brilliant and have the world open up its mouth to reveal a pearl and you still crumbled.”