Books for Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you’ve been hanging around my blog for a while, you know that I frequently write about mental illness in both my books and on my blog.

You can’t even escape it in my cozy mysteries.

Mental illness is pervasive, even if people are afraid to talk about it.

How common is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.
Stats from

  • More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
  • 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

When you consider these statistics, it is clear that there can be few of us who will be untouched by mental illness, either in themselves or in their immediate family or circle of friends.

So why aren’t we talking about it more? Why is there a stigma attached to mental illness that isn’t attached to corrective lenses, heart disease, or sprained fingers?

Why is it that our society encourages us to seek medical treatment for physical ailments, but to keep quiet and hide mental illness? Why is it that we rarely hold people responsible for their physical illnesses, but believe that someone with mental illness just needs more willpower or to ‘cheer up’?

I do think that things are getting better and that our understanding about mental illness is growing. But we’re not there yet. There is still plenty of room for improvement.

Improving understanding through literature

Books can immerse us into new worlds and give us new perspectives on life and our fellow travellers. One of my goals when writing is to educate and increase understanding of mental illness. Here are a few highlights.

Zachary Goldman Series

Zachary Goldman is a private investigator who suffers from a number of mental illnesses and learning disabilities. He struggles from ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, and more.

In the first case in the series, She Wore Mourning, he investigates the death of the son of a local celebrity, who struggles with mental illness herself.

Between the Cracks

The Between the Cracks series delves into the lives of the members of the Simpson family and how their lives have been affected by their abuse as children.

Ruby, the main character of the first book, suffers from depression, anxiety, dysfunctional relationships, and the loss of many of her memories of those early years.

This book and several others in the series have won awards from the In the Margins Committee

Gem Himself Alone

I’ll not say too much about Gem’s mental health issues in this book, because I don’t want to give any spoilers.

Winner of In the Margins Committee Recommended Reads 2020.

Gem has a secret.

Teenage Gem, alone on the street, has survived abuse, institutionalization, and captivity.

He has lost everything and everyone he ever loved, but is finally free to build a life.

There is only one person he can count on, and that is himself. 

Stand Alone

You will spend most of this trying to figure out what mental health issues Justine is suffering from.

Justine’s therapist says she is ‘troubled’, but it means the same thing. He thinks that her vivid, reoccurring nightmares and atrocious behavior point to some trauma in her past; but Em, Justine’s mother, can’t explain it.

And more books

I have gathered a few other books involving mental health issues that you may enjoy as well.

Where the Forest Meets the Stars

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

The Girl of all my Memes

Tenth grader Tommy Baher has always lived in the shadow of his older brother Johnathan, and he has always hated it. Determined to set himself apart from his brother, Tommy puts all his efforts into securing the highest grades in his class. There’s just one problem standing in his way: Kara Metaxas, his longtime academic rival, who has always made his life at school difficult.  

It’s Kind of a Funny Store

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life—which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job—Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does.  That’s when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn’t brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping—until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Sold on a Monday

The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.

For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined.

Turtles all the Way Down

Aza Holmes never intended to pursuethe disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Pickett’s son Davis. 

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

My Sister’s Lies

For a decade, Hannah’s life has been pretty close to perfect – she has a great job, she’s married to Mark, and her child-free existence means she’s free as a bird. The only sadness in her life is a fall-out with her sister Diane, who hasn’t spoken to her in over ten years. But now Diane is on her doorstep – and this time, she’s got her teenage daughter Mia in tow.

When Diane asks if Mia can stay with Hannah and Mark for a few days, Hannah is glad of the chance to get to know her niece. But as the days turn into weeks and Diane doesn’t return, Hannah begins to worry. Why hasn’t her sister been in touch?

Diane is carrying a devastating secret that will destroy Hannah’s carefully constructed life.

Reading Lists

Tell me what you think!

Featured Book(s)



When your child is in pain, everything else takes a backseat. Fae Glover has put everything else on hold while she tries to help her daughter to get a diagnosis and effective treatment. Unfortunately, DFS has other ideas and in short order has apprehended Hannah. And they have no intention of ever giving her back.
Find out more
She Wore Mourning

She Wore Mourning

Private Investigator Zachary Goldman’s life isn’t all roses, but he tries to put his own shattered life behind him to investigate the death of five-year-old Declan Bond.

Declan’s death has been ruled an accident, but his grandmother thinks there is more to it. But as Zachary digs into the circumstances surrounding Declan’s death, he finds that all is not as it seems, and somebody doesn’t want him to find the truth.

Find out more

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