Mental health is such a vast topic. From dialectical behavioural therapy to the social determinants of mental health, it can be difficult to know where to begin. In honour of this year's Life on the Line campaign, we put together a list of mental health book recommendations from experts working in the field to help steer you in the right direction.
We asked the team at 'Family Outreach and Response', a unique Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto program (which served over 600 families last year), to share their favourite mental health books to improve the well-being of you and your loved ones.
If you want to support their program, you can donate directly on our website, or purchase one of ten unique limited edition signed and numbered art prints were 75% of all sales will be donated to the program.
Shannon O’Neill Q.Med, Family Mental Health Navigator, assists families navigate the mental health system in hospitals due to an admittance of a loved one, and then continues to support the family post discharge. Families receiving support during this time is a pivotal ingredient for recovery. Shannon believes this both through her own experience as a support person for a family member who struggles with their mental health as well as her professional experience working in the mental health field. The family support strengthens communication and connection which are necessary components to mental health recovery.
1. Empowered Boundaries: Speaking Truth, Setting Boundaries and
Inspiring Social Change
by Cristien Storm
Having a deep understanding of what is okay and what is not okay for you, and being able to communicate that in a kind, compassionate and non-judgemental way is a gift that you give to those that you love. This book shows how we create boundaries in preservation of the relationship by using communication for connection and not for combat. It explores what may be getting in the way of us establishing boundaries within our own relationships. It also shows how creating boundaries can be collaborative, honouring ourselves and recognizing our coexistence with others.
2. Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames
by Thich Nhat Hahn
Anger, both the feeling of and the expression of, is something I find challenging to sit with. This book explores the good, the bad, and the ugly of anger. It provides guidance on how to sit with your own anger and how to be effective in a space with another’s anger.
With exquisite simplicity, Buddhist monk and Vietnam refugee Thich Nhat Hanh gives tools and advice for transforming relationships, focusing energy, and rejuvenating those parts of ourselves that have been laid waste by anger.
Liam Skinner brings to his practice ten years of experience providing counselling and psychotherapy services to individuals, families and groups in a variety of settings including private practice, community mental health organizations and social service agencies. His educational background and professional development have focused on relational, existential integrative and somatic therapies, as well as anti-oppressive and feminist approaches.
3. When Things Fall Apart:
Heart Advice for Difficult Times
by Pema Chodron
The beautiful practicality of her teaching has made Pema Chödrön one of the most beloved of contemporary American spiritual authors among Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book is a treasury of wisdom for going on living when we are overcome by pain and difficulties. Chödrön discusses:
• Practices for reversing habitual patterns
• Methods for working with chaotic situations
• Ways for creating effective social action
• Ways for creating effective social action
• Using painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and courage
• Communicating so as to encourage others to open up rather than shut down • Practices for reversing habitual patterns • Methods for working with chaotic situations
4. It Didn’t Start With You - How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
by Mark Wolynn
Mark Wolynn is a leading expert on inherited family trauma. He is the winner of the 2016 Silver Nautilus Award in Psychology. As the director of The Family Constellation Institute in San Francisco, he has trained thousands of clinicians and treated thousands more patients struggling with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive thoughts, self-injury, chronic pain, and illness. A sought-after lecturer, he leads workshops at hospitals, clinics, conferences, and teaching centres around the world. He has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, the Western Psychiatric Institute, Kripalu, The Omega Institute, The New York Open Center, and The California Institute of Integral Studies. His articles have appeared in Psychology Today, Mind Body Green, MariaShriver.com, Elephant Journal and Psych Central, and his poetry has been published in The New Yorker. www.markwolynn.com
Elly Litvak, Family Navigation Coordinator, Ph.D. TLE, ‘The Lived Experience’ is a wellness and recovery specialist with over 25 years experience in mental health. She has established a variety of recovery-oriented programs within the Canadian mental health system and is currently with the Family Navigation Program at Family Outreach and Response. She is passionate about recovery, and utilizes her experiences of struggling and recovering from serious mental health issues to inform and provide hope to the families she supports.
5. Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
by Kristen Neff
This ground-breaking book powerfully demonstrates why it's so important to be self-compassionate and give yourself the same caring support you'd give to a good friend. Kristin Neff, the world's foremost expert on self-compassion explains how to heal destructive emotional patterns so that you can live a healthier, happier, and more effective life. Mindful self-compassion has proven to be the most powerful tool in Elly’s recovery journey and she is honoured and grateful to be able to share these skills with the families she supports at Family Outreach and Response.
Julie Hansen, Early Intervention Family Worker, MSW RSW supports families to find mental health recovery and healing when a loved one is struggling. Julie believes in the power of relationships, especially within the family as catalysts for change. Mental health recovery and wellbeing starts with supportive and connected relationships and Julie knows this professionally as a Social Worker, and personally as a mother of 2 kids, and from her experiences in her own mental health recovery journey as a young adult. Julie also takes a critical approach to working alongside and within the mental health system to support empowerment and choice for the families she supports.
6. Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America
by Robert Whitaker
This book takes a deep dive into the history and rise of psychiatric medications and a critical look into the reasons why North America has seen such a dramatic increase in mental health issues and psychiatric medication use in the past decades. Anatomy of an Epidemic provides a jumping-off point for taking a more holistic approach to our own mental health and recovery journey. Interwoven with Whitaker’s groundbreaking analysis of the merits of psychiatric medications are the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic.
7. Hold on to Your Kids – Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
by Gordon Neufeld Ph.D. and Gabor Mate, M.D.
I believe that relationships are at the foundation of mental health and wellbeing. This book reminds us of the importance of our relationship with our children, no matter what their age, especially as they grow into adulthood. Hold on to your Kids provides us with tools to connect with our loved ones and reminds us of the wisdom that we know deep down, that we have the power to be our loved one’s most powerful recovery tool.
Justean Lebel is a DBT-informed counselor offering counseling to individuals supporting a loved one experiencing emotion dysregulation. At present, she holds a dual clinical role at the Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto; both as a counselor with the Family Outreach & Response Program and as a member of the comprehensive DBT Support Program. In the latter position, she is currently pursuing DBT certification at the University of Toronto under Dr. Shelley McCain, Head of CAMH’s Borderline Personality Clinic. Justean is currently pursuing her MSW at York University with a research focus regarding the invaluable contribution of lived experience clinicians.
8. A Life Worth Living
by Marsha Linehan
This book is an inspiring memoir written by the founder of DBT, Marsha Linehan. She details her intense struggle w