Humans have communicated through storytelling for millennia; whether through cave paintings, tapestries, stained glass windows, by campfires, through song, dance or sign language – our stories are what connect us and what make us human.

But, what if the subjects of our stories are stifled by stigma? Who can we talk to if our tale is considered taboo? In recent years we’ve seen a plethora of books for both adults and children, address some of the biggest issues surrounding mental ill health.

On this World Book Day, we’ve brought together seven books for adults, young adults, and children that talk candidly and openly about mental health, and remind us that underneath it all, we’ve got more in common than we may think.

It’s Not OK to Feel Blue and Other Lies – Scarlett Curtis

This collection of personal essays from inspirational people in the public eye proves that mental health problems don’t discriminate, and anybody – no matter who they are – can feel blue. Easy to pick up, hard to put down, this book is essential for anyone who is feeling side lined and isolated by a mental health problem, and goes a long way towards dismantling the shame surrounding mental ill health.

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Haig’s narrative about his own mental health explores themes of depression, anxiety, panic disorder and suicide; talking candidly about his history with mental ill health, Haig documents his journey to recovery. As the title suggests, this gem of a book is packed full of advice, anecdotes and, perhaps most importantly – hope.

How Not to be Good, the A to Z of Anxiety – Elli Johnson

Elli Johnson’s personal memoir about her experiences with anxiety is a refreshingly open and honest account of living with a mental health problem. This book is perfect for anyone who is feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by their thoughts, and will resonate with anyone trying to juggle anxiety, panic attacks and life.

The Boy the Mole the Fox and the Horse – Charlie Mackesy

This beautiful story from illustrator Charlie Mackesy speaks to both adults and children alike, and reminds us that everyone can experience thoughts of sadness, isolation, despair and hopelessness – no matter how different we may appear on the outside. Following the journey of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse, it’s a heart-warming tale of friendship and collectiveness that’s increasingly important in today’s society.

Mind Your Head – Juno Dawson

Aimed at young adults, this book from Juno Dawson (This Book is Gay and Gender Games) addresses themes of anxiety, depression, self-harm and personality disorders. With support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt, Mind Your Head, takes a frank and often funny look at mental health problems and how to manage them, through a series of real-life stories from young people around the world.

The Magical Wood – Mark Lennon

A beautifully illustrated children’s story about loss, love and friendship. The Magical Wood follows a family of trees which – after a particularly stormy night – wakes to discover that the strongest tree has fallen and died. What ensues is a tale of hope, with each new season bringing fresh advice from the animals in the wood, helping the tree family to navigate their way through the grief. This is a beautiful and heartfelt way for parents to approach themes of death and bereavement with children and young people.

My Many Coloured Days – Dr Seuss

Using a vibrant colour spectrum to represent an array of feelings, children’s author Dr Seuss has created an invaluable book which helps parents speak to their children about mental health. A slightly different take from the Cat in the Hat author, this book encourages both children and adults to take a look at how they’re feeling, and open up important conversations.

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