18 Canadian books to read for Mental Health Week

Mental Health Week is May 4-10, 2020. Here are some books to check out that explore mental health.

Mental Health Week is May 4-10, 2020. Here are some books to check out that explore mental health.

Belated Bris of the Brainsick by Lucas Crawford

Belated Bris of the Brainsick is a poetry collection by Lucas Crawford. (Nightwood Editions)

Belated Bris of the Brainsick is a poetry collection from Lucas Crawford that "is the pursuit of a 'queered' version of health." It explores mental illness, disability and the discovery of one's family history in order to bring different perspectives of health, wellness and illness into the conversation.

Crawford is based in New Brunswick and is also the author of the poetry collection Sideshow Concessions and the academic text Transgender Architectonics.

The Ghost Garden by Susan Doherty

Susan Doherty is the author of The Ghost Garden. (Penguin Random House)

In The Ghost GardenSusan Doherty shares the stories of the patients at the Douglas Institute, a psychiatric hospital in Montreal where the author has been volunteering for a decade. One of the patients is a woman in her 60s named Caroline Evans (a pseudonym), whom Doherty has known since childhood. Caroline describes how her schizophrenia began to surface in her teenage years and the ways she's been failed by the Canadian health and justice system.

Doherty is a writer from Montreal. She is also the author of the novel A Secret Music.

Susan Doherty has been volunteering to help people with severe mental illness for more than a decade. She's written about what she's learned in her new book The Ghost Garden: Inside the Lives of Schizophrenia's Feared and Forgotten. 23:46

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott is the author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. (Doubleday Canada, Ayelet Tsabari)

Alicia Elliott explores the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples across Canada through the lens of her own experiences as a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River. Elliott examines how colonial violence, including the loss of language, seeps into the present day lives of Indigenous people, often in the form of mental illness. Elliott, who lives in Brantford, Ont., won gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2017 for the essay this book is based on.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground was on the shortlist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Elliott is a Tuscarora writer living in Brantford, Ont. She was chosen by Tanya Talaga as the recipient for the 2018 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. CBC Books named Elliott a writer to watch in 2019.

Author Alicia Elliott wants Canadians to think about how colonialism, poverty and mental health affect families in our society. Those issues affected her own childhood, which she's written about in her new book A Mind Spread Out On The Ground. 23:45

You Won't Always Be This Sad by Sheree Fitch

You Won't Always Be This Sad is a nonfiction book by Sheree Fitch. (Nimbus Publishing, Twitter/@sherfitch)

Sheree Fitch is one of Canada's most iconic children's writers. In You Won't Always Be This Sadher first memoir, Fitch shares her struggles after the unexpected death of her son at 37 years old. You Won't Always Be This Sad is a story of loss, love and healing.

Fitch's books for younger readers include the picture books Mabel Murple and Everybody's Different on Everybody Street.

Brian Francis talks to Shelagh Rogers about his new YA novel, Break in Case of Emergency. 14:21

Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Break in Case of Emergency is a YA novel by Brian Francis. (HarperCollins, Samuel Engelking)

Break in Case of Emergency follows Toby Goodman, a teen whose father left their small town before she was born and whose mother died by suicide when she's a young girl. When she finds out that her estranged father is coming back to town and wants to meet her, Toby must try to make sense of her life amid surprising revelations about her family history. Break in Case of Emergency was a finalist the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature  text.

Break in Case of Emergency is for readers aged 14 and up.

Brian Francis is a writer and columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio. His first novel, Fruit, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2009. He is also the author of the novel Natural Order.

Helen Knott on In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience, which she calls "a book of healing." 15:50

To the River by Don Gillmor

To the River is a memoir by Don Gillmor. (Ryan Szulc, Random House Canada)

When David Gillmor disappeared more than 10 years ago, his truck and cowboy hat were found at the edge of the Yukon River. His body was recovered six months later, just as his brother Don Gillmor journeyed to Whitehorse to canoe through the waters his brother had departed from. To the River explores how survivors of suicide cope with a loved one's decision to take their own life and examines the larger social, cultural and psychological questions surrounding suicide, especially among middle-aged men.

To the River won the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

Gillmor is a Toronto journalist and author of novels and nonfiction books like Canada: A People's History. He has twice been nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award in the young people's literature — text category for The Fabulous Song and The Christmas Orange.

Sarah Kurchak was diagnosed with autism at 27 years old. For her, it answered a lot of her own questions. But it also raised a new one: Were all those years of pretending to be "normal" really worth it 9:40

In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

In My Own Moccasins is a memoir by Helen Knott. (Tenille K. Campbell/, University of Regina Press)

Helen Knott is a poet and writer of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw and European descent. Her memoir, In My Own Moccasins, is a story of addiction, sexual violence and intergenerational trauma. It explores how colonization has affected her family over generations. But it is also a story of hope and redemption, celebrating the resilience and history of her family.

Knott is a social worker and writer. In My Own Moccasins is her first book.

Eternity Martis on her memoir of university life, They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life and Growing Up. 4:03

I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder by Sarah Kurchak

I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder is a book by Sarah Kurchak. (Jenna Marie Wakani, Douglas & McIntyre)

Sarah Kurchak has autism. While she was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, she realized she was different from her peers — and did everything to overcome it. She changed everything about herself to fit in. It worked, but along the way, she developed anxiety and depression. I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder is a memoir about how Kurchak became an "autism" success story, how it almost ruined her life, and what she did to reclaim her identity and her health.

Kurchak is a writer whose work has appeared in the Guardian, CBC, Vox and Electric Literature. I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder is her first book.

Sean McCann and Andrea Aragon on their co-written memoir One Good Reason: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery, Music, and Love. 22:42

Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End by Liz Levine

Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is a book by Liz Levine. (@thelizlevine/, Simon & Schuster)

In 2016, Liz Levine's sister Tamara committed suicide. In the memoir Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the EndLevine tells the story of her sister alongside the story of another death that had a huge impact on her life: that of her childhood sweetheart Judson to cancer. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is a book about grief, and its messiness, but it's also a book about life and its beauty. 

Levine is a television and film producer who has worked on Story of a Girl and jPod. Her writing has appeared in the National Post, The Walrus and the Vancouver Sun. Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End is her first book.

They Said This Would Be Fun by Eternity Martis

They Said This Would Be Fun is a book by Eternity Martis. (McClelland & Stewart,

Eternity Martis was smart, bookish and excited to go to university. But once she got to campus, life wasn't what she imagined. She was often the only student of colour in classes, at parties and in dorms, and had to face racial slurs, students in blackface at parties and more on a regular basis. They Said This Would Be Fun is a memoir about the difficulty of navigating through white spaces as a student of colour and asks us to confront the systemic issues that define the college experience for racialized and marginalized students.

Martis is a Toronto-based journalist, author and senior editor at Xtra. Her work focuses on issues of race and gender and has been featured in Vice, Salon, Hazlitt,, The Walrus, Huffington Post and CBC. They Said This Would Be Fun is her first book.

Anna Mehler Paperny, author of Hello I Want To Die Please Fix Me: Depression in the First Person, speaks alongside her father, former film producer, David Paperny about her personal struggle with suicide and its impact on family. 15:12

One Good Reason by Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon

Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon are the co-authors of memoir One Good Reason. (Nimbus Publishing, Megan Vincent)

Séan McCann spent 20 years of his life in Great Big Sea, the bestselling Newfoundland folk rock band that was known as Canada's biggest party band. But all that partying was a convenient cover for McCann's alcoholism — and the drinking was his way to tamp down the trauma of abuse that he carried with him since his teenage years. It was only when his wife Andrea Aragon gave him the ultimatum, "Stop or I'm leaving," that McCann changed his life for good. McCann and Aragon chronicle their story together in the memoir One Good Reason.

One Good Reason is McCann and Aragon's first book.

Most of us are obsessed with the numbers of cases and deaths in conjunction with COVID-19. But Benjamin Perrin, a law professor, political advisor and author thinks we all need to also pay attention to what's happening with the opioid crisis. 10:30

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a memoir by Anna Mehler Paperny. (Random House Canada)

Anna Mehler Paperny is a journalist who has struggled with depression her entire life. After a suicide attempt in her 20s, she decided to look into her disease: how it's caused, treated and talked about. Part memoir, part investigation, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is an examination of an illness that is far too common and far too little understood. 

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me was on the shortlist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Paperny is a Canadian journalist. Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is her first book. 

Jesse Thistle talks to Shelagh Rogers about his best selling memoir, From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way. 16:27

Overdose by Benjamin Perrin

Overdose is a nonfiction book by Benjamin Perrin. (Claudia Ho Lem, Viking)

Overdose looks at today's opioid crisis, and attempts to understand why and how people become addicted to fentanyl, how our medical system has failed them, and what solutions will actually work. Benjamin Perrin interviews those at the front lines of the crisis — police officers, health care workers, prosecutors and more — to paint a portrait of a crisis that not only needs to be dealt with, but is poorly understood by the public.

Perrin is a law professor at the University of British Columbia. He is also the author of two other works of nonfiction, Invisible Chains: Canada's Underground World of Human Trafficking and Victim Law: The Law of Victims of Crime in Canada.

Lindsay Wong talks to Shelagh Rogers about her debut book, The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family. (CANADA READS SELECTION) 15:31

Junebat by John Elizabeth Stintzi

Junebat is a book of poetry by John Elizabeth Stintzi. (House of Anansi Press)

Junebat is set during the year John Elizabeth Stintzi lived in Jersey City coming to terms with their gender identity. The poems deal with depression, love and metamorphosis, allowing the reader to explore the possibilities that exist beyond society's often rigid boundaries.

Stintzi is a non-binary writer from northwestern Ontario. They won the 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and the Malahat Review's 2019 Long Poem Prize. Stintzi is also the author of two poetry chapbooks and the novel Vanishing Monuments.

Misconduct of the Heart by Cordelia Strube

Misconduct of the Heart is a novel by Cordelia Strube. (Mark Raynes Roberts, ECW Press)

In Misconduct of the Heart, Stevie is a recovering alcoholic and kitchen manager who is trying hard to stop her world around her from collapsing. Her son, who is a veteran, might be succumbing to PTSD, while she tries to manage the eccentrics who work in her kitchen and acclimatize to the idea that she might have a granddaughter she never knew she had. 

Cordelia Strube is a Toronto-based writer. She has been nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award, the Trillium Book Award and longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She has written numerous books, including On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

From the Ashes is a memoir by Jesse Thistle. (Lucie Thistle, Simon & Schuster)

Jesse Thistle is a Métis-Cree academic specializing in Indigenous homelessness, addiction and inter-generational trauma. For Thistle, these issues are more than just subjects on the page. After a difficult childhood, Thistle spent much of his early adulthood struggling with addiction while living on the streets of Toronto. Told in short chapters interspersed with poetry, his memoir From the Ashes details how his issues with abandonment and addiction led to homelessness, incarceration and his eventual redemption through higher education. 

Thistle is a recipient of the Governor General's Silver Medal in 2016. From the Ashes is his first book.

The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong

Lindsay Wong's memoir The Woo-Woo was defended on Canada Reads 2019 by Joe Zee. (CBC)

This dark, witty and touching memoir by Lindsay Wong takes a look at the impact of mental illness on families. Wong delivers an honest and emotional look at whispered secrets, dysfunctional relationships — and how her grandmother, mother, aunt and even herself initially blamed the mythical "woo-woo," Chinese spirits that plague the living, for their mental health issues. The memoir is equal parts blunt, honest and hilarious.

Wong is a writer from Vancouver. She is also the author of the upcoming YA novel My Summer of Love and Misfortune.

Constantly by GG

Constantly is a comic by GG. (Koyama Press)

Constantly explores the debilitating impact of anxiety on the every day, examining how it stretches and paralyzes daily tasks and decisions.

The graphic novel is a follow-up to GG's Doug Wright Award-nominated debut I'm Not Here.

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