In 2018, Virgil and I read a lot of great books and articles about mental health. This list contains just a handful of our recommendations from 2018, including our #1 book recommendations. Leave your own recommendations in the comments!

Steph’s #1 pick for 2018

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

by Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University

This was my top book of 2018! It took me no less than 6 months to get through. Every sentence was so well researched and written, I wanted to take the time to really soak it all in! Additionally, Sapolsky’s frequent footnotes sent me off to the library in search of even more books to read. This is a book I will probably read again just because it was so full of good stuff. Also, he is a hilarious writer – many laugh-out-loud moments.

“A quirky, opinionated and magisterial synthesis of psychology and neurobiology that integrates this complex subject more accessibly and completely than ever…. a wild and mind-opening ride into a better understanding of just where our behavior comes from. Darwin would have been thrilled.” —Richard Wrangham, The New York Times Book Review

Virgil’s #1 pick for 2018

Philosophy’s Role in Counseling and Psychotherapy

by Peter Raabe

Peter Raabe argues that philosophy is an effective method in treating mental illness. Calling for a paradigm shift away from the standard belief that the brain and mind are identical Raabe argues that so-called “mental illnesses” such as depression and schizophrenia are not the actual causes of psychological misery. Instead, they are just labels for symptoms. For example, the word “depression” is merely a label attached to a collection of symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem.

Other Book and Article Recommendations from 2018

Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

by Stephen Pinker

In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

by Gabor Mate, physician, author, and public speaker.

“I’ve written In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts because I see addiction as one of the most misunderstood phenomena in our society. People–including many people who should know better, such as doctors and policy makers–believe it to be a matter of individual choice or, at best, a medical disease. It is both simpler and more complex than that.

Addiction, or the capacity to become addicted, is very close to the core of the human experience. That is why almost anything can become addictive, from seemingly healthy activities such as eating or exercising to abusing drugs intended for healing. The issue is not the external target but our internal relationship to it.” – Gabor Mate

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma

by Bessel van der Kolk, founder of the Trauma Center in Massachusetts and professor of psychiatry

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” – Bessel van der Kolk

The family-oriented Open Dialogue approach in the treatment of first-episode psychosis: nineteen–year outcomes

published by Bergstrom, Seikkulaa, Alakare, Maki, Saviaro, Taskila, Tolvanen, and Aaltonen

Over the entire follow-up, the figures for durations of hospital treatment, disability allowances, and the need for neuroleptics remained significantly lower with [the Open Dialogue] group. Findings indicated that many positive outcomes of [Open Dialogue] are sustained over a long time period.

Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human

by Daniel Siegel

What is the mind? What is the experience of the self truly made of? How does the mind differ from the brain? Though the mind’s contents―its emotions, thoughts, and memories―are often described, the essence of mind is rarely, if ever, defined.

In this book, noted neuropsychiatrist and New York Times best-selling author Daniel J. Siegel, MD, uses his characteristic sensitivity and interdisciplinary background to offer a definition of the mind that illuminates the how, what, when, where, and even why of who we are, of what the mind is, and what the mind’s self has the potential to become.

Mental Health Policy in America: Myths and Realities

by Gerald Golb

This article is a throwback from 1992, but if you haven’t read any of Golb’s books yet, this article is a great place to begin. If you ever ask yourself, ‘how did our mental health system get the way it is today?’ then Golb will help you trace back through our social and political history to the roots of the answers. His research and writing will help you understand how the responsibility of the care and treatment of our most vulnerable citizens shifted over decades from the local, to the state, and now federal level.

America’s Crime Problems Being Fed by a Broken Mental Health System

by John Snook, Executive Director of Treatment Advocacy Center

“Families call us every day with heartbreaking stories. Many follow a familiar pattern. A parent notices a young adult child acting differently, growing paranoid and withdrawn. As the illness progresses, the child may hallucinate and become agitated or aggressive.

Troubled by these symptoms, parents reach out to doctors or crisis services seeking help on behalf of their loved one. However, if their child is too ill to understand the need for treatment, they are rebuffed, told that unless that child himself or herself seeks care, treatment is only available once the child becomes dangerous.

And so begins a cataclysmic cycle.” – John Snook

Changing to Thrive: Using the Stages of Change to Overcome the Top Threats to Your Health and Happiness
by James O. Prochaska & Janice M. Prochaska

In this groundbreaking book, James O. Prochaska, PhD, and Janice M. Prochaska, PhD, guide you through a six-stage process designed to help you assess your readiness to change, then tap the inner resources necessary to thrive physically, emotionally, and socially.

Backed by countless research studies, the stages of change model, developed by James Prochaska in collaboration with Carlo DiClemente, PhD, has revolutionized the field of behavior change.Through interactive exercises, Changing to Thrive will help you progress through the stages of change and learn that you have the power within to thrive.

Madness in Civilization: The Cultural History of Insanity

by Andrew Scull

The loss of reason, a sense of alienation from the common-sense world we all like to imagine we inhabit, the shattering emotional turmoil that can seize hold of some of us: these are a part of our shared human experience whatever culture we come from. Nowadays, mental disturbance is most commonly (though not always) viewed through a medical lens, but human beings have also always sought to make sense of the depredations of madness through invocations of the religious and the supernatural, or to construct psychological and social accounts in an effort to tame the demons of Unreason.