Social media users frequently discuss mental health. Online discussions about trauma, eco-anxiety, social-emotional learning, anti-LGBTQ legislation, mass shootings, cyberbullying, and risky TikTok challenges have sparked complex discussions about our personal and societal well-being throughout 2022. In fact, this year was arguably a time when the internet and mental health became more intertwined than ever, with people turning to TikTok for diagnoses and others highlighting the potential negative effects of screen time on children and teenagers.
Some of this discussion is genuinely educational, particularly when it originates from respected mental health professionals and individuals who thoughtfully discuss their personal experiences with mental illness. Many of the exchanges, however, overlook or exclude marginalized voices and lack crucial context, such as scientific research insights. If we're being completely honest, a startlingly large portion of influencers who publish content on mental health and wellness are seeking to monetize their audience, regardless of whether the guidance they provide is reliable.
For all of these reasons, Mashable has compiled a list of the top 11 mental health books published in 2022, listed here in alphabetical order. My definition of mental health and well-being is broad because I have been a reporter covering mental health for ten years. These books cover a lot of ground, delving into topics like rest as a radical act of resistance, loving someone who has suicidal thoughts, improving the U.S. mental health system, and mindfully enjoying nature.
The list includes books I personally love as well as suggestions from authorities I respect and know well. Although the books don't all discuss how the internet affects our mental health, even if you choose just one, you'll learn useful information about how to comprehend and discuss emotional and psychological well-being. You'll also likely have more informed conversations online in 2023.
Here are the top 11 mental health books released in 2022:
1. Susan Cain's book Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole
Dr. Jessica Gold, an assistant professor in the psychiatry department at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, made the selection.
The fact that the book I recommend is the one my own therapist gave me seems almost symbolic. Even as a psychiatrist, I find it difficult to comprehend the importance of strong emotions in my life, especially those that feel "negative" like sadness. I believe they ""I just want them to stop," or "Don't get in the way." My therapist interrupted me in the middle of yet another discussion about this to ask if I had read Susan Cain's most recent book." The remainder is history.
Bittersweet helped me understand that sadness has power and importance for all of us, much like her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, which made introverted people feel seen. Additionally, it helped my patient and I feel less alone in our experiences. I appreciate my therapist making the suggestion, and I'm hoping some of you will benefit as well.
2. Peter Wohllenben and Jane Billinghurst's Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America
Chosen by Peace Out podcast host and creator Chanel Tsang
The chapters in Peter Wohllenben and Jane Billinghurst's book Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America are brief and sweet, and they offer a gentle instruction on how to use your senses while walking in the woods, with fascinating information and tales about forest life lining the way (banana slugs are fascinating!). The book also offers entertaining activities you can try, like "forest telephone," which involves tapping a fallen tree trunk with a rock while someone else listens at the other end, or searching for clues and tales about wildlife.
Of course, the chapters on taking kids outside in nature were my favorites. Walking in nature has numerous amazing health advantages, such as reduced stress and anxiety, an enhanced sense of wellbeing, and relaxation. I've been motivated to take more deliberate and thoughtful walks as a result of forest walking, which has rekindled my enthusiasm for the great outdoors. In the authors' words, "go out and enjoy," is another option.
Note from the editor: Tsang also suggested the picture book Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness by Maria Gianferrari and Pete Oswald. Looking for a children's book, according to Tsang? Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness by Maria Gianferrari is a charming and humorous picture book that does a great job of explaining mindfulness to children and includes some enjoyable and simple mindfulness activities to try together.
3. Britt Wray's Generation Dread: Finding Meaning in an Age of Climate Crisis
Eco-anxiety is a term used to describe the challenging and occasionally intense emotions that arise when thinking about the catastrophic effects of climate change. It was chosen by Rebecca Ruiz, senior reporter, Mashable. Taking it all in can become overwhelming, which makes it impossible to think that, with the right policies in place, our bleak future might ultimately look different.
Britt Wray, a researcher who focuses on the psychological effects of surviving the planetary crisis brought on by climate change, has diligently and sensitively spent years looking for solutions to this dread. She suggests learning critical skills in this book, including how to use eco-anxiety as "super fuel" to learn coping mechanisms and discover one's purpose, how to use resilience-building techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude journaling to combat despair and burnout, and how to prioritize social connections, which can be extremely helpful in times of crisis.
"Wray's approach is holistic, weaving together various strands of thought from psychology and public health to help readers cultivate the resilience and emotional intelligence they'll need to fight for the planet — and to survive the calamities that might come," I wrote earlier this year.
4. Donna Jackson Nakazawa's Girls on the Brink: Helping Our Daughters Thrive in a Time of Increased Anxiety, Depression, and Social Media
chosen by Mashable senior reporter Rebecca Ruiz
The problems today's adolescent and teen girls are facing have been covered in a lot of books. Science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa's skill in combining her own compelling reporting with clearly explained scientific research on child development makes Girls on the Brink stand out. When possible, Nakazawa complements the heartfelt anecdotes that girls and their parents share about their experiences with scientific understanding.
The resulting text offers readers professional advice on how to support girls in thriving in the face of extreme pressures, such as the siren song of social media. When I spoke with Nakazawa earlier this year, we discussed the value of safeguarding a girl's "in-between years," which are between the ages of seven and thirteen; being someone a girl can confide in about difficult issues; observing and praising a girl's positive behaviors and qualities; and assisting girls in building their own physical communities. Girls on the Brink contains detailed information on these and other tactics.
5. Dr. Thomas Insel's Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health
Influencer Juan Acosta chose them for the Seize the Awkward campaign.
The book Healing, written by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Thomas Insel and addressing our current mental health care system, deeply affected me this year. He acknowledges that the system's successes have only benefited a small number of people, leaving many others without access or support.
I was astounded by how much of this really related to my own personal experience with mental health as I read it. The "three P's"—people, place, and purpose—are the Dr. Insel's suggested way forward and a way to healing that must address people's social support. He claims that these are frequently disregarded, which I found to be true given that my family and friends have consistently been there for me during my darkest hours.
I was encouraged by his focus on the importance of addressing people's social support, and it reinforced how crucial it is for us to form connections with those around us. Healing serves as a timely reminder that our social support network can have a significant impact on the national mental health crisis.