100 books like Outside Mental Health

By Will Hall,

Here are 100 books that Outside Mental Health fans have personally recommended if you like Outside Mental Health. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Rob Wipond Author Of Your Consent Is Not Required: The Rise in Psychiatric Detentions, Forced Treatment, and Abusive Guardianships

From my list on involuntary commitment and psychiatric treatment.

Who am I?

My father, a college professor, sought mental health help during a difficult period—and got forcibly electroshocked. I later started doing journalism, investigating community issues such as poverty, government and business, racial conflicts, policing, and protests—wherever I looked, I’d find sources who’d been subjected to psychiatric detentions. I started to see that a far greater diversity of people were being affected than we normally realize or talk about. Over the ensuing years, I interviewed hundreds of people about their experiences of forced psychiatric interventions, and became determined to shine a brighter public light on mental health law powers. My articles have been nominated for seventeen magazine and journalism awards. 

Rob's book list on involuntary commitment and psychiatric treatment

Rob Wipond Why did Rob love this book?

“That book changed my life”--when interviewing current and former psychiatric patients (and some critical psychiatrists), no book has so often been described to me in this way.

Anatomy of an Epidemic isn’t about forced treatment per se—it’s about the medications used to forcibly treat people today. An award-winning science journalist (and founder of the web magazine Mad in America for which I sometimes write), Whitaker critically examined every existing study of the long-term impacts of common psychiatric medications from antidepressants and ADHD stimulants to lithium and antipsychotics.

He found that, over time, nearly all psychotropics are associated with serious harms to physical health, quality of life, and cognitive capacity. In the precedent Third Circuit case that first established limited rights for people to decline psychotropics, the court found that “even acutely disturbed patients might have good reason to refuse these drugs.”

Whitaker’s research shows, with alternately disturbing, gruesome, and tragic…

By Robert Whitaker,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Anatomy of an Epidemic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Updated with bonus material, including a new foreword and afterword with new research, this New York Times bestseller is essential reading for a time when mental health is constantly in the news.

In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades?

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. As Anatomy of an Epidemic reveals, other societies have…


Book cover of Rethinking Madness: Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis

Bruce E. Levine Author Of A Profession Without Reason: The Crisis of Contemporary Psychiatry―Untangled and Solved by Spinoza, Freethinking, and Radical Enlightenment

From my list on psychiatry for freethinkers.

Who am I?

I am a practicing clinical psychologist, often at odds with the mainstream of my mental health profession. I have a strong interest in how society, culture, politics, philosophy, and psychology intersect, and my previous books about depression, activism, and anti-authoritarianism reflect that. The late historian Howard Zinn described me this way: “It is always refreshing to find someone who stands at the edge of his profession and dissects its failures with a critical eye, refusing to be deceived by its pretensions. Bruce Levine condemns the cold, technological approach to mental health and, to our benefit, looks for deeper solutions.”

Bruce's book list on psychiatry for freethinkers

Bruce E. Levine Why did Bruce love this book?

I found Rethinking Madness to be a highly original book. Clinical psychologist Paris Williams interviewed individuals who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychoses, and he integrated this research with prominent alternative explanations for madness. In contrast to the gloomy picture painted by establishment psychiatry, Williams describes how full recovery from schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders is not only possible but is surprisingly common, and that many people who recover from these psychotic disorders do not merely return to their pre-psychotic condition, but often undergo a profound positive transformation with far more lasting benefits than harms.

By Paris Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rethinking Madness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the recovery research continues to accumulate, we find that the mainstream understanding of schizophrenia and psychosis has lost nearly all credibility:

* After over 100 years and billions of dollars spent on research looking for schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders in the brain, we still have not found any substantial evidence that these disorders are actually caused by a brain disease.
* We have learned that full recovery from schizophrenia and other related psychotic disorders is not only possible but is surprisingly common.
* We've discovered that those diagnosed in the United States and other "developed" nations are…


Book cover of Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs

Bruce E. Levine Author Of A Profession Without Reason: The Crisis of Contemporary Psychiatry―Untangled and Solved by Spinoza, Freethinking, and Radical Enlightenment

From my list on psychiatry for freethinkers.

Who am I?

I am a practicing clinical psychologist, often at odds with the mainstream of my mental health profession. I have a strong interest in how society, culture, politics, philosophy, and psychology intersect, and my previous books about depression, activism, and anti-authoritarianism reflect that. The late historian Howard Zinn described me this way: “It is always refreshing to find someone who stands at the edge of his profession and dissects its failures with a critical eye, refusing to be deceived by its pretensions. Bruce Levine condemns the cold, technological approach to mental health and, to our benefit, looks for deeper solutions.”

Bruce's book list on psychiatry for freethinkers

Bruce E. Levine Why did Bruce love this book?

Mad Science is a comprehensive, engaging, and readable scientific and social critique of current mental health practices. It effectively argues that the fundamental claims of modern American psychiatry are based on misconceived, flawed, and distorted science, and it details psychiatry’s scientifically invalid disorders, unreliable diagnostic methods, ineffective drugs, and damaging use of coercion. The authors are scholars, researchers, and clinicians (Kirk, a professor emeritus of social welfare at UCLA; Gomory, an associate professor of social work at Florida State University; and Cohen, a professor in social welfare at UCLA). 

By Stuart A. Kirk, Tomi Gomory, David Cohen

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mad Science as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Winner of an honorable mention from theSociety for Social Work and ResearchforOutstanding Social Work Book Award

Mad Science argues that the fundamental claims of modern American psychiatry are based on misconceived, flawed, and distorted science. The authors address multiple paradoxes in American mental health research, including the remaking of coercion into scientific psychiatric treatment, the adoption of an unscientific diagnostic system that controls the distribution of services, and how drug treatments have failed to improve the mental health outcome.

When it comes to understanding and treating mental illness, distortions of research are not rare, misinterpretation of data is not isolated,…


Book cover of Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry

Bruce E. Levine Author Of A Profession Without Reason: The Crisis of Contemporary Psychiatry―Untangled and Solved by Spinoza, Freethinking, and Radical Enlightenment

From my list on psychiatry for freethinkers.

Who am I?

I am a practicing clinical psychologist, often at odds with the mainstream of my mental health profession. I have a strong interest in how society, culture, politics, philosophy, and psychology intersect, and my previous books about depression, activism, and anti-authoritarianism reflect that. The late historian Howard Zinn described me this way: “It is always refreshing to find someone who stands at the edge of his profession and dissects its failures with a critical eye, refusing to be deceived by its pretensions. Bruce Levine condemns the cold, technological approach to mental health and, to our benefit, looks for deeper solutions.”

Bruce's book list on psychiatry for freethinkers

Bruce E. Levine Why did Bruce love this book?

I found Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry to be an extremely helpful collection of reports and alternative approaches from an international cast of mental health professionals, ex-patients, lawyers, and social scientists. Peter Stastny is a psychiatrist, documentary filmmaker, and a founder of the International Network Towards Alternatives and Rights-Based Supports; and Peter Lehmann is the founder of Peter Lehmann Publishing and co-founder of the Association for Protection against Psychiatric Violence. Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry includes exciting alternative visions along with concrete self-help and approaches for professionals.

By Peter Stastny, Peter Lehmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The great book of alternatives to psychiatry around the world. (Ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry, therapists, psychiatrists, lawyers, social scientists and relatives report about their alternative work, their successes, their individual and collective experiences. The book highlights alternatives beyond psychiatry, current possibilities of self-help for individuals experiencing madness, and strategies toward implementing humane treatment.These are some of the questions, which are addressed by the 61 authors-(ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry, medical practitioners, therapists, lawyers, social scientists, psychiatrists and relatives from all continents: What helps me if I go mad? How can I find trustworthy help for a relative…


Book cover of Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health

Neil Thompson Author Of The Social Worker's Practice Manual

From my list on promoting social justice.

Who am I?

My father died when I was a young child, and so my uncle became the nearest I had to a father figure. He was a trade unionist and strongly committed to social justice. I was so enamoured by the compassion he showed towards socially disadvantaged people and the struggles they encounter through no fault of their own that I became an advocate for social justice from an early age. That passion for fairness and inclusion has stayed with me throughout my career and therefore figures strongly in my writings and, over the years, in my teaching, training, and consultancy work.

Neil's book list on promoting social justice

Neil Thompson Why did Neil love this book?

I’ve long been suspicious of the medical model of mental health.

My own work with people struggling with mental health challenges convinced me that simply regarding them as ‘mentally ill’ and in need of medication was not helpful. The reality I encountered was far more multidimensional, with psychological, social, and spiritual matters being just as important as the biological, if not more so.

This edited collection brings together critical analyses of the medical model from a wide range of authors. The basic message is that we need to rethink conceptions of mental illness and recognize that there is immense potential for discrimination and oppression if these wider aspects are not taken into consideration.

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of the medical model will find this book very informative.

By Bruce Cohen (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health offers the most comprehensive collection of theoretical and applied writings to date with which students, scholars, researchers and practitioners within the social and health sciences can systematically problematise the practices, priorities and knowledge base of the Western system of mental health. With the continuing contested nature of psychiatric discourse and the work of psy-professionals, this book is a timely return to theorising the business of mental health as a social, economic, political and cultural project: one which necessarily involves the consideration of wider societal and structural dynamics including labelling and deviance, ideological…


Book cover of History of Madness

Bonnie Evans Author Of The Metamorphosis of Autism: A History of Child Development in Britain

From my list on the making of the modern self.

Who am I?

My interest in this topic began after my father died when I was a young teenager and I was left looking for answers, explanations, and meanings. My dad was an architect and had written a book on Jeremy Bentham’s panoptican and prison architecture published before the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s famous Discipline and Punish. A small collection of Foucault’s books stood prominently on my father’s bookshelves and I really wanted to understand them. At university I studied all of Foucault’s works and many authors inspired by him. These are the best books that explain how we have developed philosophical and psychological theories to understand ourselves in the contemporary world.

Bonnie's book list on the making of the modern self

Bonnie Evans Why did Bonnie love this book?

Foucault’s classic 1961 book, History of Madness, was republished in 2006 in its entirety, exposing the serious omissions of the earlier English translation. In its full form, it stands the test of time as a groundbreaking book that exposed the origins of the modern rational self as the product of repeated attempts to understand, exclude, contain, eliminate, and treat ‘madness’. Foucault’s main argument was that since the Renaissance, our understanding of madness shifted from a philosophical phenomenon into an objective medical science. In the Renaissance, madness could still provide wisdom and insight. Yet, during the 17th and early 18th Centuries, numerous institutions of confinement, such as asylums and poor houses, were established to contain both madness and economic redundancy.’

Foucault characterises the modern experience of madness as defined purely by medical science. He claims this perspective is limiting and definitely not a move towards the ‘truth’ of madness. His…

By Michel Foucault, Jonathan Murphy (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History of Madness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When it was first published in France in 1961 as Folie et Deraison: Histoire de la Folie a l'age Classique, few had heard of a thirty-four year old philosopher by the name of Michel Foucault. By the time an abridged English edition was published in 1967 as Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault had shaken the intellectual world.

This translation is the first English edition of the complete French texts of the first and second edition, including all prefaces and appendices, some of them unavailable in the existing French edition.

History of Madness begins in the Middle Ages with vivid descriptions…


Book cover of The Mind and the Moon: My Brother's Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches

Deborah Kasdan Author Of Roll Back the World: A Sister's Memoir

From my list on startling encounters with mental illness.

Who am I?

When my older sister died, I felt a pressing need to tell her story. Rachel was a strong, courageous woman, who endured decades in a psychiatric system that failed her. She was a survivor, but the stigma of severe mental illness made her an outcast from most of society. Even so, her enduring passion for poetry inspired me to write about her. I sought out other people’s stories. I enrolled in workshops and therapy. I devoured books and blogs by survivors, advocates, and family members. Everything I read pointed to a troubling rift between the dominant medical model and more humane, less damaging ones. This list represents a slice of my learning.

Deborah's book list on startling encounters with mental illness

Deborah Kasdan Why did Deborah love this book?

Psychiatric medications are prescribed more judiciously than when my sister first took them, but still many people find them intolerable.

Bergner first encountered mental illness when his younger brother Bob was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after dancing on a ferry to the rhythm of the ocean. Sadly, his parents believed that dancing was a symptom to be eliminated with higher doses of lithium.

Bergner finds two others to share their experiences: a roller derby star turned peer counselor, who heard voices since childhood; and a lawyer who feels doomed to failure despite his achievements in important cases. All three discontinue medication, two of them successfully.

Interspersed with their stories is a short history of psychiatry with a focus on the limitations of neuroscience and serious missteps in psychopharmacology.

By Daniel Bergner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mind and the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A profound and powerful work of essential reporting." —The New York Times Book Review

An important—and intimate—interrogation of how we treat mental illness and how we understand ourselves

In the early 1960s, JFK declared that science would take us to the moon. He also declared that science would make the “remote reaches of the mind accessible” and cure psychiatric illness with breakthrough medications. We were walking on the moon within the decade. But today, psychiatric cures continue to elude us—as does the mind itself. Why is it that we still don’t understand how the mind works? What is the difference…


Book cover of The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon: Toward a Political History of Madness

Sarah Covington Author Of The Devil from Over the Sea: Remembering and Forgetting Oliver Cromwell in Ireland

From my list on history’s villains and their surprising reputations.

Who am I?

I'm a professor of history at the Graduate Center and Queens College at the City University of New York, where I'm also director of the Irish Studies program and the MA program in Biography and Memoir. My specialty, covered in five books that I’ve authored or co-edited, is English and Irish history in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; my new book represents the culmination of a decade’s research devoted to Ireland. In addition to teaching British and Irish history, I offer more unusual and wide-ranging classes including the history of the devil, the history of crime and punishment, and the history of the body. My life is divided between New York City and mid-coast Maine.

Sarah's book list on history’s villains and their surprising reputations

Sarah Covington Why did Sarah love this book?

The 1840 burial of Napoleon’s remains in the Invalides coincided with the psychiatric admission of fourteen men who claimed they were the real Napoleon, and he lived on yet. A number of Napoleons—or those claiming to be Napoleon’s son—had also emerged during the emperor’s own lifetime, suffering from the recently identified “delusions of grandeur” diagnosis.

Murat offers a larger study of madness and asylums in nineteenth-century France, and the impact of political events, including the French Revolution and the Terror, on psychiatric patients and doctors. Her chapter on “madhouse Napoleons” is particularly intriguing, as it reveals how the ghosts of powerful historical leaders can infiltrate the minds of the disturbed. For me, the book also raises questions about memory and psychology more generally, about why the mad latched onto Napoleon specifically, and how history or historical figures can live on in surprising places.

By Laure Murat, Deke Dusinberre (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man Who Thought He Was Napoleon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Man who thought he was Napoleon is built around a bizarre historical event and an off-hand challenge. The event? In December 1840, nearly twenty years after his death, the remains of Napoleon were returned to Paris for burial - and the next day, the director of a Paris hospital for the insane admitted fourteen men who claimed to be Napoleon. The challenge, meanwhile, is the claim by great French psychiatrist Jean-Etienne Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840) that he could recount the history of France through asylum registries. From those two components, Laure Murat embarks on an exploration of the surprising relationship…


Book cover of The Lobotomist's Wife

Heather Frimmer Author Of Better to Trust

From my list on brain dysfunction.

Who am I?

I am a radiologist specializing in emergency room and breast imaging and a lifelong book nerd. Though I chose radiology as my medical specialty, I have always been fascinated by the complicated workings of the human mind. I majored in psychology in college and strongly considered careers in both psychiatry and neurology. Books exploring the fragility and fallibility of the human brain never fail to catch my attention. These stories explore the essence of what it means to be human and highlight the resilience of the human spirit.  

Heather's book list on brain dysfunction

Heather Frimmer Why did Heather love this book?

There is nothing more satisfying than a well-researched story about the history of medicine. 

This shocking story takes place in the mid-twentieth century and centers on Ruth, a hospital administrator whose husband invented the ice pick lobotomy for the treatment of psychiatric illness. As the surgery gains popularity, Ruth soon learns of debilitating complications from the procedure. Could the touted miracle cure be doing more harm than good?

By Samantha Greene Woodruff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lobotomist's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An enthralling historical novel of a compassionate and relentless woman, a cutting-edge breakthrough in psychiatry, and a nightmare in the making.

Since her brother took his life after WWI, Ruth Emeraldine has had one goal: to help those suffering from mental illness. Then she falls in love with charismatic Robert Apter-a brilliant doctor championing a radical new treatment, the lobotomy. Ruth believes in it as a miracle treatment and in Robert as its genius pioneer. But as her husband spirals into deluded megalomania, Ruth can't ignore her growing suspicions. Robert is operating on patients recklessly, often with horrific results. And…


Book cover of The Memory Palace

Karen Harmon Author Of Where Is My Happy Ending?: A Journey of No Regrets

From my list on mental health, addiction, and families.

Who am I?

I have the expertise for this topic because I was raised in a loving home with a mother who struggled with bipolar disorder. At times my life was hilariously adventurous or heart-wrenchingly sad. Given little direction, I married an alcoholic and then went on to work at a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center. I have fallen on hard times, but at the age of thirty-two, as a single mother collecting welfare, I managed to grief, heal and dig myself out, creating a rewarding life. I am optimistic, and I try to find humour in all things, especially after the tears and healing have subsided. My writing has brought me tremendous healing and joy.

Karen's book list on mental health, addiction, and families

Karen Harmon Why did Karen love this book?

A harrowing and beautiful tale of two sisters growing up with a paranoid schizophrenic mother. The author describes a fine line between gentle artistic creativity and debilitating mental illness. The reader will come away with a better understanding of how deeply children are affected growing up in a dysfunctional and traumatic environment. A mother's love and a journey to forgiveness teach us the complex meaning of love.

By Mira Bartok,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Memory Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the tradition of The Glass Castle, two sisters confront schizophrenia in this New York Times bestselling poignant memoir about family and mental illness. Through stunning prose and original art, The Memory Palace captures the love between mother and daughter, the complex meaning of truth, and one family’s capacity for forgiveness.

*A Washington Post Best Book of the Year *
*The National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Best Autobiography*

“People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartók is told at her mother’s memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in psychiatry, schizophrenia, and mental disorders?

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