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Senate House Library

Sharing “personal stories” from the Wellbeing Collection to celebrate University Mental Health Day 2023


Written by
Emma Fitzpatrick, Serial and Digital Resources Coordinator

It's University Mental Health Day on 9 March. Essays and exams stressing you out? Take some time out to dive into the personal stories from the Senate House Library Wellbeing Collection...

This Thursday is University Mental Health Day. Run by Student Minds and the University Mental Health Advisors Network (UMHAN), University Mental Health Day aims to bring together the university community to make mental health a university-wide priority. I thought this would be a good opportunity to look at some of the items from the “Personal Stories” section of the Wellbeing Collection. The books from this section of the Wellbeing Collection are written by people who have experienced challenges to their own mental health and sense of wellbeing. If you are struggling with your own mental health then you may find that you identify with their experiences. If someone you love is suffering from mental illness or poor mental health, the stories in these books may help you to gain an insight into what they are going through. If you just want to learn more about what it is like to live with a mental illness then these books are also a great place to start.

I have selected four books from the “Personal Stories” section of the wellbeing collection to take a closer look at. All of the authors featured in this blog post have experienced different mental illnesses and share their experiences of mental illness in their books.

The covers of four books (left to right): The Stranger on the Bridge by Jonny Benjamin, Cheer Up Love by Susan Calman, I Belong Here by Anita Sethi, and Maybe I don't belong here by David Harewood

A closer look at some of the books in the SHL Wellbeing Collection’s Personal Stories Section

The stranger on the bridge : my journey from suicidal despair to hope / Jonny Benjamin and Britt Pflüger.

The blurb for The Stranger on the Bridge begins “One January day, a stranger saved Jonny Benjamin’s life.” This is the starting point for a remarkable memoir which charts Benjamin’s struggles with mental illness which, at the age of 21, led him to try and take his own life by jumping off Waterloo Bridge. His life was saved by a stranger, who noticed that Benjamin was in distress and calmly started talking to him, eventually guiding him back to safety. This book explores Benjamin’s ongoing challenges with his mental and physical health and his gradual acceptance of his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, following his journey to discovering his passion for helping others and campaigning for better mental health awareness and his search to find the man who saved his life.

Cheer up love : adventures in depression with the crab of hate / Susan Calman

In Cheer Up Love the writer and comedian Susan Calman shares her experiences of depression, which she refers to as “the crab of hate”. With honesty and characteristic wit Calman shares how, after many years of struggling with depression, anxiety and problems with body image, she has learnt to live with her depression and show herself a little more love and compassion. Interposed with her own experiences, Calman also offers chapters of helpful musings on how to spot the symptoms of depression, how to talk to people about depression and looking after your mental health while on social media.

I belong here : a journey along the backbone of Britain / Anita Sethi. (eBook)

While travelling through Northern England in 2019, Anita Sethi became the victim of a racially motivated hate crime. Sethi is a proud Northerner, born and bred in Manchester, but the racial abuse she suffered hurt her deeply and attacked her right to exist in a place which had always felt like home to her. In the wake of this attack she suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks. I Belong Here follows Sethi as she sets out to reclaim that space, heal her mental health and celebrate her proud Northern heritage by walking along the Pennine Way, the oldest long distance footpath in England. This walk is challenging for Sethi both mentally and physically and worries about experiencing racial prejudice hang over her as she bravely strides out through the beautiful (if sometimes a little wet) countryside of the Peak district. However, Sethi writes that she is “keen for it to be kindness that ultimately triumphs” and it does. She shares the positive interactions that she has with other walkers on the Pennine Way. Despite the challenges, Sethi finds healing as she spends time in nature. The wide open spaces help her to feel less constricted by her anxiety and she is able to reclaim her sense of belonging in a place that she loves.

Maybe I don't belong here : a memoir of race, identity, breakdown and recovery / David Harewood ; foreword by David Olusoga

As a young man, recently graduated from drama school, David Harewood suffered a psychotic breakdown. In Maybe I Don’t Belong Here, Harewood shares his experience of psychosis, which led to him being hospitalised twice. He then takes us through the story of his recovery and the successful career as an actor which he went on to build. Maybe I Don’t Belong Here also examines the struggles with race, identity and racism, which Harewood has experienced as a black British man, and how these struggles contributed to the decline in his mental health and his development of psychosis. Towards the end of the book, many years after his recovery, Harewood talks about his decision to start speaking out about his experiences of mental illness and to revisit the time in his life when he was suffering from psychosis by making a documentary. This book offers an important insight into what it is like to experience psychosis. Harewood’s story also offers hope to anyone struggle with their own mental health.

A shelf of books on mental health from the Senate House Library Wellbeing Collection

Find out more

If you would like to see more of the books from the personal stories section of the Senate House Library Wellbeing Collection, you can find more information on the SHL Wellbeing Collection webpage. You are also welcome to browse the collection, which is shelved on the fourth floor of Senate House Library near the entrance gates. We continue to build this collection and are regularly adding new items. If you would like to recommend a book to add to the collection or if you have any comments which you would like to share with us, you can get in touch using our feedback form or by emailing