Books: Self Injury and Mental Health
 

Over the past ten years there has been a surge in the number of books published about self-injury/self-harm. All of these are suitable for different types of people, but most will have a certain appeal to people who self-injure.

As an avid reader and being passionate about raising awareness about self-injury, I make it my aim to read pretty much anything which is written about the subject. However, there are still some gaps on my bookshelf, and books on my Amazon wishlist.

Some book might be too graphic for individuals depending on their frame of mind at the time of reading. Other books have a particularly religious tone, so will appeal only to certain people. Many are geared towards either healthcare professionals or academics. Depending on what you are after in a book about self-injury, there is bound to be something that will suit you. Hopefully these reviews will give you a better idea before you commit to buying – some of the books are quite expensive!

The books are divided into two main types – those which are mainly information based or with self-help advice, and those which are autobiographical accounts (or fiction books based around real-life experiences) of individual’s experiences with self-injury. Some books combine a combination of both, and most information-based books use case-studies to illustrate, so the majority of books will be in this first category.

Most of the books have brief reviews (the majority of which were written by Mary Hillery), but some haven’t yet been reviewed. However, in time this will be a pretty comprehensive list of the literature available.

These reviews are the personal opinion of the reviewers, but we hope that they help you to decide whether or not to buy. Please note some of the books are out of print and not easy to obtain.

Please feel free to e-mail Mary(marymoose@excite.com) with the subject line “Book reviews” if you have any feedback, constructive criticism, comments, or suggestions of what other books I should read.

Most of these books should be available from amazon.com or can be ordered from your local library.

If you would like to suggest any books for this page please email wolfbane@Scar-tissue.net.

 

Information and Self Help 
Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation
by Steven Levenkron

Particularly suitable for therapists, and family members of those who self-injure.

‘Cutting’ was published in 1999, and at the time was a very useful addition to the literature on self-injury. Levenkron is a psychotherapist, and his book uses case-studies to illustrate self-harm and how complex it is. It is probably of most use to therapists, but also has some useful information about how to help people who self-harm.

____________________
The Scarred Soul: Understanding and Ending Self Inflicted Violence
by Tracy Alderman

Particularly suitable for people who self-injure who enjoy writing exercises, especially younger people.

Tracy Alderman is a clinical psychologist, and wrote this book to help people who self-harm to understand their behaviour.

To quote from Amazon, the author said: “My hope is that The Scarred Soul will help educate people on the topic of self-inflicted violence. There are numerous activities designed to help you better understand and cope with this difficult issue. Therapists, friends and family members of people who engage in self-inflicted violence can also benefit from reading this book. I wrote this book because the topic is so misunderstood and largely ignored. I hope you find it useful.”

The book is a workbook and includes exercises for the reader to complete and will be useful for many people on their road to recovery.

____________________
Self Harm Behaviors and Eating Disorders
by John Levitt, Randy Sansone & Leigh Cohn (Editors)

Much of the literature about self-injury alludes to the relationship between self-injury and eating disorders. Indeed, the research I did for LifeSIGNS in 2006 research found that there is a link between the two! Therefore, I was interested to read this book to develop further understanding about this link. Be warned, this is not a light-hearted read. It is a textbook, and it can be very hard-going. It will be useful for certain healthcare professionals, and for researchers.

The book is split into four sections (split into 17 chapters all by different authors): Epidemiology (co-morbidity rates, cultural contexts etc), Psychodynamics (relationships between self-injury and eating disorders in terms of their functions), Assessment (how to measure EDs and SI), and Treatment.

The section on treatment is the largest, and looks at DBT, CBT, Intervention with family/friends, group therapy, and medications, among other therapeutic strategies to deal with self-injury and eating disorders.

The book does have an overall emphasis on eating disorders – essentially it is focusing upon how to help people with eating disorders who also self-injure. Certainly give this book a look if you work with people who self-injure (whether they have an eating disorder or not), or if you’re like me and want to find out anything and everything you possibly can about self-injury, or are an academic. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it.

____________________
Beyond Fear and Control working with young people who self-harm
Eds. Helen Spandler & Sam Warner

This book is split into three sections – ‘Working Alongside Young People’, ‘Abuse, Oppression and Self-Harm’, and ‘Strategies of Survival’. Each section consists of four chapters, all of which look at different aspects of self-injury, and are written by a diverse selection of authors including service users, and a variety of healthcare professionals.

The books was commissioned by 42nd Street with the aim of showing how useful it is to work with young people who self-injure using a young-person-centred approach. Many different areas are addressed – listening to the voices of people who self-injure, informal support, group-work, issues of sexual and racial abuse, dissociation, BPD and unhelpful labelling, the law surrounding self-injury, young people in prisons, and harm minimisation – and some extremely interesting information is provided.

The book will be a useful resource to healthcare professionals and those supporting people who self-injure. It is also a useful book for anyone wishing to further their knowledge of self-injury, particularly academics. Rather than simply focusing on the facts about self-injury, practical information about ways to really help people who self-injure is given – this is invaluable!

Some of the descriptions of self-injury in the book do tend to be a bit graphic. I also felt that there was a bit too much emphasis on the National Self-Harm Network (NSHN) throughout without acknowledging other sources of information available.

____________________
A Bright Red Scream: Self-mutilation and the Language of Pain
Marilee Strong, Armando R. Favazza (Intro)

This book consists of a wide variety of case studies of people who self-injure (based upon extensive research carried out in the early 1990s), along with a great deal of information about self-injury, and sources of help.

The book does have graphic descriptions of self-injury from the start, and some of the stories are upsetting, so this book should not be read by someone in a vulnerable state of mind. However, it is an excellent resource for those wanting to find out more about self-injury and the different types of people who are affected by it.

____________________
Healing the Hurt Within: Understand Self-injury and Self-harm, and Heal the Emotional Wounds
Jan Sutton

STAR READ – this book is suitable for anyone wanting to know more about self-injury. An excellent book for someone with little / no prior knowledge of the subject and well as those who already have a good understanding, including healthcare professionals, those who self-injure, and their family / friends.

Now available as a third edition, this is an excellent overview of self-harm, and is highly recommended.

____________________
Bodies Under Siege: Self-mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry
by Armando R. Favazza

STAR READ – this book is an essential read for those with an academic interest in self-injury, and will also be of use to healthcare professionals.

This was perhaps the first serious look at self harm, published back in 1996. ‘Bodies Under Siege’ is the most academically based book on self-injury that I have read, and it can be hard-going at times. Whilst it is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking read, it is very graphic and not suitable for the squeamish, or those in a vulnerable state of mind.

Favazza discusses the history of self-injury (or self-mutilation as it is referred to throughout the book) and places it within the social context in which it has taken place, for instance in relation to religious beliefs, and customs in certain cultures. He uses case studies and clinical examples to illustrate his points. Perhaps the most shocking parts of the book are where limb and genital mutilation are discussed. The most extreme forms of self-injury (and those which seem beyond belief) are described in explicit detail – those injuries which occur in patients with severe psychotic illnesses.

The more common forms of self-injury are explained, and Favazza makes a distinction between those that are socially acceptable and those that are not. Self-injury can be present as a part of many different mental disorders, and Favazza discusses ways in which it can be treated, although noting that it is a difficult problem to treat.

Since this is the second edition of the book (the first was published in 1987) knowledge about self-injury has come a long way, and this newer edition highlights the medical advances that have been made. I feel that the book offers some hope towards a better understanding of self-injury. I finish with a quote, showing how Favazza views self-injurers as just the same as everyone else: “Self-mutilators seek what we all seek: an ordered life, spiritual peace – and maybe even salvation – and a healthy mind in a healthy body.” (p.323)

____________________
Deliberate Self-Harm in Adolescence
by Claudine Fox (Editor), Keith Hawton (Editor)

____________________
Working with Self-Harming Adolescents
A Collaborative, Strengths-Based Therapy Approach
by Matthew Selekman

 

In this book Selekman uses his personal experiences as a therapist to offer suggestions as to how to treat young people who self-injure. The book is based around Selekman’s success stories of females generally between 15-17 years of age. It needs to be remembered that this book is written for a US audience, and parts of it are just not applicable to the UK.

It all does sound very idealistic to me, and above all – expensive! Selekman focuses upon the solution oriented brief family therapy, and I do feel that a family approach is useful for many young people who self-injure. However, I feel that throughout the book self-injury is over-simplified. Selekman assumes that with his therapy everyone will be able to stop self-injuring in a relatively short time period.

Some of the parental advice is useful, and Selekman does work towards dispelling some of the misconceptions about self-injury. He also recognises that most people will have slips and setbacks on their roads to recovery, and that therapy very much depends upon the individual and what is right for them.

On the whole this book might provide some useful information for therapists. However, while it is interesting, it is repetitive, and is certainly not a star read!

____________________
Understanding Self Harm
an introductory booklet from Mind, for £1

Especially suitable for someone who wants a quick guide to self-injury.

£1, or read it online first at Mind. This is a useful short guide to self-injury. It is ideal for someone who wants a brief overview without being given too much information, particularly as a resource for someone who self-injures to give to their family/friends to help them to understand a bit more about self-injury.

____________________
Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers
Conterio & Lader

The first part of this book focuses upon what self-injury is, and its links to other problems and disorders. Unlike some books, “Bodily Harm” has a chapter dedicated to male self-injury which is useful where there is a lack of information around this area.

The section about what family members and ‘significant others’ should know is particularly useful. The question and answer section provides people with ways to deal with a loved one’s self-injury, and offers advice for them.

The second part of the book is about the S.A.F.E (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) programme, which was founded by the authors in the USA. The 30-day S.A.F.E programme is intense, but the methods used are controversial, for instance the use of a no-harm contract. While this sort of treatment might not be appropriate for all people who self-injure (availability of treatment is also a big issue), there is no doubt that people have been helped to combat self-injury using this programme (this is illustrated with case studies), and therefore makes an interesting read.

____________________
Treating Self-Injury: A Practical Guide
Barent W. Walsh

STAR READ – This book is essential reading for ALL healthcare professionals coming into contact with people who self-injure.

Drawing from his own vast experience of working with people who self-injure over more than 30 years, and extensive research into literature about self-injury, Walsh provides a comprehensive resource for professionals who come into contact with self-injury. Walsh takes into account the variety of reasons behind self-injury, and offers a guide to treatment which is suitable for everyone.

I cannot praise this book highly enough. Walsh includes general information about self-injury as well as much needed practical information for professionals, I have not previously come across such a useful tool contained in one book.

This is essential reading for every mental health professional and therapist, but it will also be of use to GPs, those working in educational setting, people with an interest in self-injury, and also for those who injure themselves if they are interested in academically based information on self-injury!

I have had e-mail contact with Barent Walsh and he is a great bloke. He kindly wrote the foreword for the LifeSIGNS self-injury booklet.

____________________
Life After Self-Harm: A Guide to the future
Ulrike Schmidt and Kate Davidson

Especially suitable for those who are suicidal.

The title of this book is misleading. The focus is really on suicide prevention rather than self-injury. Throughout the book there is no clear distinction made between suicide and self-injury as they are lumped together as one. It is also implied that self-injury/suicidal behaviour is often used as a tool for manipulating people.

That said, some of the exercises might be useful for people who self-injure, and a lot of the information is good advice for those who are suicidal. However, as a tool for dealing with most cases of self-injury, I can’t see it as being particularly useful or groundbreaking.

____________________
Secret Scars: Uncovering and Understanding the Addiction of Self-injury
by V.J. Turner

This book looks at self-injury from an addictions perspective. While this might be a useful approach for many people who self-injure, the author fails to acknowledge that it is just one perspective. Self-injury does not necessarily have to be an addiction in the traditional sense.

The 12 Step Programme, which originated from Alcoholics Anonymous is mentioned throughout the book and is applied to self-injury. There are many references made to God, a “Higher Power” and the use of religion in overcoming self-injury. The use of no-harm contracts in therapy is promoted, with no mention of the damaging consequences that these might have. Although there is some useful information such as the discussion of different types of therapy, this book is an over-generalised view of self-injury much of which stems from the author’s personal experience with self-injury. I also felt that with its emphasis on childhood sexual and physical abuse that the book serves to reinforce stereotypes of self-injury.

____________________
Women and Self-harm (The Women’s Press Handbook Series)
by Gerrilyn Smith

As the title suggests, this book focuses solely on women who self-injure. Written by people with personal experience of self-injury, this book dispels some of the myths surrounding the subjects, and is well written and easy to understand. Explanations of self-injury, how to access services, conventional treatments, and self-help are discussed. There is also a section for family/friends and how they can help, which at the time of writing was a much-neglected aspect of self-injury. Since it was published in 1999 much other literature on self-injury has been published. Therefore while it might have been extremely useful when it first came out, things have moved on since then. However, it is still a useful resource.

____________________
Self-Injury: When Pain Feels Good (Resources for Changing Lives)
by Edward T. Welch

The format of this booklet is good as it is small, and ideal for someone who just wants a brief guide to self-injury. However, the information given is very Christian orientated (it is part of a series of booklets called “Resources for Changing Lives”) and therefore will not be suitable for many people (even those who are religious), as it gives a very one-sided view of self-injury.

____________________
Self-Harm: A Psychotherapeutic Approach
by Fiona Gardner

This book is aimed towards people who work with those who self-injure. It is based upon the author’s experience in a clinic where she worked with a number of self-injuring clients as a psychoanalytical psychotherapist. She looks at the social and cultural factors behind the self-injury of her case studies, and focuses upon the meaning behind the act of self-injury.

Although it is an original look at self-harm, the book is pretty hard going and slightly repetitive. However I do feel that it might be a useful tool for certain therapists and counsellors, and those training for a career in therapy.

____________________
When Your Child Is Cutting: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Overcome Self-Injury
Sony Khemlani-Patel

I am enthusiastic about the concept of this book, and think that it could be a useful resource for some parents.

However, much of the information given is only of use to those living in the USA – for instance how to go about getting professional help for a child who self-injures (which takes up a great deal of the book). Even for those in the USA, it will only be of use to those who are fortunate enough to have the resources to ‘shop around’ for the most appropriate psychologists/psychiatrists etc.

Whether or not this book is useful will also depend upon your relationship with your child, and whether or not your child is ready to accept help.

____________________
By Their Own Young Hand: Deliberate Self Harm and Suicidal Ideas in Adolescents
Keith Hawton

Particularly of use to people working in secondary education.

Based upon a large-scale research project of 15/16 year olds in the UK, and background research, this book investigates the extent of the problem of suicidal ideas, and self-harm in adolescence. However, this is actually misleading as it is far more focussed upon suicide (and suicide attempts) than self-harm/self-injury. I felt that the distinction between self-injury and suicide was not made clear which might serve to reinforce ideas about people who self-injure being suicidal.

There is some useful information given, and it is useful to learn more about suicide and possible prevention strategies. The book also highlights the need for school staff to be educated more about self-injury and suicide.

I actually wrote to Keith Hawton following reading this book with my concerns…and the upshot was, don’t try to argue with a professor from Oxford Uni!

____________________
Hidden Self-harm: Narratives from Psychotherapy
Maggie Turp

This book offers a unique and otherwise unexplored view of self-harm. By using case-studies from her own experience as a counsellor, Turp uses the term self-harm as a very broad concept including lack of self-care as being a form of self-harm, in addition to the more visible forms of self-injury!

Turp is particularly interested in the skin, the symbolic nature of self-harm, and ways to self-sooth. She certainly offers a different perspective, and her book is likely to be of particular use to therapists. Many of her points raised are important – self-harm is not necessarily highly visible. However, she does focus on self-harm in its broadest sense, rather than on self-injury as such.

____________________
Cut: Mercy for Self-Harm (Mercy for)
Nancy Alcorn

Although it is less that 100 pages long, I really struggled to finish reading this. To say it is absolute drivel is an understatement. Basically self-harm is the work of Satan. Embrace God and everything will be fine. There is absolutely no mention of healthcare professionals, people should instead only talk to ‘mature Christians’. I imagine that this book will do more harm than good to any Christians struggling with self-harm.

____________________
Women Living with Self-injury
Jane Wegscheider Hyman

As a relatively old book (in terms of the self-injury literature available), I was surprised that I had not come across this book earlier. The book is based around case studies of a number of women. As the title would indicate, the book is only about the experiences of women – it also only uses case studies of women who have been through traumatic childhoods experiencing sexual abuse. There is a useful section about help for people who self-injure. However, descriptions of self-harm are particularly graphic, and add to the fact that the book is slightly out-dated, “Women Living with Self-Injury” is only really for those with a desire to read everything about self-injury available!

____________________
Inside a Cutter’s Mind: Understanding and Helping Those Who Self-Injure
Jerusha Clark and Earl Henslin

This is another self-injury book with a religious undertone. Thankfully it isn’t as bad as some, and there is some useful information in it.

Clark gives examples of many different experiences of self-injury, and different ways in which people can be helped.

An interesting feature is information about brain scans written by Henslin. I am sure that what is said is only one side of the story, but it is still a different outlook on self-injury. The information regarding therapy is also useful, although it is based on the USA.

If you want a Christian based book about self-injury then this is probably the best one to get. However, as a non-religious person I struggled to read to the end.

____________________
Reviving Ophelia
Mary Pipher

____________________
I Hate You Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality
Jerold J. Kreisman & Hal Straus

 

A study of borderline personality including its history, symptoms and possible reasons.

____________________
Cutting the Risk Self harm, Self care and Risk Reduction
National Self-harm Network

 

This is one of the earlier books about self-harm, and I don’t think it is in print any longer. It is unusual in that it focuses primarily on issues of harm minimisation. Therefore, until more literature surrounding harm minimisation has been published, this book contains information not available elsewhere. Particularly useful are the discussions on basic anatomy (and diagrams) although I have to admit that some of the descriptions made me feel somewhat squeamish. The publication is short and quick to read, but a valuable addition to my bookshelf. I enjoyed reading the contributions from the various authors – along with the more serious stuff, there are laughs included!

____________________
Self Harm – Perspectives from personal experience
Louise Pembroke

 

Primarily based around Louise Pembroke’s personal experiences of self-harm (although including stories from others) this book was one of the first to look at self-harm from an insider’s perspective. While some comments are slightly controversial and I’m not sure that I agree with everything (particularly the focus on women who self-harm) it is certainly an interesting and thought-provoking quick read. The book is illustrated with cartoons drawn by Louise, which is a nice touch.

Since both this and Cutting the Risk have been co-written by Louise Pembroke there is a slight overlap in the information. However, I feel that they compliment each other.

____________________
Stopping the Pain: A Workbook for Teens Who Cut and Self-Injure (Paperback)
Lawrence Shapiro

 

This workbook is designed to be used by teenagers who are under the care of a therapist. It is very much an interactive tool rather than giving information about self-harm, and is therefore a useful addition to resources for people who self-harm. There are various exercises to be worked through and talked about with the therapist. It might also be of use to those who do not have a therapist, at least to work through some of their feelings, although best if there is at least someone to talk about the exercises with. The book is aimed at teenagers, but I think that many of the activities would be suitable for older people as well.

____________________
Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament
Kay Redfield Jamison

STAR READ– The anguished and volatile intensity associated with the artistic temperament was once thought to be a symptom of genius or eccentricity peculiar to artists, writers and musicians. Kay Jamison’s work, based on her study as a clinical psychologist and researcher in mood disorders, reveals that many artists subject to exalted highs and despairing lows were in fact engaged in a struggle with clinically identifiable manic-depressive illness. Jamison presents proof of the biological foundations of this disease and applies what is known about the illness to the lives and works of some of the world’s greatest artists including Byron, Van Gogh, Schumann and Woolf.

 

 

________________________________________Autobiography and Fiction
 

Secret Scars – One woman’s story of overcoming self-harm
Abigail Robson

This autobiography tells of Abigail Robson’s personal struggles with self-injury and eating disorders, and how she overcame her problems.

A lot of Abbie’s experiences are centred around her religious beliefs and relationship with God. For this reason I don’t think that it is the sort of book which will appeal to everyone with an interest in autobiographical accounts of self-injury. However, it is well-written and I can see how it might particularly be of use to Christians who are struggling with self-injury and those who care about them.

As with many books there are some descriptions of self-injury which might be triggering for people, but on the whole it is a fairly easy read.

____________________
Comes the Darkness, Comes the Light
Vanessa Vega

There haven’t been many autobiographical accounts of self-injury. Written as a dialogue between Vanessa and her therapist (in individual and group therapy), this is a compelling read of an individual’s struggles with both self-injury and anorexia.

I was a bit concerned towards the start of the book where Vanessa was asked by her therapist to show her injuries: “Now go on, show me what you’re talking about so I can see the level of injury we’re dealing with here.” (page 11) I felt that this might reinforce the misunderstanding about the link between the physical injury and the amount of emotional distress behind the act. It might also make people think that they must show therapists their injuries and thus deter them from seeking help.

Of course I appreciate that this is what Vanessa experienced. However, I feel that with autobiographical accounts that there is a danger of them being seen as “the truth”. There is no “one truth” about self-injury – everyone is unique and experiences with self-injury and treatment will vary considerably. Perhaps a disclaimer could have been included right at the beginning to explain this point. A disclaimer could also be used to warn readers that there are graphic descriptions of self-injury in the book (and might perhaps give people ideas for methods to self-injure), and to suggest that people should not read the book when feeling vulnerable.

Vanessa is clearly a talented writer, and I commend her strength and honesty in telling her story. It is particularly useful that Vanessa makes it clear that the road towards recovery is not an easy one, and that self-injury is not something that people can just stop. It is also pleasing to read an account which is not a teenaged girl’s experience of self-injury – the fact that Vanessa began self-injury at a very early age and continued into adulthood just goes to illustrate that self-injury affects people of all ages – not just teenagers!

On the whole I feel that this is a positive contribution to the existing self-injury literature. I hope that some people might be able to get an insight into their own self-injury from reading this – particularly those who have been abused or invalidated as a child. I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy reading autobiographies – I certainly couldn’t put it down!

____________________
Red Tears
Joanna Kenrick

This is an excellent fiction book for young people. I could relate to a lot of the main character’s experiences. I would highly recommend this book, and have had e-mail conversations with the author, who is a lovely person.

____________________
The Luckiest Girl in the World
Steven Levenkron

Written by Stephen Levenkron (author of “Cutting”), this fiction book for young adults tells the story of 15 year old Katie. A promising figure skater and grade A student, it looks like Katie has it all. But, the enormous pressures Katie is under have led her to be hiding a secret, that she is self-injuring. The story looks at how people find out about Katie’s self-injury, and her journey towards recovery with the help of a therapist (who I imagine is based upon the author).

Although it is a reasonable enough book, I absolutely hate the way it refers to Katie’s behaviour as self-mutilation, and as a form of psychosis. I recognise that the book is now over 10 years old and things have developed. However, certain parts of the book certainly made me feel uneasy.

____________________
Crosses
Shelley Stoehr

This book was first published back in 1991 and was the debut novel of Shelley Stoehr. The story is about 15 year old Nancy (written in the first person) and her relationship with her best friend Katie from the years of 1985 to 1988. Having problems with her parents, Nancy turns to drink, drugs and self-harm, and her and Katie follow a path of destruction. Although self-harm was portrayed as a coping mechanism (of sorts), I felt it was also reinforcing the stereotype of self-injury being attention-seeking. Although the book is set in the USA in the 1980s and I realise that I am coming from a very different perspective, I feel that it is a completely unrealistic portrayal of self-harm, and as a young adult book I would imagine that it would do more harm than good to teenagers reading it today.

____________________
Cut
Patricia McCormick

I have to confess I didn’t like the way the book was written. It seemed far too simplistic to me, though I do know that the book was aimed at a young adult audience. On the one hand it was good because it simplified things into terms that everyone could understand, but It didn’t make me think; it was an easy read but for me there wasn’t that much substance to it which made me pause to consider or reconsider things.

Saying that though, I did find myself in tears at some parts of the book, mainly because I think I was able to relate to the main character and what she was going through. I only cry occasionally when I’m reading books, and that’s usually when they may me think, usually when they make me think on a deeper level of feeling than when I was reading this book, so I was a bit annoyed by my reaction.

There was a distinct change about halfway through the book when the main character starts talking; then they become like a big family, but for me that transition seemed too easy, almost too forced. The story seemed quite moralistic to me, and while I guess it’s hard to write a book on any form of SI without it being moralistic I did feel like I was being preached to.

While I could relate to the characters I was overly fond of the book or the story. I think for someone who’s just coming to terms with their cutting and isn’t sure why they do it and why they don’t want to stop, this is a good book to read, but for me there were too many problems with the ‘moral of the tale being…’ for me to actually enjoy it.
Bethan Jones

____________________
Out of the Dark
Linda Caine and Robin Royston

An account of Linda Caine’s struggle with depression and suicidal feelings, told from the point of view of both Linda, and her pyschotherapist, Robin.

While I initially felt that Linda’s references to her belief in God would make this a book with a much more ‘Christian’ view of surviving depression, it remained very much in the background for the majority of the book. I found it an extremely well written account of depression from both the point of view of the sufferer, and the therapist trying to help her. Most books on depression are written either from a totally personal, or totally academic point of view, and being able to see the therapist as a person with his own concerns and worries made for an interesting, and more empathetic read.

I did find this book hard to read in some places, it reflecting some of my own experiences a bit too closely, but overall I thought it was a well written book which was easy, and in some ways enjoyable, to read. I think the only thing that spoiled it for me was the ‘cure’ of the depression by prayer – but I think that this is because of my own beliefs rather than an inherent problem with the book.
Bethan Jones

____________________
Bloodletting: A True Story of Secrets,Self-harm and Survival
Victoria Leatham

A personal account of a girl’s experience with self-harm and her treatment in Australia.

____________________
Beyond the Razor’s Edge: journey of healing and hope beyond self-injury
Judy Redheffer & Sarah Brecht

This is a collection of stories from individuals who have completed the S.A.F.E programme, written in their own unedited words.

It is clear that the S.A.F.E programme has helped numerous individuals. However, this book is not the most interesting of reads, and in my own opinion will only appeal to a limited number of people, perhaps those who are considering using the programme.

____________________
Cutting it Out
Carolyn Smith

This book tells the story of one woman, her self-injury, and her journey to recovery through psychotherapy. While it is fictitious, it is based upon the author’s personal experiences.

The book is very easy to read, and absorbing. While it can be upsetting at times, Smith writes with humour, and also offers a strong message of hope, and emphasises the benefits of therapy. The author makes it easy to empathise with the main character. Through delivering the story from the perspective of a person who self-injures, this book illustrates how someone who self-injures is a normal person, and that they don’t necessarily fit the stereotypes traditionally associated with self injury.

____________________
Skin Game
Caroline Kettlewell

This is probably the first published autobiographical account of an individual’s experience with self-injury. Kettlewell is fairly graphic in her descriptions, so those who get triggered easily should avoid reading it.

It is always interesting to read how different each case of self-injury can be, therefore illustrating what a diverse disorder it is, and how it can affect people from all walks of life.

____________________
No More Pain!: Breaking the Silence of Self-injury
Vicki F. Duffy

“No More Pain” combines a mixture of an autobiographical account of the author’s struggles with self-injury, and advice to people who self-injure.

Duffy went through a traumatic childhood, and suffered from various mental disorders along with self-injury as a result. Her self-injury was severe, and descriptions of injuries are in explicit detail. However, Duffy ‘found God’ and as a result she no longer felt the need to self-injure, take her medication, and no longer suffered from mental illness.

While some of the advice in this book is good, I feel that it is a very simplistic view of self-injury, and referring to Bible passages and God in every chapter is not going to appeal to the majority of people who self-injure whether they are religious or not. Duffy fails to realise that people can be religious but still suffer from mental disorders, and that while religion was a miracle cure for her, it is unlikely to be for most people.

____________________
Peeling Back the Layers
JoEllen Adams

This is an autobiographical account of a specific type of self-injury (sexual self-injury), which is an area that has been missed in most of the literature about self-injury. Sexual self-injury has additional stigma attached to it, and the author’s honest and moving account is thought provoking.

____________________
In Search of Adam
Caroline Smailes

This is the fictional story of Jude Williams who, at the age of 6, finds her mother dead from an overdose. So begins a harrowing description of Jude’s life until the age of 18.

Written in quite a child-like language and sentence structure the book deals with sexual abuse, self injury, eating disorders and suicide in a particularly graphic way. Being totally honest, I did not like this book; it contained too many triggers and left me feeling particularly unsettled. I also disliked the style in which it was written.
Bethan Jones

____________________
Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obessive Childhood
Jennifer Traig

Recalling the agony of growing up as an obsessive- compulsive religious fanatic, Traig fearlesslessly confesses the most peculiar behaviour – like scrubbing her hands for a full half-hour before meals, feeding her stuffed animals before herself and washing everything she owned because she thought it was contaminated by pork fumes.

____________________
The Quiet Room: Journey Out of the Torment of Madness
Lori Schiller

The autobiography of a recovered schizophrenic.

____________________
Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America – A Memoir
Elizabeth Wurtzel

An account, both harrowing and amusing, of the author’s dependence on Prozac, prescribed for her after a series of suicide attempts and breakdowns. She describes her experiences and her determination to get herself off medication.
Bethan Jones

____________________
Unquiet Mind
Kay Redfield Jamison

A personal testimony from Kay Redfield Jamison (author of various books on depression), talking about her struggle with manic depression since adolescence, and how it has shaped her life. Highly recommended.
Bethan Jones

____________________
Unholy Ghost writers on depression
Nell Casey (ed)

Stories told by writers about dealing with depression; either in themselves or in those close to them. Although I read this book some time ago I remember being moved by the words, and the way they were put on the page.
Bethan Jones

____________________
Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression
Lewis Wolpert

Lewis Wolpert is Professior of Biology as Applied to Medicine at University College, London, and several years ago had a severe depressive episode during which he was able to think only of suicide. This book is his recollection of that episode, written from the point of view of both a sufferer and scientist.

Wolpert looks at psychological explanations–which focus on the importance of loss and early experience–and biological research which looks at brain functioning and chemistry. He discusses various treatments for depression, such as medication and psychotherapy, with an analysis of what works and for whom.
Bethan Jones

____________________
The Noonday Demon
Andrew Solomon

Andew Solomon’s book digs into the personal experience of depression and mental illness, while also considering the wider picture: the historical, social, biological, pharmaceutical and medical aspects and implications of the disease.

Having experienced what he is writing about firsthand, Solomon describes the experience from the inside. He has also researched every aspect of depression, including the historical treatment and study of “melancholy” as far back as the Greeks and Romans, through to the side effects of the pharmaceutical cocktails of the present day.

On a par with Kay Redfield Jamison’s books this is a higly recommended text.