YMCA - Why Not?

Self-Help Books Are Anything but Helpful

Words by Justine, 19 QLD

Many young people are suffering from mental illness these days, especially anxiety and depression. It’s hard being a young person in a world with so much developing technology and a world where schools are putting more and more pressure on students to succeed at all costs. Whilst borrowing a self-help book from a library might seem like an easy way to explore your issues, the wealth of information out there can be alarming. This is especially the case considering how a lot of it isn’t even correct, or helpful in any way.

Self-help books masquerade as a provider of hope, but they’re really nothing more than a money-grab aimed at people who will pay anything to seek help. There’s a deluge of these on the market if you look. Authors selling such books, often at exorbitant prices, are taking advantage of people – a lot of self-help ‘authors’ aren’t even particularly qualified to write such books. If an author writes multiple self-help books on vastly different topics, that’s an automatic red flag. Of course, this isn’t universal. Some authors have university degrees in this kind of thing, and work in the psychology or psychiatry sector. In fact, some self-help books are recommended by psychologists. But it’s definitely something to watch out for. Given that people sometimes approach a self-help book as a lifeline, these books can end up being terribly disappointing when they inevitably fail to deliver a perfect solution.

The internet is even more of an information rabbit hole. There’s bound to be good advice in amongst it all, but it can be tricky to sift it out from all the misguided rubbish. It’s easy enough to spend hours hiding behind a computer searching desperately, but this tends to lead to confusion, rather than any increase in confidence or change in mindset. Depressed and/or anxious individuals are in danger of convincing themselves that the more they read, the better they will understand themselves. In reality, this bewildering search is an all too common form of avoidance behaviour. Mental illness has a funny way of convincing people that hiding away is the best decision, when really, it’s one of the worst things to do if you’re feeling low. Even when the information is helpful and well-considered, if the reader isn’t motivated to take action on the provided tips, they’re essentially useless.

Another element of the internet that can seem positive at first are chat forums. Forums can, of course, help to make a person feel a little less alone, but seeking out face-to-face interactions is much better for dispelling the sense of isolation that comes with mental illness. Even if it’s incredibly difficult, interacting with other people is a major step towards getting better.

Mental illness is all too prevalent in this current day and age. It’s an issue everyone should try to engage with, but self-help books aren’t the best way to promote conversation. It’s hard to find good, helpful advice when there’s so much misguided writing out there. We need to be discerning in what we choose to read, (in self-help books or otherwise), and not blindly believe the most appealing story. Above all, though it’s been said many times before, people in trouble need to reach out, and those around them need to support them as they strive to get better.

Want to read more of Justine’s work? Check out her website here.

Why Not?

Keep asking… Why Not?