The book I'm reading now (see sidebar) is a compilation of short pieces and excerpts by women covering two main themes.
Exposes on the treatment of women in assylums. These don't move me a lot - I feel like I almost expect such stories from such institutions.
Pieces, autobiographical or fictional masks of autobiographic themes, by women who have suffered or are suffering from breakdowns, mental illness, etc. A classic example is The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman.
This is fascinating! And adding books to my list:
In The Snake Pit, Mary Jane Ward brings you in to the point of view of the mentally ill. Her narrator flits from subject to subject and refers to herself in the first, second, and third person. Imagine trying to get through life with such distraction. Of course, you have to wonder how much this condition was enhanced or even created by the electro-shock therapy they were giving her.
Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl, by a girl named "Renee", is a marvellous depiction of the visual, auditory, and spatial distortions she would experience at random, and the anxiety and fear that accompanied them.
Still have more to go, but these, at least will be added to the list. Excellent examples of the voice and perspective of those forced to look on life from a totally different angle.