When I met Jeffrey Conrad at his apartment at Megunticook House in Camden, the first thing he did was invite me to look around at all of his things. After I’d done a quick self-guided tour of the living room, he invited me to look in his bedroom, which I did, with half a mind on things I was looking at and the other half on the fact that I was looking at them. Later, while reading one of Conrad’s self-published books, I realized the invitation had been an act of social grace.

Conrad had a breakdown in 1978. In the decades of recovery that followed, he wrote four books of practical advice for others who have fallen into crisis or are caring for people with mental health challenges. The books are modest contributions to the vast study of mental health — none is more than 40 pages, and the smallest, “Grace” (2003), contains just five pages of text. Each is carefully typeset. A recurring theme among them is peace, and how to find it.

“I think most people want to have fun,” Conrad said, “and at the same time, they want to be peaceful. I don’t think most people want to be agitated all the time.”

Conrad is 67 and has known some agitation. His apartment — a dark nest of a space filled salon-style with family portraits, books and the ephemera of a life lived — seems designed to keep it at bay. While we talked, classical music played from a stereo. An American cocker spaniel named Charles lay on the rug in front of Conrad with his eyes tilted up. A Brittany spaniel given to him by his mother a year after his breakdown had helped him learn, or relearn, companionship, he said. Charles is deaf. Conrad said they communicate with their eyes.

At the time of his breakdown, he was four years out of college and working at The Owl and Turtle Bookshop in Camden, which was then owned by his parents. He read extensively and it shows today in his choice of words and clarity of thought.

“When you have a breakdown, you are very overwhelmed by the scenario that you’re involved with,” he said. “Mostly overwhelmed because you’re aware of something that was going on before that you didn’t know was going on. And with the breakdown and therapy, you connect dots. It can be very troubling to witness what you went through.”

He keeps the details and causes of his breakdown private, but the books refer to some situations that can bring on debilitating psychosis, which in his case left him unable to function in the world for more than a year.

His first two books, “A Manual for Mental Wellness” and “Reflections on Mental Illness,” came out concurrently in 1993. It was the heyday of self-help books, but Conrad’s slim volumes show none of the self-important hype and book-length padding of their contemporaries. The writing is calm and direct, drawn from experience and the work of psychologists Gerald Jampolsky and Abraham Low. His subsequent writings track through a period of time when the perception of mental health challenges changed dramatically, from black-and-white diagnoses that branded people as abnormal to something like a continuum on which nobody is 100-percent healthy but everyone is OK.

“I was a squeaky voice in 1990, but in 2010 it was all over the place,” he said.

He conceived the books around themes that can be called upon in any order as needed, like a book of prayer. Many of the short chapters seem to say: put down this book whenever you want.

The books invite silence, suggesting that grace can be achieved by taking stock of what we’ve been living with.

For more information, visit recoverandstaywell.com.