Reasons To Stay Alive

Before I begin this review, I feel it is important to point out the possibility that people might find it triggering. I found this to be the case for me and I would advise readers to take any necessary steps to protect their own mental health prior to reading this book.

I found this book easy to read and could certainly identify with some of the authors experiences and perspectives around the treatment and culture of stigma surrounding mental health and unlike many textbooks on the subject, it’s written by a service user from the service user perspective, which makes it easy to read, identify with and understand.

This book is a must read for anyone suffering from anxiety and depression and for those families and friends trying to support them.

There is a really useful chapter beginning on page 120. ‘How To Be There For Someone With Depression Or Anxiety’ which gives simple straightforward ideas on how to support someone in these situations.

I really think this book should be on every school, college and university curriculum and in every library, because sadly these educational establishments are often where anxiety and depression begin, but go undiagnosed, this may be due to a lack of understanding on the part of students and teachers about mental health, which can mean the warning signs are missed, as in the case of the author.

I was also impressed by Matt Haig’s honesty and insight into anxiety and depression from a male perspective

It takes courage to open up publicly about such sensitive subjects such as suicidal feelings and alcohol dependence. He also addresses the thorny subject of medication, which he states didn’t work for him, but he isn’t anti-medication, clearly as he says, it’s a matter of personal choice and the chapter starting on p.73 ‘Unknown unknowns’ confronts the medical hypothesis, which promotes the idea that depression is caused primarily by low levels of the chemical Seratonin and all that is needed to cure depression is medication to rebalance Seratonin levels in the brain. However, if this were always the case, then why do they work for some people and not for others?

If medication alone was the best answer then talking treatments would fail to work

...but they do work and for some people including me, they work very well indeed, as the author says. ‘We are our own best laboratory’.

This book takes the reader on a real rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, so be prepared to laugh and cry, I certainly did.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, it’s a candid and refreshingly honest account of one man’s journey through the turmoil and despair of depression and anxiety and eventually the long slow triumph over adversity, which many people will be able to identify with.

He openly admits that he survived these traumatic years, because of his girlfriend, now wife Andrea. He is clearly very grateful for her support and understanding, he shows real insight into how difficult it must have been for her coping with someone, with depression and anxiety. Reading this book has helped me realise just how important it is to acknowledge this and to share this book with our support network.

This book gives hope that no matter how far inside the long and seemingly endless  ‘tunnel’ of depression we are.

There are two openings, the entrance and the exit, and so if we have entered the tunnel, we can also exit the other end, which is a positive thought. Having been in this tunnel many times myself, I know that for me at least this is the case, I always exit that tunnel into the light of day and clearly, so does the author.

Matt Haig is not afraid to say what many of us feel, which comes through on p.26. ‘Things People Say To Depressives that They Don’t Say In Other Life Threatening Situations’. How many of us have had similar things said to us? Such as, ‘pull yourself together’, or ‘you don’t look ill’?
I wish I’d had a pound coin for each time someone has said these to me, which is another very good reason to pass this book on to everyone you know.

In conclusion, the book draws the reader into an all too familiar world; however, unlike many other books on this subject, it doesn’t try to quantify either that world, or the experience.

I found the book to be funny, insightful, sad, hopeful, but most of all honest and it should be provided on the N.H.S. along with, or instead of the pills.

Patricia Higgins.

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