When you need reminding

A recent Government report said that suicide rates in the UK are "unacceptable". Shockingly, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 49, and of anyone between the ages of 15-24. And as Matt Haig reveals in his book Reasons to stay alive, as far as men are concerned the statistics are worrying. Oddly although depression as a whole affects twice as many women as men, suicide rates are markedly different though with around 3:1 men-women committing suicide in the UK. The Department of Health have been collecting statistics on suicide since 1981. In '81 men were 1.9 times more likely to kill themselves. The figure now however is nearer to 3.5, which is tragic and shocking and depressing on so many levels.

Matt Haig himself has suffered with depression and has been near suicidal, and his book Reasons to stay alive does what it says. It tells the story of his own battles with depression, how he managed to come back from that, and his thoughts for the future. As he's quick to point out, his own struggles with mental health will not be like any one else's (one of the problems with depression, I suspect, is that it is a horribly individual illness - my demons will not be yours (thank goodness as I wouldn't wish them on anyone), but then yours won't be mine either). However, as someone who is currently struggling with depression, there's much that I recognise in this book, and it is oddly comforting to know that you're not alone. Other people have been there too, and some of them (most of them!) will have made it back from the edge of the abyss.

For a book that's on such a dark subject, it's an oddly life affirming book too. It's even occasionally funny, in that edge of black humour way that a lot of depressives will be familiar with. The "Things Depression says to you" made me laugh out loud; even though only a few weeks ago, some of these things were exactly what I was thinking, and it wasn't so funny then (aren't brains both wonderful and wonderfully weird things?) - "Hey. Remember your dog, Murdoch? He's dead. Like your grandparents. Everyone you have ever met will be dead this time next century."

And then there was the chapter on "Things people say to depressives that they don't say in other life-threatening situations". These made me laugh, groan, and, yes, feel angry because this was just so real, so close, so raw. Depression isn't easy, it's not easy having it, it's not easy living with someone who's struggling to deal with it; but dealing with rejection on top of what you've already got swirling round in your head is unspeakably tough. I've got to say a big thank you here to all my friends (especially Anne, Clare, Debbie, Liz, Sandra and Welly, and the FB gang who sent caring messages) who made life slightly more bearable.

Reasons to stay alive - Happy memories...
I don't think that Reasons to stay alive would have been a book that I could have read when I was at the bottom of the trough of depression, but on the way slowly back up, it's been something to cling on to. Matt Haig's idea of a bank of good and bad days has been something I've found useful, even if only to try to make some sort of sense out of spectacularly bad days. 

Beautiful places...
For anyone who has struggled with mental health issues - especially depression, anxiety or panic attacks, Reasons to stay alive is worth its weight in gold. It's also enormously useful for anyone with friends or relatives who are struggling with those issues, if only to get a slight idea of what it's like to be inside the mind of someone with depression. A book that's readable, useful, and perhaps even life-saving.

(Talking helps for me. If you don't have anyone to talk to, or just don't want to bend that particular ear yet again with the hamster that's running around on your interior wheel, the Samaritans are brilliant, and are available to phone for free on 116 123). 


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