Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig – Published by Canongate, 2015
This is the true story of Matt Haig’s life and depression. The book was a bestseller and, in many ways, it could be helpful to other sufferers, especially those who are not sure what ails them. For example, some of the many descriptions of how he felt, the difficulty of even going to buy milk at the corner shop, the fear of never feeling “normal” could help those with similar feelings realise they aren’t alone.
My main criticism is that I wished he hadn’t been so negative about medication early in the book. Although he later concedes there are huge benefits for many, readers who might not be able to face reading more than a few pages at a time may be put off, yet for many, an appropriate medication regime can be life changing.
The sources of support and information at the end of the book are helpful, although I didn’t see the point of the long list of famous people who suffer/have suffered from depression.
I found some of the blurb and reviews quoted rather trite too eg “how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again” and “It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.”
I really wanted to love this book and find it helpful but, in the end, it’s like reading an edited diary where everything else and everyone else is peripheral. That’s not meant as a criticism, but occasionally it grates.
For many people with depression, I’m very much afraid this book would make them feel even more miserable. Perhaps then, the book might be of more help to the families, partners and friends of people living with mental health problems, especially those who might not understand the reality of mental illness.
For those who know someone with the signs of depression, please, please don’t tell them to cheer up. No one wants to be depressed. And for anyone out there feeling depressed, please seek help, talk to someone. You aren’t alone.