Mental Health Awareness Month: You’re Never Alone with a Book

Mental Health Awareness Month

Have you ever read a book that just stays with you for years, no matter how many good books you read in between? Today, I’m going to share one of those books with you, that’s stuck with me for nine years now (gosh, it’s scary to think that I discovered it in Year 10!). Why am I sharing it with you now? Well, it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and Uncorked Thoughts and Blog of Erised are hosting a blogger event, where we share our experiences and thoughts about Mental Health.

Earlier this month, I shared about an interview I saw with a successful lawyer who battles depression. It inspired me, in that it helped me to see that success and mental illness aren’t mutually exclusive. Sure, it might make success a little more difficult, but not impossible!

Now, I’m going to tell you about one of my favourite books – and it just so happens that it revolves around depression.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta is the story of Francesca, as she navigates the treacherous waters of Year 11 in a school that only recently opened it’s super-traditional doors to girls. For most girls, leaving your best friends to go to a school your outspoken mother has chosen, and being surrounded by arrogant and/or smelly boys, would be enough to make high school difficult. However, when her beautiful, loving, loud mother suddenly stops getting out of bed in the morning, the usual high school woes pale in comparison to Francesca’s sudden new life.

This book is perfectly depicts how a vibrant, loving woman can turn into a shell of herself overnight – and how she won’t just snap out of it one day. But this book isn’t about Francesca’s mother. Really, it’s about how people’s loved ones cope, when the person they know suddenly isn’t there anymore.

As Francesca battles her way through the school year, she finds friendship in strange places. Sometimes she barely makes it through the school day, and other times she forgets for awhile what is happening at home. In many ways, the way that Francesca feels is also familiar to depression sufferers; sometimes getting through the day seems impossible, and other times you can forget the sadness for awhile.

The friendships that she makes are heartwarming, they literally make my heart ache with the desire to find such connections myself. None of the characters Marchetta writes are perfect; in fact, it’s their imperfections that make you love them all the more. Marchetta really has a talent for writing characters that leap of the page; her other books are equally fantastic and the characters just as riveting. Even better, she has written a sequel to Saving Francesca, called The Piper’s Son – set several years after the first book, and being just as enrapturing.

Not only is this book fantastic, but it’s meaningful on a deeper level – at least to me (and hopefully to other people who have experienced mental health in some way). I’ve never forgotten how it affected me; I’ve read it repeatedly, and each time I pick it up, it pulls me right back in. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Has anyone else read this book? Did it affect you in the same way? I’d love to know!

Blog Sign-off

Beyond Blue Offers Inspiration

Mental Health Awareness Month

Welcome to MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH at Annabel & Alice! If you haven’t already, head on over to Blog of Erised to read more about all the great posts going up around the blogosphere this month, and participate in a great giveaway, all in aid of raising the awareness of mental health in the community.

Today I’m going to share something that was a great inspiration to me. As you may know (or not, but that’s ok!), I’ve struggled with severe depression and anxiety for many years, though it’s been much worse over the past two years I suppose. For a long time, I exerted a huge amount of energy putting on a cheerful front and acting like I was A-OK all the time. However, eventually, I just didn’t have the energy left to maintain that ‘Happy’ mask. As I sunk further into depression, people around me slowly backed away. I graduated law school, but I defied expectations of being an immediate success, and didn’t throw myself into the intellectual and time pressured environment that was corporate law.

I grew up in a home where success is measured more in monetary security than good deeds. As the ‘smart one’ of the family, there was no question that I would be anything other than a traditional success. When I strayed from the standard path of degree-graduation-job, people definitely didn’t know how to react. Family and fellow graduates alike were confused. Those that knew the part that my depression played in my decision not to pursue the long hours and harsh environment of corporate law were still baffled about how to deal with that. In choosing a different path, and admitting that I had a mental health issue, I had somehow become a failure in their eyes.

This, to me, meant two things. Firstly, I felt that I had disappointed everyone, and somehow failed to live up to my potential. Secondly, I was saddened that it was so hard to have an open discussion about mental health without being judged, especially seeing as it’s so common in today’s society.

With regards to the first issue, I was lucky enough to stumble upon some very wise words that I often remind myself of when feeling like depression has made me a failure. Whilst on placement in a law firm, towards the end of my degree, we had a workplace seminar on mental health. 50% of lawyers suffer from depression, and the numbers just keep rising. Although firms now encourage more of a work-life balance, the long hours and depressing subject matter still take a dreadful toll. It was during this session that we were shown a clip from Beyond Blue, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of depression and anxiety.

The clip was an interview with Paul Menzies, an Australian QC. It focused on his struggle with depression, and how he fought the urge to pretend that everything was ‘fine’. Instead, he decided to take steps to gradually change things in his life that helped manage his depression, one step at a time. He ‘defied’ the stigma of depression, and is widely recognised as successful, by professional standards.

Seeing this very successful man publicly, and impressively, speak out about how depression impacted his career and how he bravely changed his lifestyle to better manage the condition, was inspirational. It not only gave me hope that the legal profession could adapt it’s practices to better suit the mental health needs of practitioners, but also showed me that success – whatever that may mean – and depression are not mutually exclusive.

Furthermore, his willingness to share his experiences with depression, and how that impacted his work and life, gave me hope that open discussions about mental health could become more acceptable. Here was this man, unafraid of what people might think of him, openly encouraging people to look outside of themselves when looking to manage their issues.

I think if he could do it, albeit in a more high-profile setting than my little ‘ole blog, then I can do it to – and if I can do it, then so can anyone! Initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week are great ways to defeat the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety. The more we talk about it, the less foreign it will become, and the less likely those who suffer from mental health problems will feel ashamed of themselves, or feel that they have failed their friends and family.

You can find the interview that inspired me here:

I suppose I hope that by sharing this with you, I might help someone, somewhere, feel a little better about what they’re dealing with. If not, I hope that it will at least encourage you to be a little more open to talking about mental health with those you love or those who are suffering. If you need someone to talk to, check out Beyond Blue – they know what they’re talking about!

Blog Sign-off

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month in the USA. In Australia, we have Mental Health Awareness week in October. However, Mental Health is something that affects people everywhere, all the time – whether they want to admit it or not. So, the thoughtful and brave Ula of the Blog of Erised and Leah from Uncorked Thoughts have declared June to be the Blogosphere’s own Mental Health Awareness month!

These lovely ladies want to spread awareness about the facets of mental health that affect so many people, either directly or indirectly, every day. Unfortunately, despite becoming increasingly common (or perhaps just more accurately diagnosed), there is still a very negative stigma surrounding mental health. So, throughout June, Ula and Leah are co-ordinating a month worth of posts to encourage people to look at the issue a little more deeply, and maybe learn something new.

One of the major ways that Mental Health Awareness month will be drawing attention to reviewing or discussing books that relate to various issues surrounding mental health. There will be guest posts, interviews, giveaways, and more, over the course of the month. You can find a list of all the lovely, brave bloggers who are participating over at the Blog of Erised.

Why do I call these ladies brave? It’s not easy to stand up and loudly talk about something that often causes people to avert their eyes, fidget, and change the subject. Personally, as someone who has both first- and second-hand knowledge on dealing with Mental Health issues, I know how difficult a topic it can be to speak about openly. So, I comment Ula and Leah for creating such a great initiative and encouraging everyone to be brave, and speak out!

Personally, I’ll be posting a review of one of my favourite books, which happens to have mental health at it’s core. I’ll also be posting an interview with a successful professional conducted by Beyond Blue, that I was shown in University, and that had a huge impact on the way I related to mental health.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking read in June, Leah has created a bookshelf full of books involving mental health; you can see it on Goodreads here.

I’m excited to read what everyone has to share next month! So, stay tuned – or sign up to participate! Let’s break down the walls of shame surrounding mental health. What are you afraid of?

Blog Sign-off