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Mental Health & Books

I have a lot to say this week - from a run down on last week’s launch for The Broken Pane in Waterstones & appearing at Aye Write, Glasgow’s Book Festival to political commentary about men on golden chairs talking about the rise of the cost of living, and my climate anxiety as the global temperature creeps up. All topics I could crack out an essay on.

However this week also privately marks the anniversary of a friend’s death by suicide and nationally it is Mental Health Awareness week. For what it’s worth, I do not believe it is possible to speak too much about health - physical or mental, but I don’t think anyone should be defined by this.

My writing revolves around mental health, and you’ll not be surprised to learn that my reading choices do too. This does not mean I sit & read “Depression For Dummies”! I have realised that I find characters more real, believable and memorable when their stories and experiences seem to exist and for this to happen the plot must affect them, their mind. I’m perfectly happy to watch a movie and suspend disbelief for a couple of hours - sure the small town cop can befriend a blue space hedgehog and not have to question his entire existence… and I used to be an avid reader of fantasy but on the whole I prefer these days to read and view stories that help me to understand people. And people are made by their mental health experiences.

I think most understand that we all have physical health just as we have mental health and our health in both has ups and downs, we have different bumps and bruises, scars and old injuries. We didn’t even all start with the same amount when we are born. My children have evidently benefitted from a lesson at school at some point where they’ve had physical and mental health compared to their hearts and rings on a video game. Different characters with varying constraints and abilities can lose their rings and hearts in different ways, just as there are different ways to regain those. My children at ages 6 and 8 seem to understand that the same applies in life. We, my family, all like to read and we find that reading gives us more “hearts” for the day. So we make time for it. This is why I was thrilled to be asked by the Stirling Makar, Laura Fyfe to join the Scotland wide readathon Keep The Heid with Stirling Libraries this evening. The statistics show that just 6min reading a day helps to improve mood by 68%. No idea how that research was done, it certainly rings true to me.

Right now, I’m writing another book which centres on women’s mental health experiences - I believe that sharing these experiences, whether fiction or non-fiction is the way to understand ourselves and each other. I’m reading One Body by the brilliant Catherine Simpson - it’s a memoir about her body, how it tells the story of her life, about her mind. She believes in demystifying and sharing life experience, and I find her writing hugely inspiring.

What are you reading? Do you find it helps your mental health or the understanding of other people’s mental health experiences?

be well x

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