Hope Virgo writes so openly about her own experience with the eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa. It is truly eye opening about certain aspects of the condition that are not often talked about so candidly particularly the competitive nature of anorexia and how it pretends to be your friend but when it really isn’t.
The inclusion of her mother’s perspective of Hope’s condition, how she felt about missing the signs and how she dealt with her other children and the breakdown of her relationship with Hope’s dad. This is important because mental health conditions are tricky and difficult, and Hope was able to hide it from her mum.
Hope also discusses the nature of relapse in mental health which is always difficult for people to understand even if you have been there. Whilst Hope can consider herself in control most of the time – she still faces some challenges with the foods that she eats. She discusses how she dealt with that relapse and how the help was not available despite seeking it which is devastating. During this time her mum is there supporting Hope and it is wonderful that Hope is continuing to talk about Anorexia.
For the Full Review:
Episode 41 pt1
Episode 41 pt2
After attending the book launch in London and listening to Natasha talk about mental health we were excited to read this book for the podcast and even bumped it up the list. We are pleased to say that this book did not disappoint and both of us found it hard to put down. This book provides a fantastic overview of mental health. This topic is sensitive, and Natasha handles that very well, interweaving her own journey with mental health, information from experts, science, and humour which means that this book will appeal to a wider range of readers.
On the podcast we identified six letters to discuss but that in itself was a difficult task! There was so much in this book that provoked us to ask more questions and talk about societal issues that impact everyone’s mental health.
If you are looking for a self-help book, then this is not the book whilst she gives tips at the end of each letter the advice is minimal and highlights that because we all have a brain it is okay to feel this way. This book is a great starting point to get people talking about mental health – in comparison, physical health is easily discussed by people.
The main messages that we took away from this book were:
- Mental health is just as important to physical health
- We all have a brain so mental health is something everyone should be talking about
- Social pressures impact mental health
Listen to our full review in:
Episode 43 pt1
Episode 43 pt2
Episode 43 pt3
Am I Normal Yet is a breath of fresh air talking openly about the issues surrounding mental health. Evie suffers from OCD and at sixteen not only does she have to fight with her own mental health but she has to deal with the inevitable teenage issues of college, friends and boys and let’s be honest being a teenager is hard enough without the additional issues Evie has to face.
This book has a strong theme of feminism running throughout and didn’t end in the very clichéd love conquers all view of the world that some books I have been reading recently have contained. If only recovering from mental health was so easy, dating and having another person in your life will often complicate matters and make you feel even more insecure than you may have been before.
You get to see the ups and downs associated with mental illness and the issues associated with medication and therapy, along with concerns about others reaction to a mental health diagnosis.
It is also interesting to read about the fact that the condition that Evie is suffering from can be considered “typical OCD” with Evie performing the stereotypical repetitive behaviours being commonly seen with OCD, doesn’t mean that it is any less severe and debilitating to a person’s life.
I must admit there was one part of the book I disagreed with as yes not all discussion about mental health has been useful that what it is doing is highlighting that more public discussion is needed. I would like to remain hopeful that if people were fully away of mental health conditions and their impact that they wouldn’t be using the terms incorrectly if their knowledge of the condition was complete.
Mental illnesses have gone too far the other way. Because now mental health disorders have gone “mainstream”. And for all the good it’s brought people like me who have been given therapy and stuff, there’s a lot of bad it’s brought too. Because now people use the phrase OCD to describe minor personality quirks.
“Oooh, I like my pens in a line, I’m so OCD.”
NO YOU’RE F*****G NOT!
I think that people have been mislabelling themselves as being OCD for years, long before mental health illnesses started to become more widely accepted in society’s broader conversation.
We at the Mental Health Book Club would highly recommend this book.
Listen to our full review in Episode 17
The Harrison School helps children and teenagers struggling with their mental health to continue with their education whilst being treated for the issues that they are experiencing. At the school, we meet Janina who has been diagnosed with depression and has been at the school for four years and is afraid to leave the schools safety.
Devante has been a witness to a life changing traumatic shooting in which the girl he cared about lost her life and he is finding life difficult. He attempts suicide but is stopped and decides to enrol at the Harrison School. Devante is diagnosed with acute stress disorder and he meets Janina. Their friendship helps them both on their journey to recovery.
As a result of a new addition to the Harrison School team is given a select group of students to look after and as a result starts to question Janina’s diagnosis. After investigation and new research it is decided that Janina is not mentally unwell but has been mis-diagnosed because the people around her failed to acknowledge her intellect. Showing that the labels we take on are fluid and can change over time.
Whilst at the Harrison School Devante begins to see that there are others in a similar situation to him, he is not alone and there are other people who are in a worst position than him.
This book shows the differences between different mental health conditions and their durations. It also shows the fluidity of mental health diagnosis and that labels are not necessarily everything and that treating teenagers as people has a huge beneficial effect.
Listen to our full review at:
Mental Health Book Club Episode 15
This is our first non-fiction book that we have read for the Mental Health Book Club Podcast. The book is written by Emma Louise Bridge, a 24-year-old female diagnosed with Autism and this is a collection of her diary entries exploring Emma’s world. After each diary entry Penelope Bridge, Emma’s mother, adds her own thoughts about the entries and summarises the main points that have a profound impact on Emma’s life.
We read about different scenarios that Emma faces which provide a real insight into the differences in the way a person with autism processes the world. Emma describes different ways of thinking, such as, literal thinking, theory of mind the impact changes in routine may have. There is also a lot of discussion on the issues that people may face as a result of hypersensitivities in terms of sound and touch and how Emma would find certain textures and noises difficult to handle.
This book really has two separate audiences – young people who might relate to the feelings and situations Emma describes, and those who are wanting to find out more about the impact of autism. The diary is interesting due to the insights into the workings of Emma’s mind and although Penelope’s summaries pull you out of Emma’s mind and sometimes detracts from the diary itself, it does provide valuable information that the second audience may be seeking.
Listen to our full review at:
Mental Health Book Club Episode 9
Sydney and Becky’s rating:
This book covers the topic of suicide and a suicide pact – if you feel that these topics may trigger you this is not the book for you. If you need urgent help and are in the UK you should call 999. Alternatively you can contact the Smaritans on 116 123 https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us or call Childline for free on 0800 1111 or contact them via their website at https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/
Aysel, a sixteen-year-old who has decided that she wants to die. She finds Roman (Frozen Robot) in an online chatroom for people seeking a suicide partner as she is unsure if she can do this on her own and he has a very over protective mother. Both Asyel and Roman have suffered unimaginable tragedy, a father who has killed and a sister under her brother’s care dies from a seizure in the bath means both don’t want to continue.
As a result of their friendship and the fact that Asyel has someone to talk to about how she feels, she begins to notice her mood changing, and her depression lifting allowing her to see that she doesn’t want to die. However, Roman has a differing opinion and she spends her time trying to convince him to live.
Even though Roman had made up his mind and regardless of him being able to open up to Aysel the main positive message from this book is to talk about how you feel, don’t hide it, because when you are deep in depression you find it hard to see the reality. A very realistic message that can be understood by people who have been touched by depression, and that people who haven’t been there should know.
I think this is a very important topic to explore for all ages. Suicide is not something routinely talked about in general society, but hiding your feelings and any thoughts about suicide is dangerous. There is still so much stigma surrounding suicide that getting help should not be viewed poorly.
I was a little taken aback by some of the language and the concept of suicide pacts and partners in themselves. The advert that is posted by Roman states he doesn’t want a “flake” someone who will back out of the pact and this is referenced several times during the book. My issue here is that there could be some legal ramifications as there have now been cases where people have been prosecuted for encouraging another person to commit suicide (www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tell-someone-to-kill-themselves-and-you-could-end_us_5945800ce4b0940f84fe2f19 and www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-42142969) . I couldn’t help but wonder for a more impressionable person that by telling them I don’t want a flake could add additional pressure if that person changes their mind. (For me as a person with borderline personality disorder and find self-identity tricky I generally go along with the thoughts and opinions of others around me).
Whilst I think this story could happen in reality and that the book covers an important topic, but be aware that some of the language may make you feel conflicted.
Listen to our full review at:
Mental Health Book Club Podcast Episode 11
Sadie has moved on from her bout with anxiety and depression and has changed her entire life. She has sold her swanky apartment and moved into a quaint cottage, she has a new job as a counsellor leading several anxiety anonymous support groups and Ruby has become a prominent part of her life. She seems like she has turned her life around and has beaten her issues with mental illness.
Her life becomes more interesting when Aidan Wilder walks into one of Sadie’s support groups. He intrigues her so much that she can’t stop thinking about him and wants to learn more. She makes it her mission to help this new mysterious man fight against his own demons. As the book progresses we start to find out more about what brought Aidan into Sadie’s life after a heart-breaking tragedy leaves him lost and struggling to continue with life.
Those around Sadie that care about her begin to worry about how involved she has become with a man she barely knows and as a reader I began to question how ethical some of her behaviour is whilst helping Aidan, and if she is perhaps at times overstepping and becoming unprofessional with him.
The other cause for concern as a reader is the way that Sadie believes that she is done with anxiety and that it will never be a problem for her again, whilst for most reality is rarely like that. I can understand her annoyance at those around her constantly checking up on her wellbeing and that people can feel this way but she fails to see their point of view. After all, in the last book she had made a suicide attempt – at that point it is justified for people to be concerned about you.
Again this is a quick read, the descriptions and discussions about grief are realistic and I look forward to reading the next instalment in the Sadie Valentine series.
Listen to the full review:
Mental Health Book Club Podcast Episode 9
Our behaviour is influenced by our parents, we often take on their mannerisms and behaviours. Let’s face it how many times have you found yourself doing something that you can associate with one of your parents?
But, what happens if a parent has an undiagnosed mental health issue that impacts their emotional response to the world around them? Well, it can have a long lasting and devastating impact late into their children’s adult life.
Dandelion Angel by C.B. Calico follows the stories of four adult daughters and their mothers who have undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD). A parent with this mental health condition often results in an emotionally chaotic and unstable home environment for the children in their care. These mothers are often demanding, emotionally neglectful, rage filled and even physically abusive towards their own offspring.
In our opinion C.B. Calico explores the impacts of BPD on the entire family, in a sympathetic way, whilst not excusing the mother’s actions or behaviours. We learn about the childhood stories of the mother’s and whilst they are heart breaking in themselves, they are not there as an excuse to justify their later behaviour towards their children. Their stories are provided to give an insight into the situations that shaped them into the people we read about in this book. Each grown up daughter still bears the emotional scars left by their mothers, but yet all four have been able to move forward with their own lives in differing ways. This story provides hope to those who may have experienced similar upbringings.
Listen to Pt 1 of the full review here.
Listen to Pt 2 of the full review here.