Waterstones Book of The Year Shortlist: Reasons To Stay Alive
When someone is depressed, or suffering from any mental illness, what they really need is some kind, non-judgemental support without having to ask for it or explain themselves– because they most likely can’t do either. Sadly, because so many people just don’t understand mental illness, it is a time they will most need to explain themselves and ask.
It’s a bit of a Catch 22. But that doesn’t mean there is no way out. Just the need for some more people to be extremely brave and candid - as Matt Haig has been; for people like him to say what has happened or is happening to them, clearly and simply and without shame. And then hopefully, it will get a little easier to say.
Because so many people who feel they are alone could do to talk about it. To share stories and compare notes. And so many people who know someone who is suffering from mental illness could do to talk about it too. To feel the relief they will feel if they read this book.
Reasons To Stay Alive is about taking a dry, husk of a word, ‘depression’, and giving it life. Showing you that depression is not as he says ‘like a flat tire’ that it can be a hundred things, at a hundred different tempos. That for him, it is fast, spun by a whirl of anxiety. But for others it may come on strong or come and go. He fleshes out the disease so that anyone can understand. And he puts into words what most people just cannot.
But this is not just a book about the horrors of depression – it tells people why they should hold on. Why everyone should reconsider – no matter how dark it has got – ending their life.
Haig tries with every word in this small volume to tell you that it really will be OK. That time passes, that things change, that you should not listen to the voice that tells you sadness is forever… that you can regain life – fun, happiness, routine. That it all just takes time.
Matt Haig has been through some pitch-black, harrowing times but he made it to the other side. He knows what amazing things are just ahead, after all the struggling is over. And he wants to share his experiences with others in the hope it may help them in their darkest, loneliest moments.
In the end, this book is about enjoying life, about bracing yourself and keeping going until you find the lighter side again. No matter what it feels like now. And who couldn’t do with a book about that?
Here is a Reasons To Stay Alive animation, featuring sentiments from the book: