By Hannah Boyle
Reasons to Stay Alive is a self-help book with a difference. Through an experimental style of anecdote, list and memoir Matt Haig recalls his struggle with depression and anxiety. Haig prompts us to question society’s fear of confronting human emotion, and forces us to move beyond stigma, emphasizing the importance of a flourishing discussion around mental health illnesses. Although it follows no narrative structure, Haig’s own story accompanies the reader throughout, demonstrating to fellow sufferers that it does get better. It is an aid for those who are suffering. It is an aid for those who know victims of suffering. It is an aid for all.
The book is split into five parts: Falling, Landing, Rising, Living and Being. It is through these divided segments that we follow his struggle with mental health, accompanied by various lists and seemingly dissonant prose and poetry that provide a wonderfully disjointed novel. Through the irregularity of the structure it becomes a rollercoaster for the reader; Haig uses the darkness of depression and anxiety as a starting point in Falling, which only heightens the significance of the man who has touched down on steady ground in Landing.
Haig is an advocate for male victims. His story stands to raise awareness on depression and suicide amongst men; in his chapter titled Boys don’t cry he addresses head on the vast number of suicides amongst males: ‘Why do so many men still kill themselves? What is going wrong? The common answer is that men, traditionally, see mental illness as a sign of weakness and are reluctant to seek help.’ He shines a light on the simple fact that depression (and all mental health illnesses) are diverse and damaging to every human, urging all to contribute and listen to the conversation surrounding mental health.
Towards the end of the book, in the final segment Being, Haig provides the reader with the sense that he has come full circle, which only proves that despite the permanent hopelessness depression brings, life does go on and those who suffer can find happiness. Reasons to Stay Alive exists as proof that depression does not need to be the finish line in life. In Haig’s introduction, he states: ‘I wrote this because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we aren’t able to see it.’ It is through the weight of these words the reader senses the purpose of Reasons to Stay Alive—to demonstrate to victims that they are always more than their mental health; that it is possible to move past depression and anxiety, no matter how intense and everlasting it can seem. If it does not function as an aid for those suffering, it certainly provides those struggling to understand mental illness more clarity on the subject.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);