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Making the Invisible Visible – Mental Health in Comic Form – Book Reviews 


Today I want to talk about three cartoon/graphic books that each explore the experience of mental health. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot and Night Shift by Debi Gliori. 

The first two books don’t only share bright yellow covers but have a similar style with rather unusual looking characters. The images in Hyperbole and a Half are in colour whereas It’s All Absolutely Fine contains line drawings in black on white. 

I’m pretty sure you will have seen Allie Brian’s images shared as memes on social media. Two chapters within the book focus explicitly on Depression although other topics such as Dogs are also covered. This is a funny book with a good balance between the images and textual story linking them. 


It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot (RubyETC) I only know about because of YALC this year and I picked up a signed copy. Every now and then there is some prose discussing the images in that section with the images then left to their own devices. This is much more ‘individual comic image’ style. I found her prose particularly insightful though. 


Night Shift is different to the other two being more poetic in nature. It’s a beautiful midnight blue clothbound hardback and the images inside are muted greyscale with the very occasional flash of colour. 


It is a story of depressive episodes that uses the metaphor of a dragon as a formidable opponent. Debi both wrote and illustrated the book and in one picture even talks about the difficulty of using words to describe the experience. Her combined use of words and images are a powerful exploration of thoughts and feelings as well as reminder of how episodes might start. 


I’m sure I’ve mentioned my own experiences with depression before. These three books each spoke to my experience. Not perhaps all of it because we are each different but aspects definitely helped me to feel less alone and that there are others that get it. 

Each book also includes little hints at hope and recovery/living with.

Two are more comic comics, one is more melancholic but beautifully illustrated and perhaps slightly more real. But also maybe one to read when you are feeling stronger and ready to fight your dragons. 

Please note I was provided with a copy of Night Shift from the publisher Hot Key but all opinions are my own. 

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The Deepest Cut by Natalie Flynn – Blog Tour (Author Interview) 


I picked up a copy of The Deepest Cut by Natalie Flynn at YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention that takes place at London Film and Comic Con) last year. When the lovely Karen at Accent Press told me that it had been nominated for The Lancashire Book of the Year Award I jumped at the chance to find out what such a nomination meant to the author. 

Interview with Natalie Flynn 

For me, there were certain milestones that I’d always dreamed about in my writing career: Finishing a book, finding an agent, getting a book deal, being reviewed. There’s one I’d always thought I’d like to happen, but didn’t let myself think about too much, and that was being nominated/shortlisted for an award. 
When I heard from my lovely publicist Karen about the LBOY shortlisting, it was late on a Friday afternoon and I didn’t take it all in straight away. Over the weekend, I kept randomly bursting out “I’ve been shortlisted for an award” in utter amazement. It is amazing. It’s the ultimate seal of approval.
The Deepest Cut is a story that will always mean a lot to me. It began its life as a play in 2011. The novel adaptation wasn’t easy to write. It went through lots of ideas and lots of drafts before it became what it is today. But in all those drafts, I was always writing with my audience in mind – teenagers. Adam’s story is for them. To inspire them, give them hope, make them laugh and, hopefully, raise awareness of the tragic consequences of knife crime. 
The LBOY awards are decided on solely by the teens I wrote this story for, so the fact they’ve connected with it deeply enough to shortlist me for their award is the best feeling in the world. It makes all those late nights, frustrating editing days, moments of almost giving up on it totally worth it. I’m so proud to be on the LBOY 2017 shortlist and I can’t wait to go to Preston to meet these fantastic teens who put me there. Roll on July! 

Synopsis 

The opening of this story is a powerful one and does needs a trigger warning as it starts with our protagonist Adam attempting suicide. Following the event his period of recovery in a mental health unit sees him trying to find his voice after the trauma leaves him mute. 

Adam is immediately engaging and evokes empathy. He thinks he is to blame for his friend’s death but we see a young man full of anguish and unable to express it. 

The opening few chapters will make me even more angry if I hear the term man up being used to prevent boys and men from displaying emotion. Flynn portrays an excellent debunking of what mental health units are like. 

The award ceremony is next week on 8th July and I wish Natalie all the luck. Thanks for taking the time to share with us what even the shortlisting means to you. 

#TimetoTalk – Feb 6th 2014

Every year in my unit I use a fun creative activity to explore the concept of task analysis, activity analysis and occupational mapping. I call it the monster mash. This year I incorporated #TimetoTalk and we made monsters that either represented how mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety feel, or monsters that might help chase those feelings away.

Here is my monster which represents how depression can feel like a fog around you. The red cheeks are the embarrassment you can feel when sharing experiences of mental ill health and the purple buttons the concept of feeling stared at or observed warily. I briefly shared my own experiences with depression.
On the positive side the purple gems represent the glimmers of hope that we can cling to. Finally the geek badge is shining through the fog because it is no longer something that contributes to depressive feelings. I’m proud of my geek status and taking part in geeky activities helps my mood.

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Did you have Time to Talk about mental health today?

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