Throughout Reasons To Stay Alive, Matt Haig asserts that his main purpose in writing the book is to reach out to people who may be in the grip of mental health problems and give them hope. I would say that he accomplishes this and so much more besides.
Anyone who has experienced their own mental wobbles will recognise the searing honesty that Haig delivers in a conversational and often amusing voice. The book is part memoir and part self-help but at no point does Haig adopt the role of expert. He is simply a man sharing his own experiences, including what strategies work for him when he is in a dark place.
This for me is the real strength of the book. The acknowledgment that we are all just trying to get by and hold on the best we can. Haig draws from the world of celebrity and historical success stories to hit home the fact that nobody is immune from mental illness. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Dickinson, the list goes on and they all weathered their own storms and came out the other side.
Ultimately, as the title suggests, Reasons To Stay Alive is a beacon of hope. Haig offers us himself as living proof that we do not have to be defined by mental illness and there is life beyond whatever hell may have us in its grip. Haig urges us to remember that nothing, even depression and anxiety, lasts forever.
I loved this book. It is a quick and easy read and one to keep as a reminder that we are not alone when those dark days dawn. Haig has taken a brave step in revealing his own vulnerabilities to the world but, as he says, it is only when we begin to talk honestly about mental health problems that we will be set free from a cruel stigma that so often imprisons people and leaves them without hope.