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Start by Graham Morgan is a book that’ll make you think. It’s really different and I think it’s good to expose yourself to books outwith your reading ‘comfort zone’ from time to time. This inner world that we are guided through gives an all too rare insight into mental health and its impact on your life – whatever your situation.
The fact that so many people are struggling with their wellbeing at the moment makes for a timely and involving read – and I think that lots of the issues raised here are really resonant just now when we are faced with so many happy images of perfect lives and instagrammably enviable social circles. This book dares us to look beyond that and ask ourselves about the times we might ourselves have been struggling a bit…
This isn’t a cosy read with easy solutions and neat and tidy little answers. It really tries to present all faces of living with a mental illness – even the brutal, shameful and frightening ones – At times he writes about feeling a sort of “evil” inside of him and his fear of transmitting this dark feeling to those around him – like a sort of mental health infection. This was sad to read about but most of all so impressively honest it really did not shy away from some of these hard questions and tries not to view living with a mental illness through rose-tinted spectacles so that you can see this life in all its shame, fear and glory.
Graham’s story is so honest that at times you really feel like he is talking right to you – the mood is very confessional and intimate. I thought that his bravery in doing this was so striking and important as many people feel secretive or ashamed of their ‘irrational’ or ’embarrassing’ behaviour and I feel like Graham shows these readers that to own up to yourself truthfully about your feelings is one of the most important steps in a journey like this – and is something that we should never be too ashamed to do.
This is a challenging read at times – but it is so worth it for the level of understanding and compassion that it arouses in you. I really feel that I’ve been forced to appreciate the little things in life more myself as I read this book and thinking about your own wellbeing should not be delayed until there is a problem – this book asks us to think more deeply about mental health as something that everyone has and think more compassionately about our own.
Buy yourself a copy here
About the Book
Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.
Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.
Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.
About the Author
Graham was born in 1963 in York. He went to university as an angst- ridden student and was quickly admitted to one of the old mental asylums, prompting the work he has done for most of his life: helping people with mental illness speak up about their lives and their rights. He has mainly worked in Scotland, where he has lived for the last thirty years, twenty of them in the Highlands.
In the course of this work he has been awarded an MBE, made Joint Service User Contributor of the Year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and, lately, has spoken at the UN about his and other peoples’ experiences of detention.
He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has been compulsorily treated under a CTO for the last ten years. He currently lives in Argyll with his partner and her young twins. Start is his first book.