Friday, March 18, 2011

Keys to The Cage. Reviewed by Mary Malone.

This review appeared in the Evening Echo.

Keys to the Cage – How people cope with depression
By Sue Leonard
Published by New Island
Price €12.99
Mary Malone

Renowned freelance journalist, Sue Leonard, has delved into the world of depression from the perspective of real life sufferers in her captivating book, Keys to the Cage. Years of experience interviewing people has added a special quality to each chapter, with the author’s sensitive approach making the individual stories accessible to all readers, particularly those reaching out for support.

Determined to break the silence on depression – an illness that is frequently misunderstood– Sue has selected fourteen Irish people of a variety of ages to share their experience of living with depression. Each participant volunteers ‘things that helped’ and ‘things that didn’t help’ in an open and honest fashion, their ultimate aim being to help others who continue to suffer in silence.

Unlike a physical condition with visible cuts and bruises, depression – regardless of the form it arrives in, panic attacks, anxiety, despair – is frequently suffered in silence and fear. Every problem becomes a crisis, thoughts spiraling in a loop of despair. The sufferer is stuck in an altered world where they believe nobody understands, not even the people who love them. Very often, their loved ones are equally scared and helpless and at their wits end about how they should or could help.

29-year-old Emma is a scientist at Trinity College, in love with life. Looking at her now, nobody would ever guess that six years ago she suffered a mental breakdown and attempted suicide. Irked by those who consider suicide selfish, she explains how she genuinely believed that removing herself from life would be doing everybody a favour. But with the help of an understanding GP, a combination of drug therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, internet discussion sites and support from friends Emma overcame her darkness. She advises anyone with depression to trust those who say you will get better. This is a snippet from one person’s story.

Depending on whose story is being told, the advice varies. Yet it’s very apparent that one size does not fit all. Other suggested sources of help include composing and playing music, religion, dancing, healthy eating, writing and sport. The detail on one person’s list of helpful items may well be on another’s list of ‘what didn’t help’.

But one strong theme runs through every story – there is help available for those brave enough to reach out and ask (see a selection of recommended websites below). There’s no doubt that Keys To The Cage will touch every reader, just as depression touches the majority of Irish families in some form or other. ,, , , ,

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