*Trigger warning: this review talks about mental health struggles and disorders such as depression, anxiety, grief, and loss.
**Content warning: this book contains topics on mental health struggles and disorders such as depression and anxiety. The book also contains topics such as suicide, sexual abuse, grief, loss, and trauma.
Everyone has mental health. That is obvious. But for some people, it can be difficult to look after it properly. With the stresses of day-to-day life, it is easy to be forgetful to look after yourself. Mental health struggles are nothing to be ashamed of, and the stigma surrounding this topic is problematic. Only from having conversations and developing understandings and insights can we really break down these barriers. And that is what Scarlett Curtis’ ‘It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies)’ does perfectly.
The book, a collection of 74 essays from celebrities, activists, and academics, delves deeply into the world of mental health. It is raw and personal in its entirety. It is exactly the kind of book which is needed if we are to break down mental health shame and stigma.
When I first read this book, it not only educated me, but it also provided me with a source of comfort. Reading this book in my first year of university provided me with the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. Living away from home for the first time at the age of 18, was daunting. It was a completely new city, with new people and a whole new lifestyle. Thinking back to my 18-year-old naivety, I was not prepared for the change. But then again, who really is at that age?
This book, and all the 74 people within it, became dear friends, and with each new essay I delved into, the more comforted I felt.
The end of Scarlett Curtis’ introduction at the beginning of the book sums up its importance in its entirety.
And that is the heart of this book. The bravery and inspiration from these 74 essayists help pave the way for future conversations. For me, it was an extremely eye-opening read. Everyone struggles – and that is okay.
Celebrities such as Alistair Campbell, Sam Smith, Fearne Cotton, Dawn O’Porter, Naomi Campbell, Miranda Hart, and Emma Thompson, just to name a few, write frank and honest opinions and insights into their personal struggles.
The book is split into six sections, each with a different subheading. Each essay is placed under each section relating to its topic. This, for me, was an extremely helpful layout. If you do not want to read the book in order, its contents are laid out in such a way that you can dip in and out whenever you fancy.
The subheadings also provide support and advice with titles such as; ‘It’s OK Not to Be OK,’ ‘It’s OK To Shout,’ ‘It’s OK To Be Vulnerable,’ and ‘It’s OK To Ask for Help.’ The penultimate section before the ‘Last Words,’ is ultimately a message of hope. The subheading – ‘It Will Be OK,’ highlights this book’s goal – of showing, through other people, that everything will be okay. Mental health struggles are not something to be ashamed of – they are something which even the most famous of people deal with.
For me, this book is tailored with the reader in mind. Its tone of relatability, offerings of friendship and insights into others’ lives and minds, is what makes it such an excellent book.
‘It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies)’ also supports mental health charities. 10% of this books’ recommended retail price goes to the charity SHOUT. It is not only the essays and wordsmiths themselves providing support, but the book itself is helping to contribute to the charitable work people provide to those in need.
One of the essays which stood out the most to me was from the section of ‘It Will Be OK.’ Emma Thompson’s way with words during her essay, or ‘list,’ as she titles it, is warm, inviting and somewhat familiar.
The key takeaways from Thompson’s list are that eventually, everything will work itself out. Stop blaming or judging yourself for something that is not your fault, and do not compare yourself to others.
Her essay stood out to me from the whole book. It is a simple and straightforward admission of her own mental health struggles and her useful advice.
Miranda Hart’s essay titled, ‘Hello, My Loves,’ is again another example of the warmth emanating from the pages of this book. Simply from the title, its tone is one of familiarity and comfort.
If you are searching for a book that is warm and comforting, this is for you. The topics within the book are difficult – with words on grief, loss, depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. But its importance is all encompassing.
Everyone should read this book – not just for the bravery and inspiration from the writers on the pages, but to truly understand that everyone has mental health. It is not much different from our physical health – in order to survive, we need to look after it properly.
Understanding that, can we then only break the shame and stigma associated with mental health struggles.