Published By: Borough Press
Released On: 11/05/2023
‘Some people who deal with mental illness have the opportunity and ability to write about it, but many do not – and it was those people, those unread stories, I wanted to find’ JOANNA CANNON
How do we give a voice to those who so often remain unheard? Will You Read This, Please? is a frank and impactful collection of twelve stories as told to our best British writers, based on the lived experience of people who have faced mental illness in the UK.
Edited by Joanna Cannon, the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Three Things About Elsie and A Tidy Ending, the stories told here are powerful, resonant and heart-breaking. This is a ground-breaking and unforgettable collection, shining a light on the stigma and isolation of living with mental illness, while also showing the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
SARAH’S STORY JOANNA CANNON
JEREMY’S STORY TRACY CHEVALIER
JEN’S STORY CATHERINE CHO
MARIE’S STORY BENJAMIN JOHNCOCK
FRANKI’S STORY REBECCA PERT
NICOLA’S STORY JENN ASHWORTH
CAT’S STORY SHELLEY HARRIS
PHOENIX’S STORY HAFSA ZAYYAN
LEWIS’S STORY RHIK SAMADDER
SANMEET’S STORY SELALI FIAMANYA
ALAIN’S STORY KATHRYN MANNIX
JOYIA’S STORY CLARE MACKINTOSH
Joanna Cannon has written a number of successful books, both fictional and non-fictional. These include, A Tidy Ending (which I LOVED), Three Things About Elsie and The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, as well as medical memoir, Breaking & Mending. If I’m being brutally honest here, I am more of a fan of her non-fiction than her fiction. That’s not to say I dislike the fiction, not at all, but there’s something that emanates from her non-fiction writing that is very special.
I read this book when I was on weekend leave from a 4-week long stay in hospital. And it’s not just any hospital. This is one of the top neurological hospitals in the country, and so it’s fair to say that I, along with other people I met on the ward, have been suffering with our mental health battles, along with physical health battles.
I am lucky in a way that I process my experiences and emotions through writing. It might not be very good writing, but I know how to get it down on a page, for my own and other’s benefit. It immediately lifts a weight off my shoulder when I’ve got it out of me. But, like Joanna, I know there are a lot of people who struggle to get their stories out there, and so they keep them inside, often at even further detriment to their mental wellbeing. And so this is an incredibly important book.
What I liked about it, is it didn’t just focus on the obvious depression and anxiety. Yes, they were in there, of course, as well as self-harm and suicidal tendencies. But some of these stories are more niche. We read about a man with a gambling addiction, a woman with a paralysing fear of vomiting, a man who is subjected to conversion therapy to rid him of his homosexuality, and an individual who has to hide their gender identity.
I also liked that, whilst these stories have been written by top-selling authors, there is still clearly the voice of the subject. I have read works by a number of these authors, and so it can often be difficult to rid yourself of your expectations about their writing, and instead focus on the individual in question. And I think that’s beautiful. They aren’t there for just entertainment purposes. These are real people with real experiences and real stories and real heartbreak, and it’s important to keep their words as they are.
I won’t lie, it’s a brutal read. I don’t think that should come as a surprise to anyone. Mental illness, whilst talked about more widely nowadays, is still a very complicated, difficult, and raw experience to discuss. Whilst we are more open about it, a lot of us till have that thought that it’s a bit of a taboo subject, that we brush it all under the carpet. And it’s not as easy as that. Gosh I wish it was as easy as that. Think about how many lives we could save if it was.
But I think this is one of the most important books to read at the moment. It makes us open our eyes, open our ears, and open our hearts to the troubles of others and ourselves. Like I say, it’s a difficult read at times, but in a way, it’s also full of kindness and beauty, and it’s gentle. That may sound a bit like an oxymoron, but believe me, you’ll know what I mean when you read it. It respects mental health and mental illness, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, sexuality complications, suicidal thoughts, self-harming etc. It presents them in black and white, and yet shows that mental health is a long spectrum and we can all find ourselves on it somewhere.
I think anyone would benefit from reading this. If you’re in the mental (or physical) health industry, then it will give you a closer understanding of your patients; if you suffer yourself you can see that you’re not alone; if you have a loved one or a friend who is suffering, it gives you a chance to respect those who are unwell, and offers hope that you can help someone that may, at first, appear to be in a helpless situation.
It wraps everyone up in a great big warm hug and lets you know that you are loved, and there is support and you are not alone in this.