More books I read in February 2019

I have read two more library books (fiction) by authors who live or lived in Cumbria and two slim volumes of poetry by a poet in the North East.

Mother Can You Hear Me?

mother can you hear me? by Margaret Forster is a novel, which explores the relationship between the main character (Angela) and her mother as well as Angela’s relationship with her daughter. Generational differences and changes in attitudes as society changes are well-portrayed. It is not a particularly hopeful book, but is well-written. The settings are London and the West Country. I have enjoyed other books by this author more than this one.

I was rather reluctant to start reading Burning Secrets by Ruth Sutton, which is set in Cumbria at the time of the serious outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). Having lived in Cumbria at that time and being aware of the effect of this disease on the farming and wider community, I was concerned that it might be upsetting to read about it. Once I began reading, I could hardly put this book down. The story is fast-paced and exciting. The descriptions of the effects of FMD are fairly low key. The strap line on the cover is A ravaged landscape. A fractured family. A missing child.

This book is well-produced. Another book which includes the FMD outbreak is The Embalmer’s Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard, which I reviewed earlier.

The poetry books I read were Hope in Dark Places and Love in Thin Places by David Grieve. The second of these was published this month. I bought them from the publisher as part of my Christmas present. (A special offer was advertised on Twitter.) Hope in Dark Places includes helpful advice for people suffering from depression and for people, who come into contact with them. As I have suffered from depression in the past I am aware how lacking in understanding some people are.

I enjoyed both books and intend to return to them from time to time. The second had similarities with another book I read and reviewed on this blogSanctuary by Martyn Halsall. Each was inspired by a cathedral in the North of England. I have visited Durham Cathedral twice (once as a child and once as an adult). I have lost count of how many times I have visited Carlisle Cathedral!

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Time to Talk Day

The interconnectedness of the internet is amazing.  It is a kind of model of the interconnectedness of the world in general.

How various issues are brought to our attention perhaps does not matter as much as the fact that we become aware of them.

I first heard about a website called Time to Change from the arts organisation responsible for the record-breaking pompom sheep project.

The views I express here are my own.  I am not a health professional.

Today is Time to talk day– the chattering classes never stop, do they?  But what about the taboo subjects?  The elephants in the room?

Time to Talk is an awareness campaign about mental health issues.  It seems to be a worldwide problem that mental illness is not taken as seriously as physical illness.  Patients may be locked away and “out of sight is out of mind”.

In the case of a physical illness, its effects on the patient and their family and friends are usually obvious.

For the family and friends of those suffering with a mental illness, life may be difficult.  It is often hard to know how the changes in a patient are caused – whether it is the illness or the medication.  Patients react differently to the commonly prescribed drugs and it is important that the best treatments are found in each case.

Family members may be confused, embarrassed and even ashamed of having a mentally ill person in their midst.  They have their own lives to live and the added worry and responsibility of making sure that the patient is properly cared for and treated.

There is a lot of ignorance about mental illness amongst people who have not been affected by it in any way.  There is prejudice that it is somehow the fault of the patient that they have become ill.  People may treat a person who has been ill as if they are incompetent.  In fact there are many people who have experienced mental illness, who have strengths and abilities which ‘normal’ people may not expect.  It is very much a case of not judging a book by its cover.

Mental health problems include depression, anxiety, OCD and addiction as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Time to Talk is helping to bring these issues out into the open.  The Twitter and TV campaigns are educating people about ways they can support a depressed person in particular.

There has been a heart-warming story about the reunion between a young man, who was about to jump off a bridge and the passer-by who talked him out of it.  Railway companies are training people to watch out for those who may be intending to jump in front of a train.

There are organisations to help the families of those who have not been helped in these ways and have taken their own lives.  They have many emotions to deal with.

So if you have never really thought about these issues or if you think you are not at risk of mental illness, please stop and think.  It can affect anyone, absolutely anyone, and “It’s time to talk”.