What I read in September 2019 (Part 3)

Many thanks to those readers, who voted in my recent poll. The results were two thirds in favour of preserving the status quo (links rather than full details). That will save me some work!

One book review appears in this post.

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

I have been following Joe Harkness @BirdTherapy on Twitter for some time, so when I found his book in the library I borrowed it. Interestingly the sticker inside did not have the name of the branch, but “Housebound service”.

Bird Therapy is well-written and Jo Brown has illustrated it beautifully. The forward by Chris Packham claims that this book will save lives. Joe Harkness found that bird-watching was the best thing he could do as he recovered from a breakdown. The book describes the places he visited and the birds he saw. There is human interest as well. For anyone suffering from stress, this book could help them find a connection with the natural world and ways of dealing with anxiety and depression or other mental health problems.

Independent evidence for the health benefits of being outside and taking time to observe wildlife has been collected together in the notes at the back of the book. A survey was conducted online of people with and without mental health problems who enjoy bird-watching.

I recognised at least one name from my Twitter contacts in the list of people who helped bring this crowd-funded book to publication.

Due to other commitments I wasn’t able to start reading the book as soon as I borrowed it. Not long before I began to read it I had spent time in a bird-hide at a National Trust property. I had experienced the excitement of seeing a nuthatch collect a hazel nut from just outside the window (and the reaction of a young man, who also noticed it) and a woodpecker on a feeder as well as watching more species of tits and finches than we see from home. The descriptions in the book echoed my experience. Bird-watching can be very relaxing. This book deserves to be widely read. It has great potential to save lives, but only if people read it and act on its advice!


What I read in April 2019 (Part 2) A New Day by Emma Scrivener

I received a parcel of three books from IVP (Intervarsity Press UK) before Easter as a Twitter giveaway. I decided to read A New Day first as I had heard of the author and her husband (Glen Scrivener). The book has the most attractive cover of the three! Moving On From Hunger, Anxiety, Control, Shame, Anger And Despair is the strap-line.

Emma Scrivener is a young mother, who has personal experience of anorexia nervosa. Her first book, A New Name, (which I haven’t read) was very well-received. A New Day is her second book. It is well-organised in sections named after parts of a 24-hour period, moving from partial darkness, through night into day. It is full of sensible, helpful advice about all kinds of mental health problems: eating disorders, panic attacks, self-harm, depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, SAD, schizophrenia and PTSD, perhaps resulting from abuse. It also addresses diagnosis and treatment.

Letters from sufferers are included as is advice on how to receive or offer help. When professional help is required and when/how the Church can help is discussed. The book is written from a Christian perspective and debunks the myth that Christians should not experience problems with their mental health.

I found this book particularly appropriate for the approach to Easter and finished reading it on Easter Day. The theme of moving from darkness into a new day or from an old way of life to a new one was timely. The explanations of why people’s problems take particular forms helped my understanding of some people I know. Having accessed mental health services myself in the past, I can vouch for the authenticity of this book.

There is a useful appendix with resources.

This is a book, which should be read by church leaders and those with safeguarding responsibilities as well as people affected by the mental illness of friends and family members. Recovering patients may also find it helpful. (I suggest that patients in crisis are not ready to read books of this kind.)