why this book? | an excerpt

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Experience tells me that in the mental health space people listen to research and medical professionals more than those with lived experience. This has several potential impacts. Society at large misses out on valuable experiential information that can be offered by people with a lived experience of mental illness. The opportunity to grow our understanding is diminished. The chance to be more compassionate is lost. Stepping into genuine acceptance by listening to everyday people with a lived experience of mental illness eludes us.

I cannot over-emphasise the value and re-assurance I have gained from tuning in to others’ lived experiences. Chatting with, interviewing, and reading about carer’s or lived experiences of mental illness has been precious. My own knowledge, compassion and acceptance have grown far more effectively from exposure to the lived experiences of others than from dealing with or reading information from mental health professionals. What has also been prevalent is the value that sharing my lived experience has afforded others. There have been interesting responses from others when I share my story. It has been especially so for those whom I have known for more than a decade. On hearing the news that I have lived with depression for two decades and more recently been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II some people had a hard time processing the news. They couldn't imagine me ever being ‘down’ or experiencing clinical depression.
I cherish the open sharing of others’ personal stories. People would share their own stories or sometimes stories of a loved one with me. Oftentimes they had held those stories a closely guarded secret.

My story is being put into print for several reasons. I want people to have access to as many stories as possible written and told by an average Joe and an ordinary Jacqui. I hope some readers might realise they have something going on that’s worth exploring which might even warrant professional attention or treatment. There are still way too many people that have undiagnosed and untreated mental health conditions. It matters not whether you are male or female. It is irrespective of your socio-economic standing. It happens across the full spectrum of careers and unemployment. Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects all sizes and shapes, all religions and nationalities. And, in the face of mental illness I want people to know there is a way through and there is hope.
It is time to move further as individuals and families. It is time to move further as communities and organisations. It is time for national and international communities of understanding and support. It is time to be more aware and better educated. It is time for greater understanding and deeper compassion. It is time for one and all to be able to demonstrate genuine acceptance of and for, those with mental illness. It is past time.

As you keep reading you’ll find the following statement in various forms, an oft repeated sentiment:
“It is time for humanity to move beyond an awareness of mood disorders and other mental illness and into greater understanding, deeper compassion and genuine acceptance of the impact of lived experience and the experience of those wonderful people who care for those of us with a lived experience.”

See, I've mentioned it twice in the last two paragraphs!

What you have in your hands (or on your screen) tells the heart of my story. It is my experience, my observations, my concerns and the myriad of moments on my magical mystery tour. I go back to the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start according to Maria von Trapp. My story rollercoasters through my initial yet partial diagnosis and comes to a sliding finish in my today. The other elements of this book include my interactions with others in relation to mental illness, my hopes and my dreams: my worldwide vision. On offer are also a range of practical possibilities relating to resilience building.

All the things I envision are driven by my experiences and conversations, my reading and reflections. Most importantly my vision is driven by my fiercest hope that all those with a mental illness will be able to willingly access affordable, available treatment in a society free from stigma, flooded with acceptance. My vision embraces lives lived in a society that is distinguished by its great understanding, profound compassion and genuine acceptance of the challenges that living with mental illness, in whatever form, brings.

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