Book Review: START by Graham Morgan

I was fortunate enough to be gifted a Kindle copy of Graham Morgan’s fantastic book in exchange for a review.

9781912280070

Who is the author?

Graham Morgan is a Scottish mental health rights advocate who received an MBE for his contributions to the continuing improvement of mental health services in Scotland.  Specifically, he helped to write the Scottish Mental Health Care and Treatment Act (2003).  In a twist of fate, Graham himself has been detained under this same mental health act.  Graham is in a unique and difficult position: both that of service user and service organiser.  He wrote this book to take mental health professionals, those with mental health problems and everyone else in between on a journey of what mental health and its treatment and care are like in our country.  He does this in the most superb fashion.

What’s it about?

Told from Graham’s perspective, the book focuses on how he grapples with his mental health through good times and bad times.  Through wonderful and poetic imagery, Graham vividly paints his world and experiences and does not hold anything back.  The end result is an unflinchingly honest insight into one man’s attempts to hold on as best as he can.  We get front row seats to his life, from memories of the past to the difficulties in the present and the prophesied bleakness of the future.  Despite zeroing in on his own unique experience of mental health difficulties, Graham brings in the bigger picture: this is what countless millions are experiencing in our country.  This is the care they receive when they experience such hopelessness in life.  Without wanting to spoil much, the book is a real rollercoaster of emotions – from confusion, to anger, to distress, to undeniable joy – and thankfully, it ends on a positive note for Graham.  He continues on with his tireless advocacy for mental health and this book is part of that work.

Best bits?

Many of you who are regular readers of my blog will know that I am a therapist in my day job.  I’m an enthusiastic reader of any books, blogs or even Twitter threads that relay patient experiences with mental health services.  As someone who is providing that service, it interests me to know how therapists or mental health services are perceived.  I know there’s a lot of dismay and frustration about waiting lists, inaccessible treatment or even unprofessional members of staff.  I think it’s incredibly important as therapists that we become acquainted with these issues and remain vigilant about them in our own practice.  Essentially, I feel like there is always an opportunity to learn from those who are receiving treatment or attempting to.  It was with these thoughts that I delved into Graham’s book so unsurprisingly, one of my favourite things about the book is that it provides a portrayal of a service user who also knows the service he’s receiving (not all patients have that luxury!)  It led me to conclude that Graham’s experience should be compulsory reading for crisis teams.

As well as that, the book was fantastically well-written.  I’m aware that ‘writer’ is not one of Graham’s main occupations but he certainly has a talent for it.  Perhaps it is easy to write so well when you are writing from the heart?

Any not-so-great bits?

There isn’t much in terms of constructive criticism to provide.  The book is a great portrayal and I applaud Graham’s honesty.  I will mention that Graham’s story is often a dark one as we do delve into the deepest recesses of the mind of someone who is struggling.  I would just advise that if you yourself are feeling very low or not in the best of mental health, this may not be the best book to read at the moment.

Verdict?

10/10.  If you’re looking for an informative yet emotionally compelling read this winter, tuck into this and you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, you might just start to look at mental health and mental health provision in a very different way.   ‘Start’ by Graham Morgan can be purchased on Amazon here.

You can read a wide variety of reviews about this book by checking out the blogs of others featured on this book tour, featuring everything from reviews, excerpts and interviews with the author himself.

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