Cover Image: In It Together

In It Together

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Member Reviews

Thank you to the publisher Thornapple Press for a direct review copy.

Essential reading for anyone who has experienced depression or has a friend or loved one who suffers from it.. so that's basically everyone!  This book really is for everyone because we need everyone in this fight. It's said that one in three women and one in five men experience major depression at some point in their lives. The author included. 

She urges people to stop making assumptions about people's mental health and get a bit uncomfortable and honest.  Let's stop trying to make depression go away to be more comfortable or to not have to deal with others' pain. Let's educate ourselves and put the crappy meaningless offers of “ you know i'm always here for you” in the bin and consider how we can really show up for people we love.

Notte offers suggestions for how to support a friend or loved one who is suffering and how to navigate it if you don't have the capacity to support. For anyone lucky enough to have not experienced it, Notte offers clear explanations that get across that depression is not just a case of feeling sad. And she knows. She shares her own experience through the book but this is not a purely personal account . There are years of research put into this book and it shows. I'd not heard of her blog before but what a great use of her platform to interview such a range of people suffering from depression. 

In the times of "be kind" and "it's ok to not be okay" which have just become cliches, I was really glad to read someone addressing the ongoing stigma attached to mental illness. This needed to be said. Mental illness is real and continues to cause a lot of shame for people suffering.

We have to be “ in it together” and remember that depression is the condition not the person. We need to be able to offer empathy instead of advice or “solutions,” which as a trainee counsellor really resonated with me. If more people understood how to be empathetic and really listen to understand, I'm convinced we would not be in the mental health crisis we are.
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“In It Together: Navigating Depression with Partners, Friends and Family” by JoEllen Notte is essential reading for anyone who has a friend or loved one who suffers from depression. Depression is now considered a major cause of disability worldwide, affecting approximately 5% of adults. Much is assumed but too little is understood about this condition which can and too often does culminate in suicide. 

JoEllen Notte provides a lucid and very topical wakeup call, not only to those whose friends and loved ones suffer from depression, but also to anyone who wants to better understand the condition. That she is an insider gives her the unique perspective of someone who lives with the disease, day in, day out and has done for many years. Not content with having personal experience however, Notte also bases her advice on thorough research, having conducted and collated several years of surveys and interviews with thousands of others living with depression through her blog The Redhead Bedhead. She possesses the rare skill of being able to address those on the outside with sensitivity, insight and humour. Unlike many “how-to” books, this one resonates with authenticity, real insight and practical suggestions.

So powerful and logical are her messages that they could equally be adapted for other situations where a friend or loved one is suffering (for example from bereavement, sudden bad news, health crisis, etc.) where you want desperately to offer help and support but don’t know how.

Notte doesn’t pull any punches in challenging assumptions, for example the often heard “it’s not my place” excuse for not reaching out or recommending that if positive support and help is beyond you, admit it and step away. 

Even for those who may think they’re well versed in the condition, there is information here about the nature of depression that makes it clear there is more to understand. For example, the disease is not easily identifiable, it can vary from person to person and episode to episode, its effects are both physical and emotional and it isn’t necessarily only about sadness - “Sometimes depression isn’t so much the presence of unhappiness as much as it is the absence of, well everything” such as joy, hope, cheerfulness, optimism, purpose, etc.

It’s timely again that Notte highlights the ongoing stigma that society (even in the light of expanded knowledge and understanding) still associates with mental illness and how it’s often widely perceived even by members of the medical profession as not a “real” illness in the way that cancer, for example, is. It is a condition that’s all too easily written off as “all in the head”. Mental illness is seen by many of us as shameful, scary, something to be judged or laughed at. 

There are so many gems of wisdom in here, but the standouts include what Notte calls “being in it together” or working as a team against the condition not the person, offer support and empathy, not advice or “solutions”, and many suggestions of constructive ways to help. Instead of offering platitudes, or open-ended “let me know if I can help” statements, stop and think what the person might really appreciate.

Even if you’re fortunate enough not to be one of those the book is designed to help, reading it will expand your understanding of the nature of mental illness and the not so simple art of behaving like a decent human being. A wonderful quote is “…the world would be a better place if we all cut each other some slack and assumed good intentions first …”

Thanks to the publisher, Thornapple Press, for providing me with an advance review copy.
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