Review published on September 4, 2017.
Recently I had the privilege of reading Poorna Bell’s moving memoir Chase the Rainbow, which shed light on her experiences as the wife of a man with mental health issues, which tragically ended with him taking his own life. It was an eye-opening and impactful book, not least in raising awareness about the prevalence of mental health issues in men and the stigmas and taboo that affect men in particular. It was with great interest then that I discovered Tim Grayburn’s Boys Don’t Cry, a memoir about depression written by a man who has experienced it first-hand.
On the face of it, Tim explains, he had a happy and care-free adolescence until suddenly when he was in his early-twenties he was hit with depression. Tim’s memoir charts his struggle to battle with depression and his doing so largely in secret for a decade until a moment of serendipity compels him to finally come clean to friends and family. But Tim doesn’t do things by half, what follows is a one-man stage show with his partner in which Tim lays bare (literally) the truth about his depression live every night to audiences around the globe.
Like Bell’s memoir, Grayburn’s book propels the taboo about male mental health into the spotlight. His honest descriptions of the way he felt both physically and emotionally whilst in the grip of the illness are moving and informative. And there’s something for every reader to take away from this important book, not only those who are suffering or know someone who is suffering. As Grayburn himself writes: ‘It shouldn’t just be people who have experienced depression themselves who can help. Everyone should know what to look out for – we should be taught about it in school, like First Aid for the brain. We need to seek out the sufferers, not just rely on them to make the first move.’ There is no way you can read this book and not come away thinking about the men (and women) in your own life, and wanting to make sure they know you’re there for them. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, I still felt its effects and was drawn back to it constantly.
Tim’s story is both an alarm call and an inspiration; and it’s great to read about his journey and the way he has not only faced his own illness but has shared his story with others and consequently helped others’ face their own struggles. There are letters at the end of the book from those whose lives have been touched by Tim’s story that are incredibly beautiful and empowering. But there’s also plenty in the book that underscores just how much more work needs to be done, and some of the anecdotes that Tim recounts left me dismayed. There is also hope and laughter in Tim’s memoir, which is really uplifting. I hope that in the first instance this book will find its way into every sixth form centre, college and university, and that it reaches as many people as possible, so we can all help unlock the taboo of male mental health.
Jade Craddock 5/5
Boys Don’t Cry by Tim Grayburn
Hodder & Stoughton 9781473636903 hbk May 2017
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