We publish regular book and app reviews to highlight what's out there to read or learn about mental health and wellbeing. The books and apps cover a wide range of topics and issues and are reviewed by MHF staff and guest reviewers.

24 February 2021

The Book of angst - book coverThe book of angst: Understand and manage anxiety

Smith, G. (2021). Allen & Unwin.

Ironically, Gwendoline Smith’s The Book of Angst leaves the reader feeling less anxious…about anxiety! Written during 2020, this is a timely read during uncertain times. 

The magic of this book is its simplicity. With plain language and a straightforward approach, Gwendoline provides a useful overview of anxiety. Such publications can be serious and dry, yet The Book of Angst is anything but. Concepts are made memorable through humorous stories and examples. Witty illustrations are peppered throughout this quick and easy read. Cleverly, it has a light-hearted feel whilst also being incredibly informative.   

Read it in one sitting or dip in and out of when required. Those who have read the author’s previous publications The Book of Overthinking and The Book of Knowing will be familiar with the author’s candid style.  

The opening chapters delve into the different types of anxiety, how they manifest and possible treatment options. More attention is then given to social anxiety, which Gwendoline believes is currently the most common and underdiagnosed form.  

As an Auckland based clinical psychologist, Gwendoline advocates for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a proven and evidence-based treatment method. The reader can expect clear explanations and simple strategies to try at home. I got excited over the helpful flashcards at the back of the book which add to its practicality. 

Importantly, Gwendoline provides an insight into what can be expected when professional help is sought. The last few chapters act as ‘therapy sessions’ where the reader is exposed to a course of therapy with a fictitious client. This section would be hugely beneficial to readers considering seeking professional help for themselves or a loved one.  

I appreciated the cheery tone in this book. Whilst reading, I felt like I was talking to a wise friend and thought adults and teenagers alike would enjoy this. Whether you’ve been pondering anxiety, diagnosed with it or simply want to be more informed, The Book of Angst will leave you feeling more knowledgeable… and hopefully a little less anxious.   

Reviewed by Gina Speedy, School Counsellor at Auckland Normal Intermediate 

27 January 2021

cover of Aroha: Māori wisdom for a contended life lived in harmony with our planAroha: Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet

Elder, H. (2020). Penguin Books.

Dr Hinemoa Elder is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. This book is written with aroha, and encompasses the many facets of her life and experiences as a Māori woman, mother, teacher, researcher and most importantly a member of the following tribes: Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kurī, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi, which are centred in the Northern part of the Northland, or the tail of the fish caught by Māui. 

I found the 52 whakataukī or proverbs included in this small book joyful to read, as they encourage you to reflect on the wisdom of past elders, their observations of life, their spiritual connection to nature, the importance of our role as humans as being kaitiaki - being both leaders and care protectors for future generations and all species on Earth, the planet we all live on. In reading them, we learn a little more about who Dr Hinemoa Elder is as she shares with us what each proverb means to her – in relation to something that has happened in her life, how it has helped her to understand or accept certain happenings, and emphasising her soul connection with nature, particularly living on Waiheke Island, the home of Ngāti Paoa.

Throughout the book, Dr Hinemoa Elder passionately reminds us that we are living at an important time in history, where the planet is suffering from decisions that humans have made and that change is now occurring faster than most humans can cope and adapt to, especially new technological changes which impacts all of our lives. 

Dr Hinemoa Elder encourages us to make sacrifices in our life, such as giving up at meat at least one day per week, to make changes that slow down the effects of climate change and pollution of the environments we live and consume from. Further, she encourages us to step up and be vocal about the changes we need to make to protect Papatūānuku, Mother Earth. The choices we make daily affect the future.

Dr Hinemoa Elder encourages us also to live simply, to be in harmony with nature, to be observant of changes occurring around us, to watch the birds that are around us as they are wonderful creatures to watch and reflect on the messages they are often telling us. Most importantly, she encourages us to develop meaningful conversations and communicate with each other, so that we go deeper into ourselves, which is the core of our being, similar to the core of the heart of trees. She reminds us of the importance of “kanohi ki te kanohi”, face to face communication to carry out important conversations as they strengthen human bonds and relationships. She also encourages us to develop our wairua, our spiritual dimension to help us understand the important role of our ancestors and the pathways that they often have created for our journey in life.

This book may help many people suffering from isolation, loneliness, the effects of Covid-19 across the globe, cope with loss and grief, and the importance of having love or creating aroha in your life, beginning with yourself. As a reader, thinker, planner, decision maker or lover you could take one proverb per week, reflect on it, think about its special meaning and then find out what it means to you and your story, or the story of people special in your life and those who have gone before you.

This book would be great for students and life learners who want to understand more about tikanga Māori, te reo Māori and the wisdom of Māori as the indigenous population of Aotearoa.

Ngā mihi aroha

Review by Dr Lorna Dyall QSM, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Paoa

9 December 2020

DOT book coverDOT

Scott, K. E. (2020). Penguin. 

When I was younger my mother would put little green stickers around the house – whenever we spotted a little green sticker, we would remember to take one deep breath, and come back to the present moment. She called it “dropping an anchor.” At the time I was a tiny wound up ball of worry and fear and this simple grounding exercise helped me (and probably my mum too) manage the ever-spiralling thoughts. Over time it became easier to do this without the little green sticker reminder, and now I ‘drop an anchor’ whenever I notice my thoughts trying to carry me away. DOT does something very similar, in the form of a fun, pocket sized, brightly coloured book.

Originally created for a 10-year-old struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, DOT is written in a warm, comforting tone that’s so easy to follow it can help anyone take a mindful moment and come back to the present. You can breeze through this book in a few minutes or sit with it mindfully for as long as you like. Yes, a myriad of smartphone apps out there might do a similar job, but there’s something about physically holding this book in your hands, slowly tuning each page, that lets you stay connected to the here and now. 

And there’s a little story to DOT. It has a rhythm, rhyme and meter that fills the pages with a gentleness and familiarity reminiscent of being read to as a child. In the busyness of everyday, amongst the worry and the fear, DOT becomes a friend, a guide, a companion, a deep breath and an anchor to the present. Highly recommend.

Reviewed by Ana Bogdanovic, Enquiry Services Co-ordinator, Mental Health Foundation

25 November 2020

This is not how it ends - book coverThis is not how it ends: How rewriting your story can save your life

Casinader, J. (2020). HarperCollins

Typically, reading about depression is by its very nature, depressing. This book is proof that it doesn’t need to be. Jehan Casinader, award winning former TVNZ journalist, has written with honesty and self-awareness on his own experience of mental distress that took him to the brink. Ultimately it’s a hopeful and helpful resource to the reader. This book speaks to all New Zealanders as it’s crammed full of people and places and stories that we all know so well. Casinader’s journalism skills are clear to see as he deftly writes about his personal crisis while at the same time reporting on some of New Zealand’s darkest times. 

This book is equally for anyone living with mental distress as well as for support people. I’ve supported someone through depression and it’s damn hard work. I wish I’d had this book to read to give me a boost. Casinader’s ability to frankly and honestly relay the constant threat to his wellbeing, while still functioning at work shows the complexities of mental illness and why the stereotype labels thrown at a depressed person are so wrong. Casinader details with clarity his depression which seems a complete juxtaposition to his exciting and vibrant work life.   

Peppered throughout the book is praise for Tommy, a mate of Jehan’s who remains constantly in touch, no matter the time of day or night. His encouraging messages are included throughout the book and are clearly life-saving. Everyone needs a Tommy in their life. His unconditional support was inspiring, but the revelation of the toll it took on Tommy was one of the more poignant moments in the book for me. We all can be supportive, but ultimately self-care is paramount. The ability to seek out a variety of support systems is vital to ease the load on others. 

Casinader tells the reader that having survived mental distress, he’s become stronger, wiser and more compassionate. He uses his fine journalistic skills to describe his personal story and tells the reader to craft their own story – and that no one can take that story away from you. He states the thing that separates those who survive mental distress from those who don’t is the ability to become great authors. No matter how dark life may be, these people have the confidence to say “This is not how it ends”.

This is a powerful book that triumphantly celebrates life in all its complex forms. Read it for better understanding of your own wellbeing, or as a how-to to support someone you know who is struggling with mental distress. 

Reviewed by Mark Wilson, Media Engagement and Public Relations Officer, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

28 October 2020

Use your voice book coverUse your voice: Pops and friends help Jess the huntaway find her bark

Bremner, H., & Johnston, D. (2020). N.Z.: Gurt & Pops.

I was sent this book soon after moving back to the small rural area where I grew up. And excuse the pun, but the book spoke to me, even as an adult. New Zealand country folk are deeply humble, perhaps shy. The environment plays a massive role in their worlds, and people are renowned for being outwardly-focussed – the weather chatter for example.

Now don’t get me wrong, taking notice of what’s around us, especially the beautiful things (and in the country there’s plenty), is super wellbeing boosting, but it’s good to notice what’s going on inside for us too – and talk about it.

Rurally, dogs are a fantastic way to depict our worlds and us. Use Your Voice uses Jess the huntaway to do just this. Huntaways are the deep sounding barkers, you’ll hear them on the hills for mustering or way down the paddock, using their voice to herd stock. The command shepherds use for huntaways is, “Speak Up.”

My guess is these observations are the reason Bremner and Johnston created this book, thinking that for rural kids, using our voice is a great message – especially when it comes to how we’re feeling. For children, the book is all about validation – the message that it’s good to think about what’s going on for us and super good to talk about it, is a strong one – loud and clear! Just like our beloved huntaways are told to ‘speak up’, we need to too. 

Use Your Voice is so beautifully and distinctly New Zealand farming that I felt I had to find its audience and hear from them directly. Luckily Kereru hub seniors from Carew Peel Forest School were excited volunteers. They know the images of Use Your Voice well. Their initial responses to the book have utterly inspired me to think hard about this review from their perspectives, and do it well. It was clear this book was meant for them.

The book takes us through poor Jess’s journey through a tough time when she ‘loses her voice.’ But with the support and care of Pops the dachshund and other farmyard friends, Jess manages to find her way through her struggles. Special mention of the text tamariki pointed to – when Pops is doing her best to let Jess know she’s loved and to return to the things she loves doing:

“Let the sun on your face,
the wind in your ears
and don’t forget to let out your tears!” 

The whole book says important things, and its rural context makes it all the more meaningful – especially for rural kids. Carew Peel Forest School tamariki were insightful about other aspects of the story they were noticing:

‘[It’s a] metaphor of the chain tying up Jess – her being worried about life and sad’ – Danielle, Year 5

‘Great example of how to cope when times are tough’ – Ana, Year 6

So it’s clear these children, as young as eight or nine, are able to pull meaning from the story, relate to it and understand the strategies they’re being offered to manage and cope during challenging times – job done!

It’s not often I’m given the opportunity to review books that speak so pertinently to our rural tamariki. This one feels like it hits just the right, thoughtful and engaging note. I’d say it’s a probably an A!

Carew Peel Forest School, Kereru Hub tamariki are perfect, rural kids who love running around, helping out, knowing and caring about their environment and reading great stories. They are happily taught and supported by their very cool teacher, Mrs McFarlane.

Anna Mowat has a background in psychology and works as part of the All Right? wellbeing campaign brought about post-Christchurch earthquakes. Here she leads Sparklers, a school and whānau website dedicated to actively teach tamariki about their mental health and wellbeing in fun ways. She is also the director of Real Parents, a Mum and finds knitting and skiing super tricky.

14 October 2020

Aroha knows coverAroha Knows

Lipp, R., & Phillips, C. (2020).  N.Z.: Wildling Books. 

Aroha is back – YUSS! 

After two extremely wonder-filled and wonderful books; Aroha’s Way and Let It Go, Rebekah Lipp and Craig Philliips are back with Aroha Knows. I’m never sure how to describe these series in terms of their purpose, but they do have a purpose. I would say they’re books providing practical strategies for children and whānau in order to nurture their wellbeing. But I’m not happy with those words alone, so let me ‘try’ to do this better… the definition commonly used for wellbeing is ‘feeling good and functioning well’, and it’s here that Aroha and her friends gently guide us to. What can we do to nurture our wellbeing? This is the question all of the Aroha books answer. And they all do it so succinctly and beautifully. My advice – buy the set! 

But back to Aroha Knows – she knows about places that support her to feel good. I’m in love (again)! This book is all about our comfy beds, our front yard lawns, at our beach, down the river, or in the garden – all the places ‘we’ know - and that are familiar, safe, fun and full of adventures.  

New Zealand is strong in the illustrations – the birds, trees, home. Also strong are the emotions these places evoke. Each page reveals: calmness, gratitude, happiness, bravery, amazement, serenity and acceptance. And the movement in the pages is so apparent – children are rarely still, and when they are, they:   

Watch the heavens pass by 
See our daydreams piled high 
In the sky  

What a fantastic way to speak to children about both our environment and our mental health and wellbeing – they are intrinsically intertwined – whenua (land) is all the places we love, we feel we belong, we are ourselves and we can relax. 

And we share it. 

That’s going to have me head out to the lawn and take a breath or two… 

Anna Mowat has a background in psychology and works as part of the All Right? wellbeing campaign brought about post-Christchurch earthquakes. Here she leads Sparklers, a school and whānau website dedicated to actively teach tamariki about their mental health and wellbeing in fun ways. She is also the director of Real Parents, a mum and finds knitting and skiing super tricky.  

30 September 2020

opening little boxes book cover

Opening Little Boxes

Lodder, K., Casey, C., Bertao, M., & Casey, A. (2020). N.Z.: Eunoia Publishing.

Opening Little Boxes is a collection of reflections about finding yourself in lockdown as a family – a situation many of us can relate to this year! While lockdown is full of stress and anxiety for many, it is also a unique opportunity to reflect. When the normal pace of life slows down and the usual routines are turned on their heads, little gaps open up that allow us to start asking new questions – about what is really important, what matters, questions of life, death, art, of the soul, of knowing and of love.

In Opening Little Boxes, Auckland City Councillor Alex Casey and her family of three generations (and two pets) let us in on some of their thinking on these matters. While it may be a little esoteric and – dare I say – frivolous at times, I believe the book achieves what it set out to do: To make you stop, sit up and listen, and shine a light in some of the less visited places in the heart.

The book is most interesting when it lights up some of the differences in perspectives between the two children, the parents and the grandmother. How is wisdom passed on to the next generation, and what do they hear when we talk? What do they take away? Opening Little Boxes can be read by parents and children together, which I am sure would bring up some interesting conversations. It leaves us with a lesson to stop and listen more – to our own thoughts and emotions, and to each others’.

Reviewed by Zooey Neumann, Publications Coordinator, Mental Health Foundation

p.s. The authors of this book are interviewed on the Auckland City Libraries Books and Beyond podcast.

16 September 2020

Screen Shot 2020 09 11 at 10.02.40 AM

Māori Made Fun: 250+ Puzzles and Games to Boost Your Reo

Morrison, S., & Morrison, S. (2020). Auckland, New Zealand : Penguin Random House.

Scotty and Stacey Morrison need no introduction to those who are learning Te Reo Māori. They are strong advocates for revitalising the language, utilising their clever strategies and innovative teaching techniques to help others learn. Bringing Te Reo Māori into the family home and into workplaces is a passion they both have.

Scotty and Stacey Morrison have authored many books on the language, and their latest title Māori Made Fun is another brilliant collaboration from the pair.

The idea for a Te Reo Māori puzzle and games book came about from Morrison family trips "in the olden days” when the kids enjoyed doing activity books. The couple thought a Māori version suitable for all ages and language abilities could be fun.

Māori Made Fun is an interactive, hands-on new way for everyday learners to practise and learn Te Reo Māori With 200 fun activities, it features crosswords, word finds, rhyming riddles, visual puzzles, colouring-in, code crackers and number puzzles. It’s aimed at making te reo easier and more accessible for both beginners and more confident speakers of all ages. The book proves that even if we only have a minute to spare, we can always get some practise in and put our te reo to use.

Stacy Morrison says: “There's playfulness in the reo. It’s one of the parts of the reo you sometimes miss. Your kids will feel good that they know as much or even more than you. That's the playfulness that we want to encourage. This gives you a chance to do something together where Māori is part of your life. It's a tiny but impactful way that you can do that."

I couldn’t agree more with this statement. To me, Māori Made Fun is a great resource to use and to re-connect with your whānau. It gives you a chance to do something together without the use of digital devices. All in all, the book is a great addition to anyone keen to increase their knowledge and fluency of Te Reo Māori.

Tōku reo tōku ohooho, tōku reo, tāku māpihi maurea

My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul

Reviewed by Wharepaoro Christie, Kaiwhakarite Māori Development Specialist, MHF

September 2020

Building a life worth living book coverBuilding a life worth living: A memoir

Lineham, M. M. (2020). U.S.: Random House.

In Building a Life Worth Living, author Marsha speaks to her own life experience – telling the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to developer of the behavioural therapy DBT. Filled with practical tips for coping, this book would appeal to a wide audience, and may also inspire professionals to help understand their clients better. Interestingly, it also delves into the history of clinical psychology, and how the field moved from a psychodynamic approach to incorporating behaviourist research. 

This book makes you feel great appreciation for all the work that Marsha has done in the field – it is fascinating to understand how she applied her own mental health experience to developing DBT. The layout of the book was easy to follow, however some passages felt repetitive. Overall, this book is great for those who are interested in the origins of DBT and Marsha's inspiring journey.

Reviewed by Janice Chong.

19 August 2020

Stuff thats loud book cover imageStuff that's loud: A teen's guide to unspiralling when OCD gets noisy

Sedley, B., & Coyne, L. (2020). United Kingdom: Robinson.

Stuff that’s loud was written by Ben Sedley, a clinical psychologist and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) practitioner, and Lisa Coyne, founder of the McClean OCD Institute for Children and Adolescents. They have a wealth of experience in adolescent mental health and it shows. This is a book I wish I had as a teenager with OCD. 

Stuff that's loud is aimed at teenagers, but it would be suited for parents, teachers and adults with OCD. The tone is conversational, and it lays out the basics of exposure and response prevention (ERP) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in a way that is easy to understand and apply to your own life.  

It talks about OCD in two sections: Spiralling and Unspiralling. 

Spiralling talks about living with OCD, the different types of OCD, and gives real life examples from teens with OCD. They touch on most types of OCD, including the less talked about like harm and sexual orientation. The authors prompt the reader to consider the wider effect OCD is having on their life.  

Reading this section, I felt seen. It's like the authors put to words everything I've struggled to understand or articulate about my own OCD. 

Unspiralling is about treating OCD. I know from my own experience with OCD that treating it is difficult and it gets worse before it gets better. The authors don’t sugar coat that reality, they are frank about the pitfalls you will face but also offer strategies for how to get through those rough times and cultivate the willpower to keep going. They address the impact OCD has on those around you, and provided a guide for how to talk to family, teachers and friends about OCD and the best way for them to provide help. 

Reviewed by Jenna Sayring  

5 August 2020

Wine o'clock myth book coverThe wine o'clock myth: The truth you need to know about women and alcohol

Dann, L. (2020). N.Z.: Allen & Unwin.

The Wine O’clock Myth is a powerful book that takes an in-depth look into women’s drinking habits. Written through the lens of her own turbulent relationship with alcohol and the long journey she has been on to recovery, Lotta Dann asks, “Is it really that treat or reward that we deserve?” The book dives into Big Alcohol (aka the liquor industry), the marketing of their products, our boozy culture and how much it has and still is impacting women.

The book is separated into different parts; our boozy world, what it’s doing to us, how we are being played, what lies beneath and moving on. Within each of these parts Lotta Dann delves into the alarming reasons that play into our culture of alcohol. She starts by exploring the relationship that women have with alcohol, the treat, reward, celebrate and soothe with a glass of wine, along with the bonding agent alcohol is in female friendships. It then moves into the what it’s doing to us part, the ‘not talked about’ dangerous medical and physical impacts that alcohol can have on women - which is disturbing.

It explores the harm being done by Big Alcohol and how women are being played in this industry, the damaging effects of targeting women and selling a ‘wine o’clock’ lifestyle. This was eye opening and frightening to learn that from such a young age, I have been a target of Big Alcohol. In particular, the wine industry selling liquid courage, a glamorous and beautiful lifestyle that I have been an unfortunate and unknown player to all this time.

But do not let this perturb you, keep on reading.

Throughout the book Lotta Dann shares the stories of several extremely brave New Zealand women who disclose their intimate story about their relationship with alcohol, in particular, wine. At times, these stories are heartbreaking and shocking about their personal relationship with alcohol and the influence it has on their life. Reading these is a rollercoaster ride as it dives into the mental health of women across New Zealand and how alcohol can be a big influencing factor towards this.

This is an important read, it is educational, emotive and will leave you questioning your own relationship with alcohol. 

Reviewed by Lucy Boomer, MHF People & Organisational Development Manager

22 July 2020

Longest day coverThe Longest Day: Standing up to depression and tackling the Coast to Coast

Calman, M. (2020). N.Z.: Allan & Unwin.

The Longest Day is the warm, courageous story of a man unlearning everything he thought he knew, facing up to the reality of his mental ill-health, and finding ways through the most difficult times.

Matt Calman ditched his heavy alcohol use, which had been a major coping tool but which was beginning to turn on him. He plunged straight into anxiety and depression, to the extent that he experienced suicidal thoughts. With the support of his whānau, he slowly and painfully found other ways of coping. These included therapy, medication, exploring his Māori identity, and the online peer community at www.livingsober.org.nz

The major focus of the book was Matt training and preparing for the Coast to Coast, a huge challenge of 243km, running, cycling and kayaking. In his first attempt he did not make it and the book discusses his gratitude and grief about that experience. In his second attempt, after the book was published, he triumphed, and was also able to support a fellow competitor to complete the event.

In reading this book, there is a clear sense of Matt’s voice and lovely sense of humour. He reminisces about being told by a kayaking coach “you are going to suck badly at this at first” and how he used those words as motivation to carry on when the going got tough.

There is also the strong sense of family and of real community and the strength and healing that brings – the value of whānau and whanaungatanga.

One thing Matt does not suck at is writing, and this book represents a valuable contribution to the national conversation about men’s mental health, positive masculinity, and our national addiction to alcohol. I look forward to the next offering. 

Reviewed by Rebecca Williams, Suicide Prevention Project Manager, Auckland District Health Board

22 July 2020

Lengthening the shadow cover 2Lengthening the Shadow: Why we need to ask “What’s happening in your world?”

Burt, D. (2019). Auckland, N.Z.: Mary Egan Publishing.

Kiwi author Dave Burt writes his account of the physical and emotional challenges that can come with reaching middle age. The story starts off with a 10-week fitness challenge, through which Dave begins to see links between his health and how complacency led him to become overweight, and his experience of depression that came after facing a series of health issues.

Dave hopes by talking about his experience he can encourage other men to focus on their mental wellbeing, especially those in the trades. His initial approach to his experience of depression was to keep it to himself, which stopped him getting the support he needed. Burt says “As blokes, we are particularly bad at talking about real stuff. I decided that I wanted to change that, and maybe it’s just we need the tools to be able to look out for our mates. I think that’s where having a phrase such as ‘What’s happening in your world?’ that could be like a password to let people know that they can be real with you – that you won’t judge them or try to fix them”.

This autobiography is better suited to men forty onwards and it highlights the importance of developing a realistic mindset about the ageing process, and shows ways to maintain resilience through exercise, self-care and using available support networks. The main message for those who experience depression is that there is hope and things will get better.

Reviewed by Paul Hellesoe, mental health nurse and middle aged man

8 July 2020

Whakarongo ki o Tupuna book coverWhakarongo ki ō Tūpuna: Listen to your Ancestors

Joseph, D., & Te Whata, M. (2019). New Zealand: Oratia Books.

This picture book centres around how a teacher guides her granddaughter and her pupils to walk the path of their ancestors/tūpuna.

In Māori tradition all living things were linked through whakapapa.

The story teaches children to be strong, kind, patient, brave, respectful and positive and connects these traits to their ancestors.

Kia māia, e tama mā, e hine mā kia kaua rā koutou e murirere. Tūria te tū a tō koutou tupuna, a Tū-te-ihiihi.
Be brave, boys and girls, there's no need to panic. Stand tall like your ancestor. The most-awe-inspiring-of-them-all.

Eventually the teacher gets old and the roles are reversed. It is now her granddaughter who becomes the teacher. Because of this she can use her teaching to guide and comfort her grandmother.

Ka nui taku aroha mōu, e kui. Kia kaua rā koe e mokemoke. Haere tāua ki tō tāua tupuna, ki a Tāne-whakapiripiri.
I love you lots nan. You don’t have to be lonely. Let’s go to our ancestor, Tāne who keeps us close together.

Eventually her nan passes on and she is returned to the land.

Kia kaha e kui, e pai ana, kia kaua rā tāua e wehi. Nāu anō te kī, ki a tāua te Māori, ka hoki tatou katoa kit e poho o tō tatou tupuna, o Papatūānuku.
Be strong, Nan, it’s okay let’s not be scared. As you said, it’s our belief, we all return to the care of our ancestor, The Great Earth Mother.

In Māori tradition Papatūānuku is the land. After the earth emerged from water, it gave birth to all life. Trees, birds and humans emerge from the land and are nourished by it. Figuratively, humans are born from the womb of Papatūānuku, and return there after death.

After the tangi it is time for new beginnings. We see her granddaughter now taking over the mantle. She is ready to follow in the footsteps of her nan and start the teaching all over again.

This beautiful picture book demonstrates how Māori have a direct connection with the natural world, the earth, the sea, the land and the sky. It also shows the respect for those that have passed on their knowledge to the younger generation and the importance of doing this.

“kia mau koe ki nga kupu o ou tūpuna”

“Hold fast to the words of your ancestors”.

Reviewed by Wharepaoro Christie, MHF Kaiwhakarite Māori Development Specialist.


This beautiful picture book is written in te reo Māori and English. The rhythm of the words make it a great book to read out loud. It starts with an invite to rest, pause and connect:

Kia tau, e hine mā, e tama mā, kia kaua tātou e manawapā.
Mātakina te pōteretere haere o ngā kapua o tō koutou tupuna, o Ranginui e tū nei.

Relax now, girls and boys, and don’t stress out.
Look up to the swiftly passing clouds cloaking your ancestor, The Majestic Sky Father.

A true story underlies this – in June 2016, Massey University Language Lecturer, Darryn Joseph spent time in a hospital room minding a teacher who’d became a good friend and mentor to him. Darryn wrote her a poem of appreciation, kissed her hand and said goodbye. The next day she passed away.

The first half of the story shows a teacher looking after children, showing them how to let go of anger, anxiety and stress, stand strong and tall, and spend time in nature, linking with ancestors. In the second half, the teacher has become old and now her granddaughter reminds her of the lessons:

Kia kaha, e kui, e pai ana, kia kaua rā tāua e wehi.
Nāu anō te kῙ, ki a tāua te Māori, ka hoki tātou katoa ki te poho o tō tātou tupuna, o Papatūānuku.

Be strong, Nan, it’s okay – let’s not be scared.
As you said, it’s our belief, we all return to the care of our ancestor, The Great Earth Mother.

The teacher dies. The granddaughter looks after her whānau, sharing the lessons with them.

If your whānau is experiencing grief and loss and you’re looking for ways to reflect on the journey of life with your young ones, this book is helpful. The words are supported by colourful images that create space for further kōrero. I say young ones – however this book is a true classic with messages for all ages and stages. And if you’re keen to practise te reo Māori, it helps with that too.

Reviewed by Virginia Brooks, MHF Community Engagement & Health Promotion Specialist.

1 July 2020

Consent for kids by R Brian. Book coverConsent (for kids!): Boundaries, respect and being in charge of YOU

Brian, R. (2020). U.S.: Little, Brown.

“Consent: It’s like being the ruler of your own country. Population: YOU” states author Rachel Brian. Her book sets out to help children to speak up and tell others when they don’t want to be hugged or tickled, or if they feel uncomfortable with another person.

Using fun comic-like artwork and a fair bit of silliness, Brian has created a clever and informative book that will appeal to kids of all ages, as well as parents and educators. Without making a mockery of the subject, the author wittily explains how consent is involved in many real-life situations; like telling people how you feel, listening to others, setting boundaries and growing healthy relationships.

Consent is the type of book that parents can read to very young children, giving them a chance to discuss a serious topic in a fun way together. Older children and teenagers would enjoy reading this book by themselves, enjoying the clever illustrations and funny scenarios but still getting the important message.

From the very first page, it is clear that this is an inclusive book as the illustrations represent people of different cultural backgrounds and those with a disability, and gender-neutral language is used. The author then gets straight into telling the reader what the book can do for them, namely helping them to understand consent, build strong friendships and find ways to get help when needed.

Brian explains how children can identify any past, present or future situations where they felt uncomfortable and were not sure what the problem was and how they could fix it. She then shows them how they could help a family member or friend who may be struggling with their relationship with another child or adult.

This small book is packed full of information and explanations around the serious topic of consent. Through descriptive illustrations and the use of easy to understand language, readers should come away with a very good understanding of the topic, and hopefully the confidence to speak up if necessary.

Consent is a useful resource and would be a great conversation starter for families. One small note is that the HELP phone numbers and email address at the end of the book are not relevant to New Zealand readers. A card insert or sticker in the back of the book would fix this problem.

Reviewed by Deanne Douglas, Social Media & Library Officer for Auckland Down Syndrome Association (ADSA)

17 June 2020

Let it go coverLet it go: Emotions are energy in motion

Lipp, R., & Phillips, C. (2020). N.Z.: Wildling Books.

Let it Go is a cool, new read that explores the uncomfortable emotions we all feel and face. The book will be familiar if you’ve read Aroha’s Way, Lipp and Phillips' first book exploring a similar journey, but this time she has friends who may relate to a wider range of tamariki.

I’m totally in love with the illustrations in this book, as I was in Aroha’s Way. Visually, the book brings emotions to life: they’re bright or they’re cold, they’re fierce or they’re still - and the swirling string between the pages is like a gymnast’s ribbon, making the connection between our emotions - we all feel them, they live with us at times, they move and wriggle...

The illustrations help us visually roll through the emotions of the characters - fear, rage, sadness and shame. It’s a gift Lipp and Phillips hold - we are reminded of the greyness of sadness, the heat of rage, the heaviness of shame, and the unpredictability of fear. We are lucky to have these two authors giving our children such real and true visuals of our feelings. They make emotions easier to talk about, exploring them with colour, similes and physicality. Therein lies huge opportunities for teachers - in drama and poetry, and if we wanted to consider emotions more physically – in science too.

This book also provides great ideas for managing big, raw emotions - the illustrations give us externalisation paired with breathing, challenging our thoughts, writing things down, and this is extended in the parent and teacher notes. Let it Go gives us all permission to explore, kōrero and ‘feel’ (rather than avoid) what we feel, and for that I will always give Lipp and Phillips a double thumbs up and a loving fist pump - they have our children’s best interests in their hearts.

One wish from me, is a return to the very Aotearoa feel we have in Aroha’s Way - it felt like ‘our’ book and ‘our’ New Zealand emotions. Whilst Let It Go is so, so beautiful - I keep returning to the image of an exhausted Aroha curled on the lily pad and the huge carp furling in the water near her - breath-taking - though not uniquely our own.

But do I love Let It Go? Absolutely. I will buy it, use it and recommend it. 

Anna Mowat is the project lead for Sparklers, a wellbeing website for schools. She also works across the All Right? Wellbeing campaign and co-directs Real Parents. She has a background in psychology and English and is a proud and exhausted Mum.

10 June 2020

Whats Going On Inside my Head book coverWhat’s going on inside my head? Starting conversations with your child about positive mental health

Potter, M. (2019). London: Featherstone.

Using her experience as a middle school teacher, Molly Potter’s books focus on the personal, social and emotional development of children. What’s going on inside my head? looks at the topic of positive mental health, and aims to help children become more self-aware, providing them with suggested ways to look after themselves and to understand their feelings.

This book is written for whānau, caregivers and kids to read together. As quite a dense read for one sitting, I think it’d be particularly handy to refer back to when real life issues arise to talk about ways to problem solve together – it is jam packed with helpful strategies and activities to encourage a compassionate and positive mindset.

I can see this book being a helpful prompt for classroom activities, and it could also be incorporated into a wider family wellbeing plan. Due to its focus on fostering positive wellbeing, the content is relevant to everyone. It is a good reminder for adults that our actions, self-care strategies, (or lack of), and the words we use are emulated by the little ones in our lives. The book is indeed a useful tool to start conversations, and with its core message that it is important to ask for help, it could help children to feel cared for and not alone when faced with challenges.

I also look forward to reviewing Potter’s soon to be released book It’s Okay to Cry – which focuses on encouraging boys to talk about their feelings.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Management Specialist, Mental Health Foundation 

27 May 2020

The Woman who cracked the anxiety code book cover

The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code: The extraordinary life of Dr Claire Weekes

Hoare, J. (2019). U.K.: Scribe Publications
The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code is a comprehensive and fascinating biography of Dr Claire Weekes, the Australian doctor who built a self-help empire with her bestsellers Self-Help for your Nerves (1962), Peace from Nervous Suffering (1972) and Simple Effective Treatment of Agoraphobia (1976). The book traces Dr Weekes’ life from her birth in Sydney in 1903 all the way to her death in 1990: a life that encompassed almost 100 years of tremendous change – for women, for science, for psychiatry, and for the world as a whole.
We learn about Dr Weekes’ upbringing in a pretty Sydney suburb in a tumultuous family to her time as one of the first women to study science (biology) at an Australian university and work as a serious researcher and scientist. We find out about her own period of ill health, a suspected bout of tuberculosis with treatment in a sanatorium, and the subsequent development of her anxiety disorder. We are there when Dr Weekes makes her breakthrough, based on advice of a friend who had been a soldier in the trenches of WWI and was well familiar with fear. And we read about the revolutionary development of her treatment protocol for anxiety and panic attacks, which she made available to patients all around the world directly through her books.
Claire Weekes had a fascinating life – bicycling through Europe with a girlfriend in the 1930s, frequently changing her career in unexpected ways from science to music to travel to medicine, living with a woman and forging her own path throughout. The book is strongest where it traces Weekes’ development of her treatment for anxiety and her understanding of the mind-body connection. Decades before the West would be introduced to an Eastern understanding of “letting go” and “acceptance”, Weekes developed her own ideas about accepting the fear, experiencing it, but letting it pass. Her mantra was “face, accept, float, let time pass”, and this has helped thousands of patients around the world now for decades.
Claire Weekes was a medical doctor, not a psychiatrist, and she was forever an outsider in the world of psychiatry. Even as the popularity of her books grew, and many testified to the usefulness of her method, psychiatry on the whole did not take her seriously. She came from a perspective of really listening to the patient and their experience – and in fact did so, often for hours, on the phone with patients from around the world. She was not on board with contemporary approaches to psychiatry, such as the ever-more-detailed labelling of different disorders (all fear was just fear to her) or the development of pharmaceuticals for anxiety. But what was most revolutionary was that she did promise patients that they could get well – even speaking the word “cure”, which was seen as a no-no by psychiatry as a whole. Instead, Dr Weekes’ biggest supporters for decades were the Australian Women’s Weekly, American TV talk shows and BBC interview shows – and this is how she became a household name in the English-speaking world and beyond.
The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code does not hold back on telling us all about some unsavoury aspects of Claire’s biography, such as the issues with her family and business partners, and as a reader I would have preferred a much more stringent approach to editing! Judith Hoare obviously put a lot of time and effort into her research, and one feels that every scrap of information gleaned made it into the book – even if of questionable value to the reader. But if you are willing to put up with a bit more personal gossip than was necessary, this book will give fascinating insights into a pioneer in the worlds of science, publishing, and the world of self-help.
Reviewed by Zooey Neumann, Publications Coordinator, Mental Health Foundation

13 May 2020

Mophead: How your difference makes a differenceMophead

Marsh, S. T. (2019). N.Z.: Auckland University Press.

“But we’re not made to be the same.”

Mophead is a delightful graphic memoir that brought back memories of reading Spike Milligan’s Bad Jelly the Witch as a child. The simple ‘doodle-like’ graphics along with the humorous method in which the story is told helps to get a serious message across without feeling ‘lectured to’. Mophead discusses feeling the need to conform and being bullied for being different. Character Selina feels the need to conform and try to be like everyone else, until she meets Sam, who lives life celebrating his individuality, inspiring Selina to be the same. As Selina embraces her wild hair and becomes confident in her own skin, she begins to shine in all aspects of her life.

At first glance, Mophead could be considered a children’s picture-book, however I would argue that the book’s messaging will resonate with children and adults alike. It poses questions such as: How do we treat others who are different to us? How might this make them feel? What aspects of our own uniqueness do we hide in order to ‘fit in’? What are we missing out on by trying to ‘be the same’? Selina Tusitala Marsh has written a book filled with hope that demonstrates the power of simply being yourself.

Reviewed by Deb Marsden, Guidance Counsellor & Secondary School teacher

29 April 2020

A maori phrase a day 365 phrases to kickstart your reoA Māori Phrase a Day: 365 phrases to kickstart your reo

Kelly, H. (2020). N.Z.: Penguin Random House|Raupo.

This pukapuka/book makes it all the more possible for all New Zealanders to learn te reo Māori. If you are a beginner, it is a simple, practical, user friendly and fun way to start your reo journey. If you are already a speaker like myself, the book provides a welcomed opportunity to be reminded of different phrases and to expand your knowledge. 

A Maori Phrase A Day offers 365 of the most common and contemporary te reo phrases and a list of definitions in both Māori and English. Author Hēmi Kelly has divided the phrases into 28 common categories, from commuting or making travel plans, to being at work or talking about the weather, to enjoying the outdoors, and everyday conversations with your family and friends. For me, this book was a good reminder of phrases that I would not usually use, and the multiple translations of certain kupu/words proved useful.

The book is a sequel to Kelly’s well-received first book – A Māori Word A Day. Kelly, who learned te reo Māori as a rangatahi/young teenager, clearly has a strong love for the language and for encouraging others to incorporate it into their lives – he is also a lecturer of te reo Māori and as a licensed translator and graduate of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo (The Institute of Excellence in Māori Language).

Overall, I found it an absolute priviledge to be able to to expand my knowledge of te reo Māori from such an esteemed educator. I would highly reccommend this book to anyone interested in learning or extending their te reo Māori.

“Kia kaha te ako, kia kaha te korero te reo Māori – be strong in your pursuit to learning and speaking te reo Māori.

Reviewed by Donna-Jean Tairi-Ngata, Community Engagement Coordinator and Health Promoter, Mental Health Foundation

15 April 2020

Art of rest coverThe Art of Rest: How to find respite in the modern age

Hammond, C. (2020). Edinburgh: Canongate.

Claudia delves deep into how modern humans find rest in an increasingly busy world. If you’ve ever daydreamed about a bubble bath during a work meeting or wished you could escape for a walk around the block, then this might be the book for you.

It’s not uncommon, as Claudia notes, to crave more rest and relaxation but feel guilty when the opportunity arises. “Today busyness has become a badge of honour. We want to say we’re busy, yet at the same time we feel exhausted.’’ The Art of Rest unpacks the psychology of how and why we rest the way we do from an easy-to-follow scientific standpoint.

A major survey entitled ‘The Rest Test’ forms the basis of this book. ‘The Rest Test’ was led by academic researchers from Durham University and included over 18,000 participants from 135 countries. The questionnaire sought to garner attitudes, habits and thoughts on rest and relaxation in the modern age. Spoiler alert: a key finding was that most people don’t think they’re getting enough rest!

After an interesting and informative introduction, the remainder of the book is organised into 10 chapters –  one chapter dedicated to each of the top 10 most restful activities as identified from the survey: Mindfulness, Watching TV, Daydreaming, A Nice Hot Bath, A Good Walk, Doing Nothing in Particular, Listening to Music, I Want to Be Alone, Spending Time in Nature and at number 1...Reading!  

Claudia Hammond, an author, BBC broadcaster and psychology lecturer, encourages you to seek out rest in meaningful ways and challenges the reader to re-evaluate how they use their time. The experts don’t hesitate to highlight the many benefits of rest including better decision-making and more productivity.

As a Counsellor and Wellbeing Co-ordinator in a busy school, The Art of Rest reinforced the importance of being able to step off the busy treadmill-of-life and smell the roses. Our hunches are correct, rest and relaxation is not wasting time but rather necessary for our health. Now we have the evidence to prove it!

Reviewed by Gina Speedy, School Counsellor and Wellbeing Co-ordinator at Auckland Normal Intermediate School

1 April 2020

How We Got Happy Cover 2How we got happy: Stories of health, hope and happiness from 20 young Kiwis who beat depression

Nabbs, J., & Macfarlane, E. (Eds.). (2020). N.Z.: Self published.

It can be hard to find your path through depression and everyone's battle is different. While we are getting better at talking about depression and how we're feeling we often don't get to hear about how someone got through its challenges. Set out as a series of stories from young New Zealanders from all walks of life accompanied with clean and natural photography, How We Got Happy is a new way to address wellbeing and the battle with depression.

Creators Jonathan Nabbs and Eve Macfarlane set out to answer the question: What are the things (habits, tools, beliefs, exercises, strategies) that have helped people move from the bottom of the bell curve into happy, healthy lives once again? Each story provides insights on the tools and skills that each writer found helpful in their struggle with depression. As someone who struggled with depression in the past, I would've found a book like this a helpful tool to learn from others' achievements.

The use of portrait photography mixed with questions that give the reader a bit more insight into how each writer experienced their depression made the whole book feel more personal. It was easy to find in some of the writers a bit of myself in their experiences and journeys they took to recovery. Each story is also accompanied by a small handwritten note by each author to their past selves when they needed help the most. The notes are strong and empowering reminders to themselves and the reader of the most important things to remember in our darkest times.

Filled with bright and engaging photography this book is an easy and uplifting read whether you read it cover to cover or to just pick up and flick through. No matter if you are currently struggling with depression or have found your path through depression you will enjoy this wonderful collection of heart-warming stories from young Kiwis. A great coffee table book to have around the house.

Reviewed by Helena Loy

18 March 2020

The Book of Overthinking: How to stop the cycle of worryThe book of overthinking cover

Smith, Gwendoline. (2020). N.Z.: Allen & Unwin.

Gwendoline Smith is a NZ psychologist who also wrote The Book of Knowing, a popular title aimed at young people to explain how the mind works. Gwendoline describes The Book of Overthinking as a sequel to this earlier work – it is more geared to an adult audience, but both are grounded in the theory of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a recognised best practice treatment for mood and anxiety conditions. 

We all have a tendency to overthink, humans are prone to a negativity bias as part of our survival instincts. Smith notes we should be concerned about our overthinking when it gets in the way of our ability to function. I know that my overthinking affects my ability to switch off and sleep in the evening, which has a roll on effect on how I function the following day.

This book is an easy read and is full of techniques to help you get out of the downward spiral worry can take you on. It feels a lot like you are attending a session with Gwendoline. You feel you have her on your side, not just because of her professional guidance, but also the insight she provides from her personal experience with depression. She slowly introduces you to the principles of CBT through worksheets, each chapter showcasing a new concept. As a learning tool, she provides transcripts of a possible chats between her and the reader as a way to review how the principles could be successfully applied to everyday scenarios.

Once you finish the book you feel inspired and armed with fresh skills, and at the same time it dawns on you that your work has only just begun. The real magic will be actively applying these skills daily. You get a sense that Gwendoline is keen to give readers an opportunity to self-manage their anxiety where possible (of course alongside professional help where necessary). I think this book could really help readers develop confidence in their ability to work through those worrisome moments that present in our lives.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Management Specialist, Mental Health Foundation 

4 March 2020

Mindful way workbook coverThe Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-week program to free yourself from depression and emotional distress

Teasdale, J. D., Williams, J. M. C., & Segal, Z. V. (2014). New York: The Guilford Press.

The Mindful Way Workbook is an eight-week mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) programme for depression and emotional distress. MBCT is an evidence-based treatment which has been found to be effective for depression and anxiety, as well as a wide range of other emotional problems. The book is authored by three experts in the field and having used the related guide The Mindful Way through Depression with clients in therapy, I was interested to see whether it would add additional value. The workbook is designed so it can be used as a self-help book, as part of individual therapy, or as part of a MBCT group programme.

The workbook is easy to navigate. It begins with providing foundations for the programme, including explaining mindfulness and how we get stuck in depression and other difficult emotions. It is then organised week by week, introducing new content followed by daily practices. These practices are invaluable in cultivating moment to moment awareness and noticing and interacting differently with our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. The workbook is interactive and provides space for reflections. I particularly enjoyed the captions which made it feel like you are part of a supportive, kind and compassionate group of other participants and knowledgeable facilitators.

The book includes an MP3 CD and links to a website where you can download guided meditations and worksheets. I found it helpful being able to download the guided meditations onto my mobile phone so I could practice them whenever I had the chance. There is also an additional resources and notes section at the back of the book.

I’ve found that The Mindful Way Workbook adds great value to the aforementioned guide – it provides additional tools and practical guidance, and is particularly useful if independently undertaking MBCT. The eight-week programme requires sustained and significant effort by the reader, but is undoubtedly rewarding through its ability to help cope with emotional distress and enhance wellbeing, teaching us new ways to respond to our thoughts and feelings.

Reviewed by Dr Anna Walters, Clinical Psychologist.

19 February 2020

All of this is for you: A little book of kindnessA litte book of kindness cover

Jones, R. (2019). Auckland: Penguin.

Life can be overwhelming, things can get tough and we can be so hard on ourselves. Through beautifully crafted drawings and simple little messages, Ruby Jones’ All of this is for you reminds us that we’re not going through life alone. Expressing how we feel can be really hard sometimes, sometimes we don’t even know how we feel, sometimes we aren’t sad but we’re just not good – this little book was my saving grace when I was in a funk and couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong. I would often find myself picking it up to flick through it as the messages are genuine, heartfelt and relatable. 

No matter what stage in life you are at – I guarantee when you open this book you will find at least one page that you can relate to. There are pages that remind us to be kinder to ourselves, to be kinder to those who matter to us, to be kinder to the world we live in – and then there are pages with no words, just drawings to be interpreted in whatever way you see them. Certain pages felt like the author had taken extracts out of my mind and drawn out personalised advice for me, allowing me to recognise and tune in with my emotions. Everyone should have a copy of this little book of kindness. 

Reviewed by Samantha Page, Executive Administrator, MHF

5 February 2020

Blue little penguin covers collageBlue little penguin | Pūru kororā pōuri

Wilson, Norah. (2019). Blue Goat Books.

This is a story about friendship and feelings. It features two New Zealand native birds as best friends, Blue is a Little Blue Penguin and Ruru a Morepork.

The story is sweet and humorous. We would all like to think we have at least one friend like Blue’s friend Ruru. The friend who sticks with you through the hard times, and you are both content in each other’s company. They just get you.

Blue is having a difficult time and Ruru assures him that his feelings are normal and offers him support in his own unique way.

Author Norah Wilson is a mum, teacher and budding self-published author and illustrator. Introducing herself on her Facebook page, she says “Feelings are important and I want kids feeling them and talking about them.” I think the book accomplishes this, as the characters’ actions show kids that strong feelings are OK and with support you can find a way to manage them. Her super cute illustrations also enhance the story’s message.

For a short and simple book, it quickly gets across its affirming message – that it is important to look out for each other. The first sentence jumps right in with “Hi. How are you?” Ruru takes time to listen and treats Blue like he normally would, involving him in activities and checking in regularly.

My 10-year-old son thought it was more suited to a younger age group, and could see merit in little kids learning that it is important to be a good friend and help others.

I feel this simple book provides a powerful message that could be incorporated into class units looking at ways to be a good friend, i.e. what is helpful and what is not, such as not interrupting. It has also been translated into te reo Māori by Maimoa NZ. I can definitely see this title in most NZ primary and public libraries.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Management Specialist, MHF

22 January 2020

Flourishing in the early years: Contexts, practices and futuresFlourishing in the early years cover

Kingdon, Z., Gourd, J., & Gasper, M. (Eds.). (2016). U.S.: Routledge.

Flourishing in the Early Years discusses the importance of providing preschool children with an environment where they have the freedom to play and learn. To enable this to happen, the book stresses the importance of supporting teachers and families, who themselves must also be flourishing.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section looks at the concept of flourishing, what it means and how it is shaped by historical, political and policy frameworks. It considers issues such as school readiness versus social and emotional development, holistic development and the influence of the cultural environment.  

Section two examines practices, the issues facing early childhood educators when dealing with parents and professionals in the community. It stresses the importance of working in partnership with families, the role of pedagogical documentation, and the growth in popularity of outdoor learning.

Lastly, the book looks to the future and considers the long-term issues that need to be regularly reviewed in order for children, teachers and families to continue to thrive within the early childhood setting.

This book is a broad look at what a flourishing early childhood community looks like and how this can be facilitated. For this reason, it is an invaluable resource specifically for professionals training or working in the early childhood sector. This publication not only provides a lot of information and analysis of the issues raised, but also includes reflective tasks for the reader.

Although the authors are British, the issues explored are very relevant to New Zealand, especially in the context of the current government’s desire to improve child wellbeing; the discussions around pay parity for Early Childhood Educators; and the growing popularity of forest schools. Its content is consistent with New Zealand’s Early Childhood Curriculum, Te Whāriki, which places great importance on children’s holistic development, the influence of the home environment and working in partnership with whānau and the community.

Reviewed by Charmaine Denney, Early Childhood Teacher and mum to two boys.

11 December 2019

Pūrākau: Māori myths retold by Māori writersPurakau cover

Witi, I., & Hereaka, W. (2019). Auckland: Random House.

Tēnā tātou katoa e te whānau whānui o te ao pukapuka Māori. Ka nui te mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa. Mauri ora!

I had the privilege of reading Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers. This book delves into the mystery of Māori stories from ancient times, from the unseen world of the gods; to ancestral feats and trickeries. Pūrākau’s plethora of authors have contemporised and rearranged the stories, reflecting their own creativity and ideas, and making them relevant to today.

Some stories hit home and talk about the harsh realities of sexual abuse, whilst others provide a feel-good factor of love, honour and wonderment. At times, the language is explicit and colourful. If your knowledge of the traditional world of Māori stories is exceptional, then this book will certainly appeal to you. Those not so familiar to the legends of Māori will still be able to appreciate the eloquence and uniqueness of these stories and may be inspired to find out more about mātauranga Māori.

I love this book because it is full of suspense and mystery, and there are hidden messages that pertain to the modern world. It is also written to a very high standard - this is unsurprising, as one of the writers is world renown author Witi Ihimaera.

This book is a must-read, you’ll find it hard to put it down once you start.

Ngā mihi nunui ki koe, ki a koutou katoa. Mauriora!

Reviewed by Michael Naera, MHF Alliance Builder. 

27 November 2019

The Self Care Project, book coverThe Self-Care Project: How to let go of frazzle and make time for you

Hardy, J. (2019). London: Orion Spring.

The Self-Care Project is more than just a book. It’s an interactive journal for people who need a bit of encouragement to prioritise self-care, for those who are “too busy” to put time into themselves or for those who look at self-care as a luxury as opposed to a necessity.  

Jayne Hardy starts the book with a bit about herself. She outlines her experiences with depression, anxiety and self-care in an open and honest style, which instantly makes you feel that you’re in safe hands throughout this self-care journey. Jayne breaks self-care down into different chapters, and notes that even things such as brushing your teeth are a step in the right direction. Her advice is easy to relate to, and by including even the simplest of actions as self-care, she makes it feel impossible to say “I can’t do that.”

The Self-Care Project very quickly made me realise how many things I do subconsciously that compromise my own wellbeing, and to be honest, it gave me a bit of a reality check (in the best way possible). The sense of self-awareness you gain from reading this book is incredible, you start to recognise patterns in your life, almost as if you’re reading about your own experiences and feel inspired to make some changes. One example that stood out to me is over committing - something I so often find myself doing. This book really encourages you to let go of those bad habits, reminds you that self-care is not selfish, and makes you check in with yourself on a regular basis, as each chapter ends with some ‘fill in the blank’ exercises.

Overall, the book’s synopsis really hits the nail on the head: “it will help you explore what self-care means for you, what your obstacles might be and provide advice on how to chisel out daily space for self-care in a practical, achievable and realistic way.”

Reviewed by Samantha Page, Executive Administrator, MHF

13 November 2019

Emotions in motionEmotions in motion book cover

Stanley, R. (2014). Mangawhai, New Zealand: Duck Creek Press (David Ling Publishing). www.rosestanley.com

We love a book about emotions! The more we have, the more we encourage our children to discover and notice them, learn to manage them and ultimately talk about them. In our own families, there have been times we haven’t known one of our children is feeling sad or lonely, and they’ve used a book about emotions to open up that korero.

We also know from psychology that the more emotionally literate we are and the more normalised emotions are, the more we are able to express our emotions, resulting in better long-term mental health. It’s cool to talk emotions!

Emotions in Motion does just this. It’s a simple little book bringing colour and description to each emotion – colour is another great way to express emotions. Anna noticed with her daughter that the book enabled a conversation about which colours they’d choose to describe emotions. Great stuff!

The range of emotions within this book is also top notch. Stanley takes us through anger, happiness, loneliness, confusion, sadness, disappointment, fear, peace, surprise and love. Love is rainbow colours – this excited us all!

Whilst reading the book, Kaye also switched to her therapist “hat”. She noted that over the years she’s had many conversations with tamariki about colours and feelings to contribute to their emotional literacy. In her experience, she has noticed this technique can be interpreted in different ways, and that matching colours to emotions is subjective. Kaye feels that Stanley could have portrayed this a bit more clearly in the initial pages, rather than it being more rule based ie, the colour of happiness is yellow.

The activities section is creative. We thought they were great for older children or for younger with the help of a parent, and recommend them as a classroom activity for Years 2–4. It would be easy to use the questions posed as a pick and mix approach appropriate to the amount of time you may have, and the ages and stages of your tamariki.

Another variation could be encouraging other art activities with colours and feelings or looking at how various artists or illustrators do this differently. The book would therefore act as a great catalyst to springboard great wellbeing activities for tamariki of all ages.

Reviewed by Anna Mowat and Kaye Wolland

Anna Mowat works predominantly as part of the All Right? Wellbeing campaign in Ōtautahi, where she is based. She also delivers Incredible Years parenting courses for the Ministry of Education and is currently working on a Cure Kids research project to create support for parents whose children have emotional regulation issues.

Kaye Wolland is a Registered Psychologist and works in primary health and private practice in Canterbury. Kaye started her career as a social worker and has worked with children, adolescents and families for over 20 years in various settings across child protection, child development, education and mental health. Kaye has also been on the Sparkler's project team which has developed a website wellbeing resource for teachers.

30 October 2019

Stressless coverStress less: Proven methods to reduce stress, manage anxiety and lift your mood

Johnstone, M. & Player, M. (2019). Sydney, Australia: Macmillan Australia. 

Wow what a read!  This book is beautifully illustrated and holds valuable techniques to help with stress and anxiety.  It is not a book you can read in one sitting. It can be overwhelming to try to absorb everything on offer. You need to look at each chapter as an individual session. This is a book I would recommend to have on your shelf so you can refer to it often.  Those in the corporate world, universities and helping fields would find it a valuable tool for their clients, their students and themselves.

An enjoyable but intense read.

Reviewed by Karen Bernhardt

I am a great fan of Matthew Johnstone’s visual work. He is very talented at portraying emotions and humour through his illustrations. His earlier works I had a black dog: His name was depression, Living with a black dog and The little book of resilience, were all charming, insightful and powerful. Johnstone brings not only his talent as an illustrator to his books, but also his personal experience of mental illness. 

His new title Stress Less is a collaboration with clinical psychologist and researcher Dr Michael Player. This brings a second lens of best practice and proven clinician techniques to the book’s content. Their main aim is to help readers to recognize thinking patterns and behaviours that lead to stress, and to provide a range of techniques and approaches to problem solve, manage stress and aid relaxation. 

There is no one quick fix presented within the book: they encourage you to try out and adapt the concepts and insights based on your own personal experiences. They suggest you have a dedicated notebook handy whilst reading the book to jot down ideas that inspire or ring true to you – the act of note-taking may also increase your chances of putting a technique into practice. 

Compared to Johnstone’s first titles, this book is bigger, and jam packed with written information about mindfulness, kindness, self-compassion, gratitude, cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise, and nutrition. I suggest you just dip into a section at a time, as while there are many valuable learnings, you may need to pace yourself! Another approach for those fond of Johnstone’s visual work could be to flick solely through the illustrations (I admit this was my first tactic), as these themselves provide many opportunities to pause, relate and have the occasion chuckle, which can sometimes result in a healing moment in itself. 

This is the type of book you want to own, it will be well worn and referred back to often. 

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Management Specialist, MHF

9 October 2019

morning coverMorning: How to make time 

Jenkins, A. (2018). London: Fourth Estate.

My experiences of early mornings are never good; it’s either the kids waking me, alarms buzzing me into life so I can catch an early flight to an out of town meeting; or to fulfil that dumb promise made to a friend to pick them up from the first international flight of the day. After reading Allan Jenkin’s Morning: How to make time, I can see that waking early (without an alarm!) is a precious taonga. There’s no-one else around to bug you, you can be at peace with a steaming cup of tea, staring blankly at the world in its last throes of sleep. Now to put this tranquil state into practice. In my household, you have to tip-toe around in an effort not to awaken the kids, or disturb my sleep deprived partner. I want to experience what Allan Jenkins experiences – “to be extra alive in a way the near silence allows, sensitive to minute moments of change”. Jenkins awakens (early) each morning to windows flung open to the world no matter the season and every noise, or early morning activity around the neighbourhood is described as magical and inspiring. From the soft rain on plants, to the noise of rubbish trucks, Jenkins celebrates them all. 

The format of this slim volume is pretty simple, it begins with some explanations about why mornings are magical and some tips on how to become an early morning person. Don’t even begin to attempt this if you’re a night owl. You need to accept that you’ll be in the land of nod by 9pm most nights if you become converted. Jenkins says to start in spring as the days draw out. Winter is too staunch to begin this new way of being, although Jenkins admits it’s his most favourite season. The book quickly falls into a rhythm. Each chapter is a new month – and diary entries for that month detail the minute yet important observations as the sun rises. The scenes I most wanted to relate to were when he was at his beloved allotment tending his garden. Rounding out each chapter is a question and answer session with fellow early morning converts. Each of them write elegant accounts of what the precious morning means to them. There’s plenty of gold in their views. Despite the author being London-based, the early morning observations still seemed relevant to New Zealand, minus the fox visitations which are surprisingly often in Jenkins’ world.  

By the end of the book (which I read before sleep each night) I was in love with the concept of waking early and experiencing all that Allan Jenkins had experienced. A month on from finishing the book, I’m yet to do anything different, but the odd morning I’ve woken early, and listened to the world wake around me, I think I’m inching closer to slipping out of bed, sneaking to the farthest corner of the house, and just being present with the world as it awakens around me. As Jenkins says, “morning is a forgiving friend. Yours, too, if you want it.” 

Reviewed by Mark Wilson, Senior Public Relations & Media Engagement Officer, MHF. Self-proclaimed night owl, but admits to pangs of FOMO by not being awake early.

2 October 2019

50 ways to feel happy book cover50 ways to feel happy: Fun activities and ideas to build your happiness skills

King, V., Payne, V., & Harper, P. (2018). U.K.: QED Publishing. 

50 ways to feel happy is a thoughtfully written book that encourages readers to discover how they can feel happier and more fulfilled. Authored by two psychologists and a teacher, its chapters are based on the ten keys to happier living developed by American organisation ‘The Action for Happiness’.

Each chapter provides children with activities, facts and information on ways to increase their own happiness. They can work through the book in order, or select any activity or page of interest. 

One of the strengths of this book is its focus upon enabling children to recognise and understand their feelings and emotions. It encourages reflection: what are the things – people, activities or places – that make you feel happy? It suggests children discuss these with others or record them in a journal.

The book makes a point of acknowledging that it is not possible to feel happy all the time, and that it is okay to feel angry, sad, upset or afraid. It encourages children to be mindful of their feelings in order to deal with challenges and cope with difficulties, and to bounce back when things don’t go to plan.

This book is brimming with information, and as a result, it may be a bit intense for some children. I think it would be ideal for those who are naturally quite reflective and who love reading. And, while some of the activities have great intent, such as encouraging children to find happiness through being kind to others, they are perhaps a bit ambitious, for example: “Can you list 100 different ways of being kind, giving or helping people? Your goal is to do everything on your list!”

However, this book is full of great ideas and in an age dominated by screens, it is refreshing to see lots of activities encouraging children to get outside, be creative and socialise with others. Chapter two has some great suggestions for children on how to connect with others and the importance of being a good listener – it may be helpful for a child who is struggling socially.

Overall, I believe this book is a worthwhile resource to have both in the classroom or home. It encourages children to have a broader, perhaps more holistic and informed view of happiness. By discussing strategies such as healthy eating, mindfulness, setting goals and accepting yourself, it delves deeper into what makes us happy, and in doing so, equips children with some invaluable life skills. 

Reviewed by Charmaine Denney, Early Childhood Teacher and mum to two boys.

18 September 2019

Bringing Culture into Care coverBringing culture into care: A biography of Amohaere Tangitu

Haami, B. (2019). Wellington: Huia.

It is a pleasure to review a biography of someone who you have worked with, is still alive and can reflect with joy, humility and courage of the journey she has travelled, which has evolved and in that process has changed the way health services in Auckland, Whakatane and the Bay of Plenty could meet the clinical, cultural and personal health needs of Māori and other consumers of health care services. In her commitment to service Amohaere Tangitu has utilised her own personal values, beliefs, spirituality, and her whakapapa and whānaungatanga connections to bring about change. These are gifts she has used in her work to help others and establish her own career and personal integrity.

The journey of Amohaere Tangitu is well narrated by her and Bradford Haami, starting with her own family background, her marriage and experience of losing her babies, and the challenges of being alone in a new world: living in Auckland felt quite different to living on a farm at Otakiri in the Bay of Plenty. Her family background and upbringing provided the foundation for her development and the skills and personal attributes required for her to lead and navigate social and structural change in the health sector and in specific hospitals where she was called to work.

The release of this biography is timely, as health and wider social services are now being systematically reviewed. Firstly, as to their adequacy in meeting New Zealanders’ needs and secondly, how effectively are they meeting Māori individual, whānau, hapū and iwi needs. The various reviews released have included a national inquiry into the adequacy of Mental Health Services and Addictions, Ministerial Inquiry into State Care and Abuse, Review of the Family Court and Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry into Māori access, and availability and appropriate funding of primary health care and medical services.

As health and social services are reliant on the constant educating and upskilling of staff, there is also a need to independently review tertiary education institutions to identify whether programs are culturally safe and are in alignment with changes that are occurring in populations and communities. 

Personally, I really enjoyed reading the biography of Amohaere Tangitu as I could relate to her background. We are both daughters in a Māori family and whānau, who were fortunate to have had mothers who nurtured us and taught us by the way they lived their life – the importance of tikanga Māori in all matters. They also set high expectations for their children, in that they were expected to serve others in their work and to live their Māori values in all areas of their lives. Achieving change or growth was not possible alone, but by working with others and including people both within and outside of organisations, as well as through the involvement of kaumātua and kuia, whose wisdom would guide them in their work and spiritually protect them.

In summary, this biography is well written and documents the development of health services in Aotearoa from the 1980s to the end of the first decade of the new millennium. The book would be a useful resource for any student interested in the history of the development of health and disability services in New Zealand over the past three decades, and also for a wider audience in understanding Māori aspirations and expectations of Crown funded health services. The biography would also provide a great basis for a film of a remarkable woman whose shoulders many of us stand on today.

Reviewed by Lorna Dyall, QSM

11 September 2019

MaoriMadeEasy Covers collageMāori Made Easy, Māori Made Easy 2 and Māori at Work 

Morrison, S. (2018, 2019). N.Z.: Penguin.

These books provide 30 minute a day activities that are achievable and interactional. They also provide resources and online tools built for everyday busy people wanting to learn to speak Te Reo Māori. As a speaker of Te Reo Māori even I found myself immersed in Mr Morrison’s books, they took me back to my learning days through John Moorfield's Te Whanake series. 

Professor Scotty Morrison and Stacey Morrison are both prominent television and radio presenters who have built impressive careers in the media spanning more than two decades. They have also been heavily involved in significant Te Reo Māori revitalisation initiatives and are known for their clever strategies and innovative teaching techniques for learning Te Reo Māori. These strategies can be seen throughout the books Professor Morrison has written.

As the Mental Health Foundation’s Māori Development Specialist, I will be utilising these books as a tool to further support my fellow colleagues in their Te Reo Māori journeys, as well as my own whānau and friends. In particular, Lesson One that focuses on pronunciation (which most Te Reo learners experience as one of the biggest initial barriers) is incredibly useful, practical and left me feeling fulfilled.

All 3 books provide easy to grasp activities that build your confidence and leave you feeling rewarded. Each stage of each book continues to staircase your Te Reo Māori in a manner that creates a wave of satisfaction, all in the privacy of your own space and time. 

I totally see why Professor Morrison has received many accolades as an ambassador of Te Reo Māori.

Reviewed by Thomas Strickland, Kaiwhakarite Māori Development Specialist for the Mental Health Foundation.

4 September 2019

Invisible JerryInvisible Jerry cover

Wallace, A. (2018). Exisle Publishing.

This book is an absolute gem! It is a wonderfully illustrated kids’ book that tells the story of what it is like to be introverted and quiet in a loud, frantic world. It is about feeling lonely, but also building confidence to initiate friendships.

The story is told through the eyes of Jerry, who is quiet and shy. My son is one of the quiet kids in his class and this story is a beautiful representation of what he sometimes feels.

Through the story we learn it’s not just the loud kids who have something to contribute, and introspective traits are a character strength, especially the ability to empathise with others. I think this sentence nicely sums up the dilemma some quiet kids encounter where they want to belong but too much attention makes them uncomfortable – “Jerry hated feeling invisible, but he didn’t want to stand out either.”

Jerry’s classmate Molly holds out a hand of friendship and through her actions she role models the traits a good friend would possess – “She would ask what he thought, she would share things with him, when she bumped into him, she would say, ‘Sorry Jerry that was totally my fault.’ She made him feel visible.”

We are shown how acts of kindness can have a real flow-on effect. Through Molly’s kind actions, Jerry finds the confidence to befriend other kids who spend time alone. The book helps reinforce to kids that there is room for everyone to be themselves and that kindness is a powerful and positive trait to have.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Management Specialist, Mental Health Foundation.

21 August 2019

The Psychology of School BullyingPsychology of school bullying cover

Smith, P. (2018). U.K.: Taylor and Francis.

Has Smith answers for school-age bullying – this abuse of human rights?

The Psychology of School Bullying is part of a short book series which is helping make information accessible through a psychological lens, with the help of an expert. The author, Peter Smith, is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of London.

Smith argues for more research into bullying, so awareness can bring change. The most effective programmes and evidence-based, international interventions are outlined briefly. None are 100% effective, Smith concedes. Only since the 1980s has ‘bullying’ been recognised and validated as a subject worthy of research – starting with the work of Dan Olweus. Research is making a difference, through improved understanding and knowledge.

The book is marketed as ‘accessible’ inferring an easy-to-read ‘pop-up’. Brief case studies and simple figure illustrations in Chapter One promise ‘readability’, but the academic undertone following these proves otherwise. The Psychology of School Bullying may be of most interest to researchers, school professionals and parents with degrees.

Smith discusses the varying definitions of bullying, favouring ‘a systemic abuse of power’. The link to violence seems unresolved. For me, bullying is an intentional use of violence. That is, making a choice to force our will onto someone else in a way that uses physical, psychological or spiritual power. 

Smith’s perspective holds international significance as to diversity and difference. The book seems useful if it prompts us to question our values and our relationship to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. How safe are our schools and our institutions?

This publication could provide a timely read in the light of recent revelations of bullying and harassment in our NZ Parliament, which took place in our supposed exemplar of institutional role modelling of values.

Reviewed Cynthia Todd, Counsellor MNZAC; Dip.Counselling; BA (Hons); PG Cert Hlth Sci (A&D).

7 August 2019

The book of knowing, book coverThe book of knowing: Know how you think, change how you feel

Smith, G. (2019). Allen & Unwin

The book of knowing by Gwendoline Smith (Dr Know) is an engaging book about understanding your brain and how it affects your thinking. It discusses how anxiety is affected by the body, mood, and behaviour and highlights the importance of understanding how you think, so you can change how you feel. Knowing looks into the cognitive psychological approach, and gives a basic overview of how to use the theories in practice.

The language and illustrations actively drew me in, as did facts behind what was easily linked to personal experiences with anxiety. Knowing was an easy read that required no prior knowledge of psychology.

Structured self-help generally turns me away from a book, however with Knowing, I found myself using the techniques and realising that they did work for me. Self-help strategies and their success differ from person to person, however Knowing acknowledged this, and gave many different ways to combat overthinking and anxiety.  Knowing focuses on the ways the mind works in everyday life, and why it works in that way. 

One of the things that stood out to me in Knowing was its lack of positive affirmations - Dr Know uses the phrase “putting sugar on sh*t” to describe positive affirmations, and I think it fits perfectly. The lack of being told that affirmations are the one true solution was refreshing. This book does contain some coarse language, so I would recommend that people under 13 years should not read it. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in how their brains work.

For those who deal with anxiety and general worry, Knowing holds a lot of wisdom, and gives easy strategies to incorporate into daily life. Knowing is a short read that is easy to digest either in one go, or with breaks in between, and once read, should be picked up and looked through often.

Reviewed by Gray Smith, Logan Park High School.

24 July 2019

I am calm jpegI AM calm - How to leave your worries behind

Robins, Maria. (2018). Auckland: Altreya Publishing.

It’s always so much easier to write a review for a book that hits the mark for my 9-year-old worrier! My daughter and I both get excited at the chance to find new ways of hearing and learning all the wonderful things we need to know, and do, when we’re worrying. The New Zealand author Maria Robins, had us feeling calm just from reading the title!

While I read, my daughter was engrossed in the images. They do a lovely job of depicting the feelings associated with worries, and they’re also super cute!

It’s like Robins has made everything easy for us – the gentle rhythm of the story, the simple imagery, minimal wording and wonderful advice that is pitched well for kids.

The book has given my daughter a new mantra, which is working a treat: “I am calm... I am ok... I’m not getting sucked down with these thoughts today.” Saying this mantra then prompts her to begin tummy breathing which helps her to relax further. There’s clearly much more to this book than I’ve focussed on so far. In the great scheme of the worried world, this book normalises and validates these feelings for children (and for us as their parents!). Knowing we’re ‘not the only ones’ no matter how old we are is eminently reassuring. The strategies Robins provides are tried and tested – while we know them, it’s great to have them reinforced and add them (in the form she presents them) to our calm kete.

Thank you Maria Robins – I AM Calm is a gift.

Reviewed by Anna Mowat, who works predominantly as part of the All Right? Wellbeing campaign in Ōtautahi, where she is based. She also delivers Incredible Years parenting courses for the Ministry of Education and is currently working on a Cure Kids research project to create support for parents whose children have emotional regulation issues.

10 July 2019

Cover image: The Procrastinators guide to killing yourselfThe procrastinator’s guide to killing yourself: Living when life feels unliveable

Edwards, Gareth. (2018). Published by author.

The title of Gareth Edwards’ book is confronting and a bit blunt, but it neatly summarises two of his key ideas about how to stay alive when life feels unliveable. 

Firstly, procrastination. Gareth shares his experiences of times when he’s felt like killing himself. One of the best things to do in these times, he’s found, is to delay acting on self-destructive feelings. Deciding to wait allows time to try other things instead, and for other feelings and thoughts to develop. The book offers five steps to follow once you’re in this procrastinating space, starting with simply staying alive, and working forward towards feeling like you might want to live. Each step is illustrated with Gareth’s experiences and some of the actions and thoughts that have worked for him.

Secondly, killing yourself. The choice of language is intentional; Gareth avoids using the word suicide because of its history as a legal and moral judgement on “a profound and legitimate human experience”. Wanting to kill yourself, he argues, is a near-universal human experience. Rather than being an indicator that you’re sick or bad, it is a part of being human, experiencing deep distress and recognising the impermanence of life. Letting go of self-judgement for having these thoughts, he suggests, is a helpful step towards moving forward.

The book is a short but deep reflection on what it can be like to feel suicidal, and to find a way through these experiences. It’s a guide, a pep talk and a written peer support session. While it’s a memoir of Gareth’s own life, it’s informed by his significant work with others inside and alongside the mental health support sector. He’s careful not to presume he has the answers for everyone, but generous enough to share his insights and experiences to suggest ways forward.

It is available as an e-book, audio book or paperback from Gareth’s website.

If you’re going through your own thoughts and feelings about killing yourself, and you resonate with Gareth’s approach, some other resources I’d recommend are:

  • No Feeling Is Final – a podcast series by Honor Eastly and Graham Panther (of The Big Feels Club) about Honor’s experiences with feeling suicidal, how she’s come to reframe her experiences and thoughts, and what’s helped her get through hard times. You can also read Graham’s story about supporting Honor.
  • Having suicidal thoughts and finding a way back – a free Mental Health Foundation resource, written with people who have lived experience of suicidal thoughts and feelings. This resource includes practical suggestions about how to make it through suicidal thoughts, including how to find help from the people around you and support services. The print version of this resource includes a safety plan you can fill out to help you work out what to do if you get to a point where you feel like acting on suicidal thoughts.

Reviewed by Moira Clunie, former Research, Development and Advocacy Manager, Mental Health Foundation.

26 June 2019

WaiwheroWaiwhero: The Red Waters. A Celebration of Womanhood – He Whakahirahiratanga o te Ira Wahine

Murphy, Ngahuia. (2014). Self-Published by author.

This beautifully written book by Ngahuia Murphy is for all woman of Aotearoa, New Zealand living in the new millennium. You may wonder what this cultural book on menstruation can teach you that you have not already experienced.

I was nine years old when I had my first menstrual period and as an adult endured painful and heavy menstruation. Every month I dreaded and regretted my mate (the name given by my aunties). In my later years I went to a specialist for treatment to reduce the pain and discomfort. I took contraception on and off for several years as it prevented pregnancy and stopped my monthly menstrual period.

Reading Waiwhero and learning the traditional Maori teachings of menstruation has been life changing. I know that I would have made different life choices if I knew these teachings of our tupuna. Learning the whakapapa of Waiwhero and the connection to Papatuanuku is a significant breakthrough for my own reconnection with Te Ao Māori.

Waiwhero also highlights the struggles of woman from the Victorian era and made me appreciate Queen Victoria’s achievements as a woman and a mother. It provided me with a better understanding of woman settlers and their struggles in a male-dominant society and how this continues to impact the woman we are today. I felt a sadness that I was not taught the traditional teachings by my own aunties and kuia and am left pondering whether my English ancestor influenced the teachings that were passed down to me by my aunties.

As a middle-aged Māori wahine I celebrate knowing we were honored and admired nurturers and protectors of the whānau, ensuring whakapapa continued. I am grateful that I am aware of these teachings and can pass them on to my mokopuna. It has given me a deeper understanding of who I am, allowing me to celebrate my tupuna, my body and my wairua in a way, that no medical specialist could prescribe.

Ellen Norman, Māori Development Manager, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

19 June 2019

My anxiety handbook getting back on track coverMy anxiety handbook: Getting back on track

Gallagher, B., McEwen, P., & Knowles, S. (2018). London, U.K.: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

My Anxiety Handbook is a good book for teens living with anxiety. It uses easy to understand, informative language, diagrams, and the occasional illustration. Most of the chapters are broken into smaller paragraphs, and step by step guides are clearly labelled. The clear format works perfectly for my logical brain.

The book itself is a collection of explanations and tips for living with anxiety. I have started implementing a lot of the suggested actions in my life; some help and some don’t, and the book acknowledges that that’s okay, which made me feel a lot better. I’m a bit skeptical about mindfulness, but the way this book described it finally made sense to me and I’m going to finally give it a chance! 

One important aspect the book discussed was asking for more help. It did not only say that you should do so, but it gave you ideas of how you can, which I think is a really important approach.

At first the simple language irked me, and it might irk some other people, but as I kept reading I realised it was part of the charm. If I’m reading something to help my anxiety I don’t want big words, scientific names and definitions, or anything that makes me feel overwhelmed. It also means people of all ages will find it easy to understand.

My only other pet peeve was the way they reference other chapters in the book quite frequently. I can understand why, but when you’re reading it in a linear fashion it can be a bit weird!

Overall I believe this was a very good book. The tips were super helpful and have already started helping me cope with anxiety, and I’m excited to implement mindfulness into my life.

I would recommend this book for teens who want a chill, simple book to provide them with tools to deal with their anxiety.

Reviewed by Kiefer Hunt, Tawa College

I have really enjoyed reading My Anxiety Handbook and highly recommend it. It is written with 12–18-year-old readers in mind; however it is a great introduction for anyone who is interested in the topic.

The authors are a trio, two health professionals and a young person who has experience of anxiety. The book is divided into 13 chapters and covers what anxiety is, how it could be triggered as well as lots of different strategies and exercise which might help the young reader to cope better.

The authors believe that anxiety is ‘a normal, healthy, human emotion – but sometimes it can become so big that it can get in the way of everyday life’. They acknowledge that different things work for different people and therefore have included a range of techniques for the reader to pick and choose from. 

I particularly liked the chapter where a collection of people share their personal stories of anxiety and what has helped them to manage their feelings. These people were of different ages, demonstrating that anyone can suffer from anxiety.

There is a useful ‘anxiety survival plan’, which can be filled out and remind the reader of the different strategies they might use when feeling anxious. I might even fill out such a plan myself!

Kristina Pinto, Speech-Language Therapist 

5 June 2019

Chill out chair coverThe ‘Chair’ series: The Chill Out Chair and The Goodbye Chair 

Carson Barr, J. with illustrations by Barr, S. (2017, 2013). N.Z.: Veritas Aotearoa Publishing. 

What a pleasure it has been reading these books with my near-four year old. The pictures are ‘alive’ and reflect a typical day in New Zealand for many parents and children.

I particularly loved The Chill Out Chair because it does so many great things – it normalises feeling angry or being sent to ‘calm down’, and it gave me and my daughter some ideas to help us through these trying times. The story also highlighted the use of imagination to emotionally regulate and pass the time.

The use of Te Reo Māori in the story means “Kia tau,” has also entered our family vocabulary – thank you Barr whānau!

Speaking of whānau, The Chair series books are written and illustrated by Josephine Carson Barr and Simon Barr, a mother-son team. Josephine was inspired to write the book by her grandchildren. The family/whānau is evident throughout the books, giving them a comforting, familiar feeling.

The Goodbye Chair was less relevant for us, but still enjoyable. I will certainly be recommending it as a ‘reading book’ at preschools and for new entrants teachers. The idea of The Goodbye Chair is excellent to help tamariki and parents/whānau transition away from one another.

I highly recommend The Chair series. My daughter and I had a great time reading them – we learned heaps, laughed and talked about the big emotions and how to manage them.

Reviewed by Anna Mowat, who works as part of the All Right? Wellbeing campaign in Ōtautahi, where she is based. She also delivers Incredible Years parenting courses for the Ministry of Education and is currently working on a Cure Kids research project to create support for parents whose children have emotional regulation issues.

22 May 2019

Arohas way 3Aroha’s way: A children’s guide through emotions 

Phillips, C. (2019).  N.Z.: Wildling Books.

I’m a great believer in reviewing a book in conjunction with its intended audience and my guess is Aroha’s Way is beautifully pitched for primary school tamariki. So, in this case, this book could be suited for my own ten-year-old, who in small ways shows us her worries, and sometimes, in quiet moments, talks about them.

On the book cover Aroha is looking out to sea, her hair and scarf blown in the wind, as is the grass at her feet and the full-bloom, yellow and green kowhai frame. My daughter, a keen artist utters her initial response, “Wow.” It’s a great start.

Aroha in all ways seems real and a wee bit cool. High-top sneakers, skinny jeans and chunky, knit jersey, hair dark, long and tousled – she’s familiar, and we like her. She looks adventurous and happy with who she is. 

It’s hard to fully articulate what makes this book so special. The running poem seems to whisper faint memories of childhood nursery rhymes, the stunning images of our New Zealand shoreline – our natural playground, the visiting butterflies and native birds and the continual movement from the wind, the waves on sand, and Aroha’s hair and scarf.  It’s like Craig Philips has captured our memories, and our emotions. Much like the waves and wind, they come and go, are prominent and fleeting. 

Then we learn Aroha struggles sometimes –

She’ll sing and she’ll dance
And she’ll hug and she’ll play

For that is Aroha’s way.
But now and then…

… Just like my daughter who snuggles in tight as we see Aroha worry and become fearful. I can feel my daughter recognising times when the world isn’t playful and bright. We see Aroha’s stillness. The wind drops, colours grey.

Turning the page reveals Aroha jumping and distracting herself, some pages over she is taking a deep breath, and it seems she actively recreates the floating, breezy wind-filled setting.  She is figuratively blowing away her mood and negative thoughts.  

These are strategies my daughter knows, but I’m thankful to Craig Phillips for gifting her the images so that she is able to adopt Aroha’s Way – breathing, distracting and grounding ourselves brings back the wind and the waves and the movement and the colour and the calm.

Aroha is a bright and brave role model in our whānau.  We will be buying the book and in my professional life, I’ll be recommending it over and over again. 

I truly believe this is a fantastic New Zealand-framed book to actively talk strategies for overcoming worries and fears with tamariki.  It makes it all normal, because, it is.

Reviewed by Anna Mowat

Anna works as part of the team behind the All Right? Campaign, actively supporting Canterbury wellbeing in fun, light and innovative ways. Her predominant work with All Right? is as the advisor, content writer for All Right? Parenting and Sparklers. Anna is also working as part of the Canterbury District Health Board and Auckland University collaboration designing an app developed to help Canterbury parents support their children with emotional regulation. She is also a trainer and content developer for the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience, and alongside Dr Dean Sutherland co-directs Real Parents who are South Island providers of the Incredible Years Parenting programmes for the Ministry of Education.  

Anna has a background in English and psychology and most importantly is an imperfect Mum to three girls on a personal mission to ensure no parent ever feels ‘alone’ in their parenting.  

15 May 2019

Parris - Young Queen - cover imageYoung Queen

Goebel, Parris. (2018). N.Z.:  Mary Egan Publishing.

When I picked up this book, I was expecting a stock standard autobiography. The story of someone’s life told using flowery language and a singular story arc, summarised with the lessons they had learned in life. But within the first couple of pages, I knew that this was an entirely different kind of autobiography. I was transported into the world of Parris Goebel and I was completely hooked! 

Parris has told her story in a way that both inspires and activates the reader to be unapologetically you. She tells her story, but does it in a way that is both conversational (like a catch up with an old mate) and illuminating (like a big sister giving you a pep talk). It is rare to find literature that truly reflects a person’s identity, but I felt that the way Parris writes gives a real voice to the young NZ-born Poly identity – and I’m 100% here for it! 

Her story is inspirational, but more importantly, Parris is clearly trying to use her platform to lift up the world around her. As a dancer, I couldn’t help but find myself exclaiming “YAASS” while reading through all her advice for surviving in the dance world. As a brother and an uncle, I found myself thinking about the powerful women in my own life. As a NZ-born Samoan, I was filled with pride to see that one of our own has reached so much success but is still challenging herself to a life in the service of others. 

Young Queen is a great read and comes with a powerful message from a powerful woman. Even better, it is coupled with a beautiful teaching resource to encourage young people to explore their own identity and pathways to the future. This book is a must read for every young person that doesn’t quite fit in.

Reviewed by Jono Selu, Community Engagement & Health Promotion Officer, Mental Health Foundation

1 May 2019

Moth cover- Moth by Molly DunnMoth

Dunn, H. (2018). The Copy Press.

Moth is a children’s book about fitting in. It was a hit with my three-year-old daughter. She was excited about opening the book and reading it straight away, asking to hear it twice. It was clear to me she was intrigued about the moth’s life – she picked up on themes noting “the moth is trying to find friendly friends” and “is flying away from fires”. I feel she was able to grasp the ideas portrayed in the book about finding alternative friends and facts about the life of a moth.

I also enjoyed reading the book and taking in the scenes created through black and white illustrations of birds and insects native to Aotearoa. I feel children of all ages could have a positive experience reading this book, even though it touches on what can be a difficult situation.

Reviewed by Kellie Christophersen, Playcentre mum and aspiring health promoter.

Moth is a sweet and very beautiful book about a moth. But, beyond this it’s a book which personifies feelings of loneliness, self-doubt and hope in finding a way through darker times.

The imagery and words connect well and Dunn is an incredibly talented illustrator. The book has a “stamp” like quality, produced in black, white and grey. Each image appears stencilled onto the pages and the moth, kōwhai and ruru have been delicately sketched.

I am however stuck with the question – who is this book for? While the back cover states “Children and adults will enjoy spotting the different plants and animals native to New Zealand”, I’m not convinced. This book is elegant. The lack of colour suggests a darker, more serious theme directed at adults, but its simplicity and heavy use of pictures implies it’s a children’s book. 

My other questions were about the ending of the book – the words were poetic and structured well, but the lack of a clear narrative and conclusion left me a little lost. The outcome is I’ve googled moths and am now fascinated with how many native moths (and butterflies) New Zealand is lucky to have – approximately 1700, of which 90 percent are unique here. So if this is outcome of the book, for me, or anyone, it’s a good one.

Reviewed by Anna Mowat, Family Advisor at All Right?

17 April 2019 

Out of the woods book cover

Out of the woods: A journey through depression and anxiety

Williams, B. (2017). Wellington: Educational Resource Ltd.

Out of the Woods depicts the journey out of depression and anxiety of New Zealand author Brent Williams, beautifully illustrated by Turkish-born Korkut Oztekin. It’s a novel concept to have a graphic novel depict depression, but where words often fall so short illustration has proved an incredible ally. Opening the book for the first time you are confronted by the sheer blackness that was Brent’s depression, which compels you to read along to discover what happened. 

What Brent’s story does so well is shine a light on depression and how it can take hold of someone and refuse to let go. The story references the “signs” of depression and what to look for, but Brent is also careful to acknowledge that there is no “one size fits all” version of depression or treatment.

The realistic account of struggling to discover the way forward and all the little but mounting let-downs in recovery he faced acknowledges one of the most frustrating parts of recovery – persistence. Persisting in recovery is difficult and demoralising, but Brent highlights the need to discover the right combination of little changes that can help you move forward. Brent simultaneously tells his and everyone’s story.

Out of the Woods is a journey of growth and hope. It is a story that could be an invaluable piece of support for those struggling to understand their own feelings, for loved ones trying to support someone they love and care about or anyone who wants an honest depiction of what the journey through depression can look like. 

Reviewed by Helena Loy, Publications Specialist, Mental Health Foundation.

3 April 2019

Just Breathe Cover Flat

Just breathe: A mindfulness adventure

Sievers, Jen (2018). N.Z.: New Shoots Publishing.

Just Breathe is a delightful picture book written for children aged 3–8 years old. It tells a story that takes children (and parents) through a simple and engaging mindfulness exercise.

The story depicts a young girl struggling with big and small feelings in her head in a “mixed-up sort of morning”. This is the perfect timing in which to anchor the story as mornings are often busy, chaotic times for families that can leave children with conflicting emotions.

In her frustration the child looks up to the sky and is guided by a smiling cloud who tells her to sit down and just breathe, and then observe the effect this has on her rising and falling tummy. The cloud also reassures her that it’s okay that the mixed-up feelings may return and guides her back to concentrating on her breathing, placing her hands back on her belly and having an awareness of how her body is feeling.

Mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgement. Many early childhood centres have already introduced the practice into their programme recognising the many positive benefits to children, including reducing stress and anxiety, promoting empathy and compassion, self-control and less emotional reactivity.

One of the strengths of this book is enabling children to recognise and understand their feelings and emotions and once the simple technique is mastered, guide themselves to a place of calmness. It is a story that can be read over and over again just for pleasure or to practise the technique together with your child, or a group of children.

Just Breathe is the first book by New Zealand artist Jen Sievers. The illustrations are simple, and use fresh colours and playful brush strokes to depict emotions. The artwork in itself is both calming and joyful.

This book is an excellent resource to have at home, preschool or school to teach children this invaluable life skill. 

Reviewed by Charmaine Denney, Early Childhood Teacher and mum to two boys.

20 March 2019Headlands cover

Headlands: New stories of anxiety

Arnold, Naomi. (ed.) (2018). Wellington: Victoria University Press.

Headlands is a collection of stories by New Zealanders with experience of anxiety. The stories are mostly experiential, often raw, sometimes hard to read, but all are courageous and invite the reader to share the author’s experience. A few venture into analysis and offer references for further reading, making the book a useful starting point for someone wanting to explore the literature as well as the experience of anxiety. 

The gathering together of so many individual voices in one book creates a sense of community which helps to counter the isolation often associated with severe anxiety. The essays demonstrate both commonalities and differences in experience, and offer a range of approaches to living with and managing the condition. The book shows that anxiety isn’t just the problem of isolated individuals, but a widespread societal condition we all need to understand, not just for ourselves but for our friends, whanau and communities.

The writers describe the experience of a wide range of symptoms of anxiety – muscle tension, pain, a sense of paralysis, breathing difficulties, sweating, fainting, hallucinations, freaking out – as stress hormones activate the body’s fight / flight / freeze responses. Many find relief in redirecting these responses – breathing and relaxation exercises, running, kick boxing, and other physical exercise. Some writers describe attempts to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. Some explore their own emotional narratives and ways to uncouple triggers and reactions and find calm through meditation, writing, music and other arts. 

As acknowledged in the introduction, despite efforts to invite contributions from people from a range of backgrounds, contributors are mostly female, mostly pakeha, mostly well-educated high achievers – which could be encouraging for readers who can identify with those experiences, but potentially alienating for those who identify as other. But then, following a common thread in the essays, a loosening of too tight identities and the expectations associated with them may be a key to breaking the grip of anxiety. If we can all stop and listen and open ourselves to each other’s experiences, we can begin to ease each other’s pain. Headlands is a useful starting point along that path. The challenge in the book is to come down from the headlands and begin to actively listen to each other, in real life. 

Reviewed by Priscilla Cameron.

6 March 2019Resilience at work cover

Resilience at Work: Practical tools for career success

Jackson, Kathryn. (2019). Routledge.

‘Resilience’ is often described as synonymous with success – a trait much sought-after by employers and the stuff skyrocketing careers are made of. We can handle anything in the workplace if we’re ‘resilient’ enough – or so the theory goes.

Yet for all its accolades, many books on the subject forget to address a crucial question: how can we build resilience in our workplace?

Resilience at Work shows us how to achieve our own brand of resilience. It does this by beginning each chapter with relevant academic theories, and demonstrating how to use these theories through small tasks and self-reflections. These tasks and reflections help us to question our working selves both in the context of our careers and our lives as a whole.

Interspersed with stories of others in similar circumstances, Jackson helps us to realise the effects of our workplace behaviours, and the effects that our workplaces, in turn, have on us.

Translating theory into action is not an easy task, but one that is made easier with this book. Jackson’s tasks and self-reflections throughout the book require us to act often, so when we are asked to develop personal action plans at the end of the foundational chapters - we are already equipped to do so. Her trick of asking us to write down our strategies for success and share them with others also makes us accountable – to those who know us closely enough to get wind of these strategies, and more significantly, to ourselves.

Shortlisted for Best International Business Book at London’s Business Book Awards, I would recommend Resilience at Work to anyone who feels they’re not loving all aspects of their job or workplace, but can’t put their finger on why. The reasons we may feel we’re unhappy or undervalued at work aren’t always objective, and that’s where a book like Jackson’s - made for employees and HR professionals alike – comes in handy.

If you do genuinely enjoy your role, the four Resilience Foundations in this book can be used in all areas of life and are a wellbeing tool worth knowing. 

Reviewed by Danielle Whitburn, Senior Communications and Marketing Officer, Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

20 February 2019Mental health education and hauora - book cover

Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience, and wellbeing

(2018). NZCER Press. 

This is a valuable resource to assist staff in schools to understand and educate students around mental health education and hauora – a Māori philosophy of health and wellbeing.

The aim of the book is to develop knowledge, understanding and skills based on the New Zealand Health curriculum. It does not try to change behaviours or “fix” health issues, although encouragement for health activism is given in some of the lesson plans. The introduction is important to read as it gives an understanding of the aims of the resource and how it fits with the curriculum.

The authors provide guidance to enable students to critically question issues of inequalities, racism and discrimination. The lessons contain links to further resources and offer the flexibility to tailor the lessons to students.

For any school staff wanting additional resources on mental health and hauora this is a must-have. I have not used the electronic resource but would imagine this to be a useful resource for every school.

Reviewed by Michelle Hull, Team Leader, Health Promoting Schools Service, Auckland District Health Board.

7 February 2019

book co larger

Psychology for a better world: Working with people to save the planet

Harré, Niki. (2018). Auckland University Press.

Author Niki Harré is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Auckland. She is also the author of The Infinite Game: How to Live Well Together and numerous articles on social and environmental activism. Her position as an academic psychologist enables her to provide strategies based on the latest psychological research and theory in order to provide guidance for creating a more sustainable planet. Despite a huge commitment and immense knowledge on how to live more sustainably, I appreciate how the author is still a human who has indulgences!

The author’s authenticity is clear throughout the book as she explores the roles of emotions in encouraging creativity and commitment, the power of modelling and the role of identity. The author continually refers to studies to provide evidence for assertions, providing enough detail of research to enable the reader to draw their own conclusions. I have found myself quoting these interesting research studies to others already. The author also explores morality and this chapter is fascinating, especially when the perspective of a child is provided in several examples. A self-help guide is provided for sustainability advocates and there is also access to a free online manual although I didn’t access this.

I initially wondered whether I could consider myself a sustainability advocate. The author gives permission for this title “as long as you do at least one thing on a regular basis that is consciously aimed at making the world a better place”. With growing awareness of environmental issues, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and do now consider myself a sustainability advocate. I am left inspired, hopeful and motivated to be part of a move towards a more sustainable planet and would recommend this book to anyone wanting to do the same.

Reviewed by Dr Anna Walters, clinical psychologist.

23 January 2019

KiwicornKiwicorn by Kat Mereweather - cover

Merewether, K. (2017). Illustrated Publishing.

Kiwicorn is a delightful, colourful book with an equally delightful and colourful character. The character Kiwicorn, as the name suggests, is a kiwi with a beak reminiscent of a unicorn horn and striped with the colours of the rainbow.

Rainbow colours are of course a symbol of diversity and at its heart that is what the book is about. Not just the message that we are all unique from each other, but as individuals we possess an array of different qualities within us.

Each double page begins with the question “Who is…”, followed by three alliterative words such as, “Who is whimsical, witty and wonderfully weird?” The opposite page provides the answer “Kiwicorn” which is followed by Kiwicorn’s own words, “I love being different because different is never dull”.

For a young audience (or at least for my seven-year-old), being able to shout the answer “Kiwicorn” provided much excitement. Kiwicorn’s words promote messages such as being caring, working hard, standing up for what you believe in and celebrating one’s differences and the uniqueness of others. In the words of my 13-year-old, “It’s a neat book and can inspire kids to do something different”.

This book is an upbeat, energetic and fun read with great messages to instil in our tamariki.

Reviewed by Amanda Schulze, Community Engagement & Health Promotion Specialist, Mental Health Foundation.

12 December 2018

Mental Health Law in New Zealand, Third Edition Mental health law cover

Bell, S. & Brookbanks, W. (2017). Thomson Reuters.

For a person experiencing distress or seeking support with their mental health in Aotearoa, the law is complex and sometimes contradictory. While health and human rights legislation emphasise the importance of autonomy, dignity and choice, the Mental Health Act empowers compulsory treatment that may override an individual’s wishes about whether they receive medical treatment, and what kinds of treatment they are given.

Mental Health Law in New Zealand opens with a discussion of the context that this law operates in. The ways that New Zealand understands mental health and responds to distress have changed significantly over the last three decades. With a shift towards community-centred services, a greater focus on recovery, leadership from people with lived experience of distress and changing social attitudes towards difference, our approaches to mental health and treatment are shifting. Acknowledging this, the authors raise the question of whether mental health law is fit for practice and suggest potential reforms to the Mental Health Act that would bring it more into line with human rights law.

The core of the textbook is a specific and detailed guide to current law related to mental health. For each area of the law, the text explains what the law says and how it has been interpreted, discusses the practicalities and complexities in how the law is applied and raises issues for consideration about how the law and legal systems could change and evolve to better support recovery. For example, a chapter on mental health advocacy explores the concept of specialist mental health courts, not currently in place in New Zealand but successfully implemented in other countries.

The book provides an invaluable reference to understanding the detail and complexities of the law relating to distress, medical treatment, the criminal justice system and human rights. For those working with the law, it provides a clear guide to current practice and interpretation. For those advocates working on changing the law, it provides a thoughtful exploration of issues, policy mechanisms and potential improvements.

This third edition of the text is based on the law on 31 December 2016, and was updated to include newer case law, discussion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, disestablishment of the Mental Health Commission and changes to the Commissioner’s role, changes to the Privacy Act and Victims’ Rights Act and introduction of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Reviewed by Moira Clunie, Research, Development and Advocacy Manager at the Mental Health Foundation.

28 November 2018

ResilientResilient book cover

Hanson, R. (2018). Harmony.

If, like me, you’ve ever found yourself wondering why there isn’t a practical guidebook for navigating life’s challenges, then you’ll be as pleased as I was to learn that Resilient is just such a book. In the same way that a guidebook to a city is not intended to be read cover to cover, the beauty and usefulness of this book is in its innovative layout. Resilient is cleverly structured so that you can jump into any of the 12 attractively titled chapters such as Grit, Courage, or Aspiration and find immediately relevant guidance to help develop that psychological skill set.

Hanson provides a fascinating explanation of how fear, frustration and hurt are the reactive modes we all experience when the brain’s three basic needs of safety, satisfaction and connection are not met. He artfully distils years of research and expertise, informed by a large body of academic literature, into 12 primary inner strengths we can each develop. At the end of each chapter a bullet list of key points provides the reader with a checklist of achievable mental resources to be developed step-by-step for each inner strength.

I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of experiential practices smattered throughout such as “Feeling Successful”, “Appreciating Your Body” and “A Simple Meditation”. Each is short and immensely practical. And for readers who might to like to dig a little deeper, a very useful additional resources section is helpfully divided by topics such as compassion, mindfulness, gratitude and motivation. This is one of those books that will become dog-eared and creased from good use.

You could think of it as a mental strength training manual where we are honing and toning our ability to live with peace, contentment and love. Very useful indeed. 

Reviewed by Natasha Rix, Director of Mindfulness Education Group.


19 September 2018

Big Red and the Little Bitty Wolf: A Story About BullyingBig Red and the Little Bitty Wolf - cover

Ransom, J.F., with illustrations by Zivoin, J. (2016). American Psychological Association and Magination press.

Big Red and the Little Bitty Wolf is a beautifully illustrated and written story that is an entertaining and thought-provoking read for children and adults alike. It follows the story of Little Bitty Wolf and the daily bullying he receives from Big Red on his walk to school. This tale is a clever twist on the classic Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale and the unexpected casting of the wolf as the victim immediately engages the reader.

Little Bitty Wolf used to love his walk through the woods to Pine Cone Elementary School until Big Red moved into the neighbourhood. His attempts at asking her to stop her bullying are unsuccessful until he follows advice from his school counsellor (Mr. Know-It-Owl). Here the reader gets to see Little Bitty Wolf’s satisfaction in feeling empowered and regaining his confidence once the bullying stops. The text is accompanied by insightful illustrations portraying Little Bitty Wolf’s different emotions, which are sure to encourage empathy in children.

This story is a great way to initiate a discussion on the issue of bullying and it also encourages children to seek help from their family or school. Bullying is a widespread issue and one that is now more openly discussed in the media, in schools and online. In fact, the increased presence of the online world in our children’s lives has provided another avenue for bullying, so the subject is very relevant to all youngsters and their caregivers.

One of the strengths of this book is that by following Little Bitty Wolf’s journey, children can learn to recognise some of the behaviours which amount to bullying. The book also includes a very informative note to parents which lists the warning signs of bullying and ways to help your child, whether they are the victim, bystander or perpetrator. This section could be shared with children directly or indirectly depending on their age.

Big Red and the Little Bitty Wolf is a well-informed book, written by parent and school counsellor Jeanie Franz Ransom and published by the American Psychological Association. Although it is recommended for children aged 4–8, both my 3-year-old preschool students and my 11-year-old son enjoyed it, so it could be enjoyed by a wider age group.

This book is an excellent resource to have at home, preschool or school to open up discussion on the issue of bullying and to teach children about taking a stand against it, having empathy and caring for others.

Reviewed by Charmaine Denney, early childhood teacher and mum to two boys.

12 September 2018

Maea Te Toi Ora – Māori Health Transformations Maori Health Transformations

Kingi, T.K., Durie, M., & Elder, H., et al. (2018). HUIA.

This publication comes at a time when there is considerable public and political concern regarding the quality and effectiveness of mental health and related services in New Zealand. Each day it seems that in the national media there is concern about the rate of youth suicide in Aotearoa, the abuse of children in the community and in state care, the rising rate and cost of imprisonment and criminal reoffending, the need for legal and justice reform, the inadequacies of meeting the needs of clients through the Family Court, abuse of mental health patients and prisoners’ rights and torture of people under state care and protection, and the abuse of people in dementia care units, many who are there without the person’s concerned informed consent.

These matters disproportionately affect Māori, and it is important for all of us to understand the issues that currently face many government and non-government agencies involved in developing and leading policy and funding decisions, legislative reform, and monitoring the adequacy and effectiveness of service delivery. We also need to understand how a healthy mental health service should look and engage with clients and families, especially Māori.

Māori are global citizens connected through digital communication and involvement in global matters, especially since the development of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights, which the New Zealand government has signed. Māori are also now active travellers across the world establishing their own relationships with whānau and significant others wherever they live, work or socialise.

This publication documents the developments that have occurred in the development of Māori models of mental health practice and delivery and mental health research since the 1980s and also looks back on the historical engagement of Māori in mental health services either as patients or as members of the mental health workforce.

This publication would be of interest to those involved in the study and practice of mental health but there are areas where a wider perspective could have been given. I believe knowledge of mental health and the detection and triage of mild to severe mental illnesses should be part of the skill set of any well-trained professional person working in any health, justice, social service, employment, recreational and sport group, or charitable or church organisation. It’s expected that both mental distress and mental illness, mild to severe, will increase in the coming years, becoming a major public health issue due to rapid social, economic, cultural and political transformational changes in the years ahead.

An opportunity was missed with this publication in leading the direction for the future, even if only a broad picture was painted, so that some sort of map could be seen. This picture or image could then have provided a focal point of discussion and reference, and then people who have experienced the use of mental health and related services could contribute, and their families, significant others and workmates, friends and different communities could contribute, so that the ownership of mental health and wellbeing is a community and societal responsibility, not just the domain of those who are masters and mistresses of their craft. Transformational change occurs by interaction, reaction, dialogue and a commitment by way of action for change.

This book should be available to be read and used in any health, justice and social service agency in New Zealand, especially for non-Māori working and engaging with tangata whenua.

Reviewed by Dr Lorna Dyall, QSM

5 September 2018

ACE – A Horsey Tail of Courage book review thumb Ace A Horsey Tail of Courage

Cook, K., with illustrations by Hulsboch, K. (2018). Bayleys and BNZ Crusaders.

“I thought it was a nice story, and the moral of the story was that on the outside Ace looked like a scared horse but on the inside he was really brave.

He might have been too scared to tell his teacher that he was being picked on. After the bullies teased him and he fell in the puddle when he was pretending to be a crusader, Holly helped him. She told him it is OK to tell someone.

The bullies actually turned out to be nice too. They were also picked on. They became Ace’s friends. It’s all about courage and being brave even when you are feeling scared, and practicing your skills at home and not letting anyone put you down.”

–Sam Baakman, age 8.

My boys, Sam, Jasper and Oscar, were entranced by the story of Ace, a horse who lives at the Clipclop School for Horsekids. Ace isn’t like the other horses: he isn’t good at running or playing rugby, his mane won’t stay in place, he is small and he is lonely. What makes it even harder for Ace is he is called names by the Boot Boys, a group of horses who push and shove and say mean things to him. Ace finally gets to live his dream of being a Crusaders horse, and along the way he is helped by the wise Holly who helps him tell his teacher about what is happening and how sad he is. As it transpired the Boot Boys were also bullied, so everyone learnt something about themselves and each other.

The illustrations are wonderful. The drawings are colourful and not overly complex. My boys’ ages range from 8 to 4, and they all concentrated on the story and pictures. The layout is excellent, with a beautiful bright picture to go with every written page.

View the drawings Sam and Oscar created after reading the book. 

This is a great little book if you are looking for a simple story to help your child deal with being bullied and ridiculed. It is non-confrontational and it relays a gentle and compelling message about how it is OK to be different and most importantly having big dreams is actually very cool!

The book also contains practical information to support parents and whānau. Ace is a great little book to start the conversation about how bullying is never OK, and that everyone has the right to feel safe and valued for who they are (even if their mane totally refuses to part like everyone else’s).

Reviewed by Vivienne Martini, Learning Advisor, Oranga Tamariki.

22 August 2018

30 days 30 ways Bev Aisbett

30 Days 30 Ways to Overcome Anxiety 

Aisbett, B. (2018). Harper Collins.

The book is based on 25 years of tried and tested methods of dealing with anxiety. First the author’s own experiences and credentials, then those of her clients and workshop participants. I have learnt many new techniques from this book and will buy myself a copy to keep as a handy reference. An example of a technique is to set up a log to keep track of the relationship between your thoughts and when you feel anxious. This technique really helped me see when I am responding in a habitual way that might be unhelpful, and similarly to spot positive responses that build my resilience.

The chapters are split into 30 days’ worth of exercises that focus on a single theme for each day. Each chapter is easy to read and understand with a few illustrated animations. It begins by explaining that day’s theme, followed by tasks to complete and daily mantras to help you further understand the topic and practise the exercise. For example, day three’s theme is working with resistance, the task involves practicing soothing techniques, and the mantra “So be it” is a reminder to let my shoulders drop and relax.  

The book gives practical advice in bite-size chunks and can be used in different ways. For example, you can stick with one chapter a day or read a few chapters at a time. It is a great book to just dip in and out of as and when you need it. I believe it would be accessible to most people due to its simple, approachable format.

There is a web page mentioned for workshop and lecture information and reviews of her other titles. I think anyone who lives with anxiety would benefit from this book – I’ll certainly be recommending it!

Reviewed by Jenny Baker 

8 August 2018 Mindset - Updated edition cover

Mindset – Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential 

Dweck, C. (2017). Random House. 

Initially I thought this would be yet another “self-help book”, but I was pleasantly surprised when I read this book. The information the author offers is not new, but it is reasonably easy to read and traverses a number of topics that would appeal to business coaches, teachers, parents and health professionals. 

Dweck examines how our conscious and unconscious thoughts affect us, and how something as simple as wording can have a powerful impact on our ability to improve. She stresses that how you view yourself profoundly affects the way you live your life. She describes how the power of our most basic beliefs about ourselves, whether conscious or subconscious, strongly “affects what we want and whether we succeed in getting it.” She argues that what we understand about our personality comes from our “mindset,” which both propels us toward, and prevents us from fulfilling, our full potential.
Dweck provides exercises and insights to help reinforce change and embed new learning.

I found the exercises and prompts at the end of each chapter thought provoking and extremely useful, but this book is not a panacea to cure all problems. We know that there are many obstacles in the way of change, including past trauma, ingrained habits and an environment that often reinforces the status quo and is therefore hostile to change. Real change takes an incredible amount of time, commitment, energy and effort.
However, there are some excellent resources and observations in this book which may help shine a light on why we do what we do, think how we think, and respond as we respond. For anyone looking at these dynamics, and the impact they have on us, then Carol Dweck’s book is a great guide. It will help you explore your ‘fixed mindset’ and offer suggestions on how you can challenge your thinking. While it may be a catalyst for the beginning of a host of different thoughts and actions, ultimately we need to make the journey ourselves. That is the real challenge.
Reviewed by Vivienne Martini.

25 July 2018How to communicate with someone who has dementia - cover

How to communicate with someone who has dementia:
A guide for carers

Caughey, A. (2018). Calico Publishing.

Both my mother and my partner’s mother have been diagnosed with dementia. They exhibit similar symptoms but have completely different personalities and coping styles. One loves company and being assisted, while the other has resisted any help. This highlights that there’s no one manual that fits all cases and that it’s very much a “learn as you go” process.

I was interested in reading this book as I can see my set way of thinking – minimising the situation – can lead to confusion with my mother and frustration with other relatives involved in her care. Every member of both these families has responded and grieved in their own unique way.

I remember being told by a stranger when communicating with someone who experiences dementia. it isn’t so much what you say as how you say it; they may not remember what you said, but they do remember how the interaction made them feel.

Caring and compassion

Caughey’s book is full of advice and techniques to help ensure interactions are respectful and not rushed, allowing the person with dementia time and space to respond, and where possible abiding by their preferences.

It reminds us the person we used to know is still very much inside, and we need to find a way to keep connected and honour them.

Caughey notes many of us might be reluctant carers who are emotionally unprepared for the role. In some cases, we might be the only available option to provide care. Whatever the scenario, she suggests it helps to role play and take on a persona of a nurse, to come from a professional, caring and compassionate space. We should “ban forever irritable or tart responses,” and we “should smile and laugh more.”

It sounds like a tall order but in essence it’s accepting what is, to do the best we can and ensuring we prioritise good self-care routines. She highlights carers need to be patient with themselves as it’s an ongoing learning process, aided by a great deal of self-reflection and trial and error.

Personal experience

Caughey, who looked after her husband through dementia, realistically portrays the difficulties but is also encouraging and optimistic that in this difficult period, moments of real connection can be achieved.

This book is packed full of helpful, practical suggestions for finding alternative ways to communicate. It focuses on body language (including posture and facial expression), use of language (keeping it simple, reflective listening and how to express yourself), dealing with difficult situations (a good dose of problem solving) and tools to encourage engagement (such as developing a life book).

Caughey notes people with dementia find great comfort from environments or routines that are familiar. She advocates that carers will find journaling an invaluable tool to help develop a full picture of what helps and hinders. It’s also a way to record events and moments that can be treasured by the extended family. I recommend this book to anyone supporting someone living with dementia and see it as a key read early on to help improve interpersonal relationships and the quality of life for everyone.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Management Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Keeping it real cover11 July 2018

Keeping it Real: Love your body, love your life

Carr, M. (2018). Random House New Zealand.

I’ve been living under a rock. I hadn’t heard of Makaia Carr before offering to review her book. She has over 134,000 followers on Facebook, has been a young Mum, is Māori, an entrepreneur and an all-round hard worker. With a large social media following she has a lot of influence.

I don’t really read women’s magazines or watch a lot of TV anymore and I’m a bit sceptical about social media influencers. I think they’re just trying to sell me something – usually beauty and fitness related products.

I like that Makaia talks about aligning what she promotes with her values – she’s not just about #fitspo and #cleaneating. She wants people to love themselves for who they are.

Eventually I’m sold, and about a quarter of the way through the book I’m following Makaia on Facebook too – there’s something authentic about her that appeals to me. She’s “keeping it real” like the book title says.

The book’s not fully autobiographical – about half of it’s a shortened personal account of her life and career. The other half is filled with life-advice and her own brand of inspiration. She keeps a lot of detail to herself including only a brief mention of traumatic abuse she went through as a young girl that gives you a small window of insight into her down times.

I would love to know more about her. You get the impression Makaia and her story belong to Makaia. Makaia looks after Makaia and the message of the whole book is that self-love and healthy boundaries are what she is trying to teach us.

Another theme is all the tools she utilises to try to overcome her depression. She’s not adverse to antidepressants. She cuts down on alcohol. I like that she outlines the Five Ways to Wellbeing as a tool for wellness. She also includes good helpline information from the Mental Health Foundation for any readers who may need extra help.

I like that the book is colourful with quotes highlighted out of the text. The photography is awesome. It’s an easy read that took me about five to six hours to whip through it.

If you want something light, positive and inspirational this book will make a great travelling companion.

Reviewed by Gina Giordani, Community Engagement & Health Promotion Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

The resilient farmer cover27 June 2018

The Resilient Farmer: Weathering the challenges of life and the land

Avery, D. (2017). Penguin NZ.

The Resilient Farmer is an inspiring read about South Island farmer Doug Avery facing up to the mental and emotional challenges of farming life when there was so much outside his control.

The book is deeply personal and disarmingly honest. Doug redefines the farmer stereotype by sharing in a no holds barred way what was really going on for him during some extremely tough years. To quote Doug; “The first five of those drought years, things got pretty ugly for me, and I dived into a very dark pit. No matter what I did, I was unsuccessful. I had a destroyed farm, a destroyed bank account and destroyed hopes”.

However, this is not a gloomy read. Consistent with the book's subtitle Weathering the challenges of life and the land, we are privy to how Doug turned things around from those dark times in 1998 to winning South Island farmer of the year in 2010. We do hear a lot about how Doug learnt to farm differently, to farm with nature, rather than against. But the story is mostly about Doug’s journey of becoming emotionally resilient.

You don’t have to be a farmer to engage with the story. If you’re interested in how to become a better person when all seems stacked against you, you will get heaps out of this book.

The enduring insight I took from The Resilient Farmer is that resilience is not an individual concept, but a connected one. It does take courage to face up to your own limitations, but Doug shows that when you do this, your strength comes from the network of people that you decide to welcome into your life.

This book is about a man turning his life around to find meaning and purpose in giving and receiving from others and “bouncing forward” in the face of life’s many challenges.

Reviewed by Gerard Vaughan, social marketing consultant.


Promised Land

Harris, C & Reynold, A. (2017). Self-published.

This children’s picture book provides a beautiful and refreshing interpretation of what it means to be "normal" and that includes being LGBT. This is a rare text in which a typically minority identity is presented in an organic, natural and positive light. Unlike the usual expectation of an LGBT storyline, where the characters face fear of coming out and navigating a world that does not accept them, Promised Land presents the opposite.

The main characters Jack, a farm boy, and Leo, a prince, live happily and peacefully in a world “where no one cares if you were straight or gay”. They both long to be free, not because where they live is unaccepting but because their spirit for adventure surpasses the idleness of their kingdom. Leo and Jack meet by chance on their adventure through the forest and immediately fall in love.

What is interesting about this story is that there is not an obstacle to overcome, as the kingdom offers acceptance. In the opening page of Promised Land, the author suggests a world like this kingdom is in the near future, “a land not so far away”, implying acceptance is possible as well as LGBT love. The illustrations depict Leo and Jack, hand in hand, happy and full of life. Their sexuality does not appear as a barrier in their lives, which is a sobering and refreshing possibility to witness, images that the LGBT community need in their lives.

Diversity celebrated

This text also contains another surprising aspect, which compliments the presence of diversity in Promised Land. The Prince Leo and his mother, the Queen of the Kingdom, are also characters of colour. In their world, identity is an emblem of unique power. Like sexuality, racial and ethnic elements are not setbacks but something to celebrate simultaneously. Diversity characterises Promised Land. In this world, no one is short of it.

The challenge comes when an external ‘intruder’ by the name of Gideon appears and seeks control of the land by marrying Leo’s mother. Reading this text reminds us that control comes in many forms and if we were to situate these forms in real world events they would appear in the shape of bullying and discrimination. Jack and Leo find their harmonious world turned upside down by the evil Gideon casts over the kingdom. Though instead of remaining idle they respond with a force that shows they will not tolerate this control, and they do so with the help and support of their fellow peers, such as their mothers, guards and other inhabitants. The key message of this text is that group effort prevails and goals can be reached.

Unique perspective

As a bookseller I find Promised Land to be a unique and interesting spin of expectations. A Google search of this children’s book comes up with subheadings such as, ‘an LGBT illustrated picture book’, ‘LGBT children’s book with a happily ever after ending’. These signature descriptions immediately pique our interest. Wow, an LGBT children’s picture book? But at the same time, why should these kinds of texts be so hard to come by? There have been a few instances where customers have asked for such books and unfortunately there is little available in the way of illustrated literature targeted at a younger audience. This needs to change.

Not only have I noticed the scarce availability of such texts, I have also noticed how literature from children’s to adult’s, like media, can perpetuate ways of understanding our world and ourselves, whether for good or worse. A book contains themes, meanings and ideas that can swiftly alter our experience by the mere fact of being in print.

Children’s literature is a primary platform to set an example. For instance, gender and what it means to be a boy or girl (as society deems ‘normal’). This can be found in our beloved picture books. But what if these narratives do not suit everyone? Do and can others exist? Of course! I believe this is the time to publish more LGBT themed literature, especially for a younger audience, as we are living in an era of increasing acceptance. Exposure to positive LGBT narratives will instill a greater perspective for us all – the younger the better. And I am so happy Promised Land exists.

Support for publication

The back-story behind the publication of Promised Land deserves a lot of attention. Writers Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris expressed a need to write something that their eight-year-old selves needed. In their kickstarter statement, they wrote:

"During our childhoods and teen years, we had no role models or stories that represented the notion that 'happily ever after' could even exist if you're gay. As such, we felt there should be more stories like that, and so we wrote one together".

We all understand the desire to see our own narratives portrayed in literature and media. As an LGBT person I will always want to read characters like myself and will never lose the feeling of wanting more than what is generally available.

Furthermore, the real world back-story of Promised Land compliments the story that takes place within the picture book, which primarily concerns the theme of responsibility. The publication of Promised Land would not have been possible without the generous donations from the public, of which $25,000 was needed. The fact that the collaborative team behind this book reached their goal shows how needed Promised Land really is.

Promised Land is a book that warms the heart. It instills a sense of faith that a world of acceptance is possible and not so far away. This book is not only a "picture" book intended for a younger audience but for everyone, young and old. It should sit among New Zealand’s bookshelves. Community effort goes a long way and nothing can be done alone.

Reviewed by Demi Cox, Bookseller. 

30 May 2018

Te manu kai i te matauranga indigenous psychology cover

Te Manu Kai i Te Mātauranga: Indigenous Psychology in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Edited by Waikaremoana Waitoki (Ngāti Māhanga, Ngāti Hako) and Michelle Levy (Ngāti Mahuta). (2016). New Zealand Psychological Society.

This unique and inspiring book brings together the insights of 18 Māori psychologists and how their cultural worldviews, whakapapa and experiences as Māori benefit whānau Māori therapeutic relationships.

The rich dialogue revolves around the central story of Ripeka, a wahine Māori and her whānau. Ripeka represents the lived experience of many whānau Māori that each of the 18 psychologists have worked alongside in their practice, as well as in their personal lives. As quoted within the introduction of the book “Ripeka’s story is our story – she is why many of us work as psychologists".

Each Māori psychologist also provides their own reflections on the relevance of Māori thinking and understanding to the application of contemporary psychology. The book weaves the realities of whānau Māori clients and the voice of Māori psychologists together to highlight the need for indigenous thinking, and to celebrate the diversity indigenous knowledge brings to psychology.

Overall, Te Manu Kai i Te Mātauranga: Indigenous Psychology in Aotearoa/New Zealand, is an incredibly rich and thought-provoking read. Both Māori and non-Māori will benefit from reading the book to gain insights into Māori worldviews, confirm the legitimacy of indigenous approaches and to take a journey through the deconstructing of dominate discourses that impact on indigenous psychologists and the whānau they work with.

Reviewed by Zoe Hawke, (Ngāti Hako, me Ngāti Pāoa), Community Engagement & Health Promotion Manager, Mental Health Foundation.


16 May 2018

Made by Raffi book cover

Made by Raffi

Pomranz, C. (2014). Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

This book bursts with colour, creativity and the main character's contagious enthusiasm. Raffi feels different from the other boys in his class as he doesn't like noise or rough play. My 9-year-old son doesn't participate in combative team sports at his school; he, like Raffi, seeks out a gentler crowd. When Raffi seeks solace and is looking for a peaceful spot in the playground he comes across a teacher knitting.

Raffi is drawn to the colours of the scarf she's knitting and the endless possibilities this skill would allow in terms of expressing his creativity. The teacher offers to teach him to knit and so his journey of self-discovery begins and he uses his new passion, flair and creativity to bring colour and style to the school play – and wins much admiration along the way.

Important lessons

Besides the obvious theme of breaking out of gender roles, I also enjoyed the associated themes. Raffi is incredibly curious and shows real grit sticking with learning a tricky new skill. In the positive psychology field there is a state known as flow, where one is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus and enjoyment in the process of an activity. You feel like Raffi achieves this as he is totally absorbed and knits everywhere and every chance he can and, most importantly, this also buffers him from a few taunts. He learns to trust his instincts and he starts to see value in being different. I think us adults can learn a lot from kids’ enthusiasm and hunger for the new.

From the start you meet Raffi’s parents and dog, and we know straight away he is loved and cared for. Raffi asks his mum many questions including if he is strange for feeling different and because he likes to knit, sew and sing. His mother uses a wonderfully affirmative phrase that lets him know comparison is futile and that his own opinion of himself is what is most important, with “No I think you are very Raffi”. Following on with a question of her own, “Why, is something going on at school?”

This section is also valuable for parents, giving them an opportunity to broach a conversation, prompts that may encourage their child to open up and highlights the importance of affirming their child’s strengths. It did also make me think we should all look out for those kids in our communities that do not have such loving supports, without these feeling different as Raffi did, would be a much more isolating experience.

Emotions positively portrayed

Lastly, Raffi is a wonderfully thoughtful soul, contributing to the school play and making gifts for his family. I think kids seeing these behaviours and emotional literacy skills portrayed in a positive light is great, for example Raffi showing affection for his parents, striking up an inquisitive conversation with the teacher, working through his emotions with his mother and him thinking of ways he can contribute.

I really enjoyed this book as it affirms diversity and would be an asset on every school and home bookshelf, and adds much value to our Pink Shirt Day kids’ book feature (click on Quick Lists and select 'Book reviews – kids'), that highlights useful books for education professionals and caregivers that explore topics like anxiety, bullying, feeling different and resiliency.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Management Specialist and mum to a 9-year-old son.

2 May 2018
Outsmarting worry cover 2

Outsmarting Worry: An older kid's guide to managing anxiety

Huebner, D. (2017). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

The author, Dawn Huebner, is a clinical psychologist who specialises in the treatment of anxiety in children. In this book, she does a great job of sharing some of the therapeutic strategies grounded in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in a practical, easy-to-read and "light" way. The book is for 9–13-year-olds and is well pitched for this age group.

I really like Huebner’s note to parents at the beginning of the book where she provides a great normalising summary, though I’m not sure this transfers through to the children reading it. Huebner asks parent to be their children’s “best coach and guide” and I fully advocate this. She goes on to ask parents to be patient and persistent – there really isn’t a quick fix to overcoming anxiety and small steps are the best approach.

So, if you asked me, "do you think this book would help a 9–13-year-old with their worry and anxiety?" my answer would be "yes". But as Huebner says, read it with your child, stay with them and support them with remembering the strategies and putting it all into practice.

My favourite bits:

  • The character illustrations are cheeky and fun.
  • The strategies are clear and offers some new advice I hadn’t come across before, such as when a worry occurs, ask ‘where’s the evidence?’. This is a really good question to bring things into perspective.
  • I enjoyed her analogies, for example “worry is like a barking dog”. We can make a barking dog mean so many things, but it may not mean anything at all. Huebner says to “observe it, accept it and let it be.” This is superbly simple and it stops the inner dialogue in its tracks. Because, as she says, “the more you fight a thought or a feeling, the more it stays stuck. But if you take a step back and just… observe it… it becomes less powerful, less like something you need to do something about”.
  • I especially like the section “Worry in Disguise” where she looks at avoidance strategies (my words, not hers). It’s important kids and parents know sometimes worry is easy to recognise in our own children because we can read them well enough or they’re in tune with their emotions and honest about them. However, other kids (and adults) make worry or anxiety look like something else – excuses, boredom or anger. Worry has many faces and it’s great to see a light shone on the many justifications for avoiding.

I can see I’d work through this book with my own kids and pass it on to other families. Opportunities to talk about worries are always going to get a thumbs up from me. Worries and anxiety are normal as long as they don’t stop us doing things. Sometimes we’ve just got to ‘take ourselves on’, and this book gives oodles of good strategies to help do this.

Reviewed by Anna Mowat, who works predominantly as part of the All Right? Wellbeing campaign in Otautahi, where she is based. She also delivers Incredible Years parenting courses for the Ministry of Education and is currently working on a Cure Kids research project to create support for parents whose children have emotional regulation issues.

18 April 2018Because Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong cover

Because Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong

Donohue, E. (2017). Escalator Press.

Writing young adult fiction that is both accessible and thought-provoking can be difficult to achieve, yet Erin Donohue gets the balance perfectly right with her debut novel, Because Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong.

The book follows Caleb, a teenager in his last year of high school, and his experiences going through and coming to terms with mental illness. It’s a raw and at times unexpected journey, yet it manages to connect on a level that feels incredibly relatable and authentic. Set mostly at his high school, there’s an early sense of familiarity to Caleb’s world and the fears and challenges he faces. Donohue taps into that relatability, then delves deep into Caleb’s experiences, taking her readers with her.

One of the things I liked most about the book was the fact it didn’t try to explain away or attempt to justify Caleb’s feelings. In fact, there’s a scene where Caleb tries to find a reason for what he’s going through – everything on the surface is “right”. As Caleb says, “I keep searching for the reasons why I feel this way. It’s like a checklist. I have the basics: food, shelter, money, clothes. I have a family that loves me and friends to hang out with… I keep checking and checking, surely there must be something”.

Instead of trying to explain or make sense of Caleb’s feelings, the story simply explores them. Donuhue writes as Caleb in the first person and in a poetic style that powerfully captures his experiences. When Caleb’s depression and anxiety gets particularly bad for example, his thoughts are scattered and broken up on the page, drawn out through huge spaces between words or a single word per line. It’s a clever literary device, but more importantly, it’s effective. It expresses those moments when are our thoughts are not fluid narratives; moments of fear, dread and disconnect.

Because Everything is Right but Everything is Wrong is a beautifully written and important book. It transports its readers into Caleb’s world and holds them there, allowing them to empathise with his character in a way that feels very honest and very real. I would absolutely recommend this book.

Listen to an interview with the author, Erin Donohue.

Reviewed by Nicola Corner, Communications Assistant at the Mental Health Foundation.

Turtles all the way down cover4 April 2018

Turtles All the Way Down

Green, J. (2017). Puffin.

In Turtles All the Way Down, the latest Young Adult novel from John Green, 16-year-old Aza finds herself on the hunt for an elusive billionaire.

Aza lives with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Green has spoken openly of his own experiences with mental illness, and his decades of reflection on what this experience really is, combined with his sharp eye for the details of what it means to be human have paid off with a fully-realised character who lives with mental illness and is so much more than her diagnoses. Aza is bright, curious and capable of deep self-absorption combined with moments of great empathy for others. She’s interesting and interested, she’s grieving the death of her father and her friendship with her best friend Daisy felt very true to life.

Believable characters

The plot starts off slowly and then rips along. It is, at times, very theatrical, but so is adolescence. The characters crackle into life, preternaturally eloquent, able to distil complex philosophical ideas into quippy sentences, but nevertheless complex, flawed and likeable. They wonder if they are real, if they can control their own thoughts or actions, if what they think or do really matters. They also do their homework, bicker, fall in love and write fanfiction.

Sometimes this book made for very intense reading. Aza’s thoughts spiral and we go along for the ride, tumbling through her anxieties and worries with no relief in sight. Aza compulsively self-harms, and that makes for difficult reading. Sometimes I needed to take a break, but it was never far from my thoughts and I was eager to finish it.

I have not experienced anxiety or OCD, but I did lose a parent at a young age, and the moments where the characters grapple with loss and what it means for someone to be gone forever felt more real to me than almost anything else I’ve ever read on the topic.

Relevant for teenagers

I went back and forth on whether I would recommend this book to a young person who experiences mental illness. Ultimately, I think I would, because being a teenager is a fundamentally lonely experience for many, and I remember well the comfort of recognising parts of myself in the pages of a book. I also remember what it meant at the time to be taken seriously, and John Green never fails to take young people and their hopes, dreams and worries seriously and kindly. A warning though, the self-harm is graphic and specific and unusual enough to leave an impression.

There is humour and warmth here, but it is, ultimately, a dark book. There is no shiny, happy ending tied neatly in a bow, but there is an ending – a surprising one. When reflecting on his own experience of mental illness, Green told the New York Times “people want that narrative of illness in the past tense. But a lot of the time, it isn’t.” This is not a story of a young woman who overcomes her mental illness and never thinks of it again. It’s a story of learning to live with, alongside and through mental illness, and to live with yourself. I really enjoyed it.

Reviewed by Sophia Graham, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Mental Health Foundation.

AMS pic28 March 2018

All My Stripes: A Story for children with autism

Rudolph, S & Royer, D. (2015). American Psychological Association.

Just about everybody knows a person who is on the autistic spectrum. Children living with autism often feel or act differently to other kids, but the great thing about All My Stripes is it not only stresses the unique gifts that we all have to offer, but also lets kids with autism and their parents, caregivers, teachers and siblings know that kids on the spectrum have something to contribute to the world too.

The book is fantastic for using in the classroom or kindergartens so other kids can understand what it is like to have autism and how something like the feel of paint can upset or cause issues for someone who has sensory processing issues for instance. Once kids have ‘grasped’ a concept like this it makes understanding somebody in their class who is on the spectrum a lot easier. I have read the book in several classrooms and have seen kids have a great ‘lightbulb’ moment as it helps them to relate to, and understand, the kids who are autistic at their school a lot better.

The analogy of using a zebra’s stripes is a great way to get kids engaged and encourages more understanding of anyone who is on the spectrum. The book has a great reading guide and note for parents and caregivers at the end.

Not only does All My Stripes break down barriers, it promotes discussion which, in a classroom of primary school aged kids is a great thing especially when trying to get kids to understand something as complex as the autistic spectrum.

As a dad to a child on the autistic spectrum I have lent the book to not only kids but also adults so that they too ‘get it’…and like everyone who reads this book, they really do.

Reviewed by Senior Constable Bryan Ward from the New Zealand Police.



Resilient grieving21 March 2018

Resilient Grieving: How to find your way through devastating loss. A practical guide to recovery

Hone, L. (2017). Allen & Unwin.

This book is a guide to living with intense grief and finding your way through, without letting grief take over. Grief, big grief, can do that – take you and fling you to some faraway place you never thought you’d visit, deeply changing the way you experience the world every day.

What this book offers is a road map of sorts, ‘a practical guide to recovery’. As the author herself acknowledges, ‘recovery’ may not be quite the right word. Grief is not a form of illness and with loss, ‘it’s not a question of getting it over it’. Rather, it’s about accepting what has happened and actively adapting and finding new ways to be in the world.

Lived experience

Dr Lucy Hone PhD, has a master’s degree in applied positive psychology and researches resilience and wellbeing. Hence the book’s strong focus on evidence-based research. Her motivation for writing on grief however comes from her lived experience – in one terrible car crash, she lost her 11 year old daughter Abi, along with Abi’s best friend Ella and Sally, Ella’s mother. Grieving these losses, Lucy explains, "I don’t want to get over Abi – successful adaption does not include pushing her out of our lives."

Is this book useful? Yes, I think it is. I live with grief myself, having lost my son and sister (to suicide) in recent years. This makes it a bit hard to visit Lucy’s book at times – the reading experience is personal and I fight at times with Lucy’s perspective, while respecting where she is coming from. My resistance focuses mostly around thinking – yeah well, the research is all very well (ha! Science!) but sometimes it’s not so easy to just ‘shift focus’, change your thinking and apply structure to an inner felt experience of pain, loss and (in the case of suicide), guilt (whether justified or not, it’s often part of the landscape). And there is value in feeling the pain, even as we heal. Guess what, grief fucking hurts, it just does. It is what it is. No getting around it. You grieve because you loved. And while logically you get it (they have died), emotionally it’s hard to comprehend you will never be in their presence again.

But I agree with Lucy – while unavoidable, grief is not something you want to leave in control of your life. Grief can cause damage and dammit, grief is sneaky. It permeates everything and causes havoc in subtle and not so subtle ways. It wears disguises and loves to shout ‘Boo!’ when you least expect it (as you can see, I’ve been around grief too long). Strategies for dealing with it are very useful and this is what this book offers.

Practical steps and advice

You can read this book chapter by chapter or dip in and out as you please. Or ask someone you trust to read it to you and help you with the exercises it suggests. You definitely don’t have to do the exercises (stick the ‘get out of gym, no PE today’ pass back in your pocket), you may just want to hear the perspective of someone else in deep grief and know that you are not alone. That struggling to understand and make sense of grief and loss is a very human thing; that it’s hard and painful to move forward.

The other thing I’ve kept in mind is the author penned this book it at a particular time, at a particular point in her experience of loss. As time goes on, the way we look back and understand our grief and the way it works can change. Likewise, scientific perspectives can shift. It’s not uncommon for authors of both non-fiction and fiction, to look back and argue with their own books later. I can’t speak for Dr Lucy Hone, but I would love to know how she would speak back to this book as time goes on. I think it would be a fascinating conversation.

Read this book? Yes, it is compassionate and offers thoughtful personal observations with well-researched perspectives. Do or believe everything it says? No, not necessary. As Lucy notes, everyone grieves differently and no two bereavement experiences are the same.

Reviewed by Virginia Brooks, Community Engagement & Health Promotion Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

7 March 2018Starving the anger gemlin for young people cover

Starving the Anger Gremlin: A cognitive behavioural therapy workbook on anger management for young people

Collins-Donnelly, K. (2012). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

This book is part of a series that introduces cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) skills to kids to help them deal with stress, anxiety and anger. The author, Kate Collins-Donnelly has worked as a therapist, psychologist, criminologist and anger management consultant based in the UK for many years. 

She aims to provide the information in a 'simple, activity-filled, easily readable and interesting way'. I think she achieves this especially with the workbook format. The worksheets are set in a wider context by including an introduction for parents and professionals about evidence- based CBT. It also includes safety guidelines noting when people start to explore their anger it may raise some difficult issues and she encourages the reader to seek support. 

Real-life examples

In this version for young people, which she states is suitable for children aged 10 and over, it has some examples from her real clients aged between 13–18 years. They refer to complex life issues such as a 14-year-old boyfriend cheating, a 16-year-old being picked up from the police station and a teen abusing a family member who has come out as gay. 

I am not so sure my son, who is almost 10, would relate to these scenarios, though I guess it would give him a sense that uncontrolled anger can cause problems and get you in trouble! This book would be most suitable for young people who have more serious anger issues.

"I beat my mum up a lot when I was younger. I hurt her really bad once." (Sarah, 16)
"I lose it and take it out on my mum. I'm horrible. I punch her." (Sally, 13).

Collins-Donnelly has also penned a similar workbook for younger children called Starving the Anger Gremlin for children aged 5–9. This has more of a focus on emotions and develops skills through a range of puzzles and drawing activities.


I think both books impart valuable CBT skills that help young people identify unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours and give them tools to move towards more healthy ones. This therapy modality is accepted as effective and the author has clinical training. The choice of which book to read may not depend so much on physical age, but the emotional age of the child and what issues they may be experiencing.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information & Resource Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.


The wolf is not invited winner cover image21 February 2018

The Feel Brave series of books

McDonald, A. (2017). Crown House Publishing.

These are a series of illustrated children's picture books, aimed at 4-7-year-olds, designed to help children deal with confidence issues, change, loss and grief, managing anxiety and fears, bullying and worries.

I have a confession to make, whenever I’m asked to review children’s books, one of the first things I do is try them out on my children. I have another confession; I didn’t do any preliminary reading about the books. I knew broadly they focussed on the development of children’s emotional literacy, which I’m all in favour of, but that was all I knew. So my daughters and I dived straight in.

Stories can be scary

I began to read, The Wolf and the Shadow Monster and my 8-year-old was captivated  the pictures are beautiful and the story has a great rhythm. But the story became dark, as did the pictures. My daughter’s questions began – her confusion over the monster because this monster is addressed in the story as if it actually exists. She didn’t want to finish the book and that evening there was a  bit of damage control to be done around night-time fear.

I then sought to read, by myself, The Grand Wolf… who dies. I mean, I get it, this stuff is real for some kids. But the plot or focus, eg, death, or in the previous book, fear, is developed quickly in these stories. It comes as a bit of a shock. There’s no gentle lead in, no real warning of the content and how it plays out and sometimes an identifiable strategy to help, sometimes this isn’t so apparent. Perhaps I’m just out of touch or too careful in my approach to some of these big topics. But I’m surprised one of the books worried my 8-year-old.

Helpful Teacher's Guide

The Mental Health Foundation had given me the complete set of five books and the Teacher’s Guide for me to review. I turned to the Teacher’s Guide looking for an explanation. It turns out the Teacher’s Guide is marvellous – it brings all the context together from building emotional literacy through printable emotion cards on the CD Rom, tips and tools to talk about fear and worries, role-plays, managing anxiety attacks and externalisation techniques. I am very impressed.

I feel this should be included with the actual book! It just makes so much more sense – a few back pages added to each book and this vital information wouldn’t be missing for parents like me who dive right in expecting the story to do all the work. And I would know everything to do and say when my daughter begins to worry about the Shadow Monsters actual existence!

So, what’s my advice? If you have a child with worries or dealing with loss or grief, bullying issues, in need of some self-confidence building or emotional regulation techniques – which the books focus on individually, then yes, invest in them, BUT only if you buy the Teaching Guide alongside them and read this first!

The Feel Brave '1 Dose/Day' School Wellbeing Programme Pilot’ is being trialled by some schools in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand from February 2018. 

Reviewed by Anna Mowat, who works predominantly as part of the All Right? Wellbeing campaign in Otautahi, where she is based. She also delivers Incredible Years parenting courses for the Ministry of Education and is currently working on a Cure Kids research project to create support for parents whose children have emotional regulation issues.

Review by Lucien, aged 12:

I think overall most of these books have some good ideas but some of the stories and images could scare children. I liked that the shadow book tried to teach kids that you can use your imagination to feel better (magic) and less scared, to make your fears go away. The book on bullying is a great story with a great meaning. It teaches kids that if you are bullied to stay strong and that you can beat the bad feelings and still have fun. In the one about worries, that baby dragon has so many worries bottled up inside him and it makes him feel heavy. This book teaches kids to share their worries with people, overall a good story.


book cover7 February 2018

Feel a Little: Little poems about big feelings

Palmer, J. (2017). Little Love.

Feelings are a big topic in our household. Our household consists of myself and my two tamariki, a 12-year-old with an awesome Asperger's brain and a delightfully demonstrative 6-year-old. Our little whānau of three, has also suffered some big losses and changes in the last 18 months, so talking (or attempting to talk) about feelings has been somewhat of a focus.

Feel a Little contains 14 poems, each one about a different feeling with illustrations to match. The day I brought the book home I suggested to my 12-year-old he may like to read some of the poems to his sister. Much grumbling ensued, but he was persuaded to read just one of his choice. So he started with Happy:

Happy is a warm glow,
It’s a gleam inside your chest;
Then a beam ignites a sparkle,
You feel light and right, your best.

It may have been the bright, bold illustrations, or the easy upbeat rhythms, but many more poems were recited, one after the other with much enthusiasm. However my 6-year-old lost interest quickly, perhaps a few too many feelings being described "at her" all at once. A few days later when I sat down with her one-on-one and focused on one poem she engaged better but still struggled with some of the more complex ideas. One of my favourite children's books about feelings is Dr Suess’s My Many Coloured Days which very simply captures our changing emotions through only a few words and luscious paintings.

Feel a Little clearly has an older target audience in mind. I found many of the poems beautifully captured the essence of an emotion, the physical sensations as well as the nuance of how people may experience a feeling. I connected with some more than others, for instance Curious is pointy, you’re prickling to know didn’t resonate with me at all. However, that was also a wonderful aspect of the book, as it enabled reflection and discussion with children about how they personally experience feelings. What words would they use to describe an emotion?

My 12-year-old really liked how some of the poems gave some advice about how to manage emotions such as Angry:

Look out for your boiling point,
The rumbling and the heat;
You will find the warning signs
That only YOU can beat.

Maybe it’s just one deep breath,
A count to ten, a walk;
Maybe there’s a friend or grown up
There to have a talk.

Although I agreed with him I did find some of the advice contained a few too many “shoulds” and could be a little prescriptive. But apart from that I think the book is a fantastic way to get children (and adults) to reflect more about their emotional world. Giving children a way to explore, discuss and express their feelings, in my opinion, is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children and Feel a Little provides an excellent medium to do just that.

Reviewed by Amanda Schulze, Community Engagement & Health Promotion Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

F depression pic24 January 2018

Fuck Depression

Stack, J. (2017). eBook.

A warning to those who don’t like swear words, the F word and others are liberally sprinkled throughout the resource.

Fuck Depression is a new free online resource to support people living with depression, developed by former George FM DJ Jack Stack.

I first came across the resource on The Spinoff, in an article by Stack called How depression saved my life.

In the article, Stack wrote about how surprised he was to find himself in the company of half a million other New Zealanders experiencing depression, but for two years found himself in a “psychological patch of thorns, tearing everything I loved away from me and leaving me broken, unemployed, homeless, and alone”.

Stark frankly detailed his experience of depression simply and without embellishment and his article resonated with me and the people I shared it with. 

Brighter future

Stack has recovered and now has a job he loves, financial security and is surrounded by great people. He’s learnt a lot about depression, asking for help and what to do to recover along the way. He lost some friends to suicide and the resource he’s created is the conversation he wishes he had had with those who have passed away.

I clicked over to the website, handed over my email address and was immediately emailed a free copy of the resource. I read it in one big gulp.

I loved it. It’s frank and funny without being glib or cheesy, it’s really well-designed and laid out, and most importantly, it contains useful and easily adopted advice for those living with depression about how to get help and what they can do to help themselves.

The resource is full of hope and positivity without being condescending – a tricky balance to achieve in my experience. It never lets you forget depression is manageable and recovery is possible, and reading it was a really uplifting experience.

Research based

All the advice is scientifically-proven and includes some background information about why, for example, getting sunlight is important, and then includes tips to put that advice into action.

I particularly appreciated the inclusion of advice for those who are in debt (debt and mental distress often go hand-in-hand) as being in financial difficulties can place a huge burden on mental health. Too often acknowledgement of this and information about what to do is left out of mental health resources, and it’s great to see it included here.

There’s something in here for almost everyone. The only thing it’s missing is advice about connecting or reconnecting to culture, which we know can be really important in coping with and recovering from mental distress.

Fuck Depression is a free resource. Download it at fkdepression.com 

Reviewed by Sophia Graham, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Mental Health Foundation.

13 December 2017

From worrier to warrior coverFrom Worrier to Warrior: A guide to conquering your fears

Peters, D. (2013). Great Potential Press, Inc.

To save you time reading all the way through this review, let me just sum up at the beginning by saying I really, really liked this book and recommend it for professionals, parents and kids. In fact, I’ll be buying several copies and handing them out wildly!

While the book is probably aimed at, I’d say, around 8 to 14–year–olds, the explanations and strategies will be useful for kids from around six years old to anyone in adulthood. I do believe this book has what it takes to turn worriers into warriors and the writer deserves a big high five or fist pump!

So why am I such a fan? From the outset, the tone of the book is super friendly – it’s easy to read, relatable and made me feel supported. The writer, Dr Dan Peters, tells us about his anxiety, he is deeply empathetic and his experience helps to normalise anxiety. It’s a relief to hear others describe their worries when you yourself are a worrier – soon to become warrior.

Easy to digest

Peters leaves no leaf unturned in explaining absolutely everything! But in an easily digestible way  there’s no clinical or academic presence, though of course the foundations certainly are. Peters begins at the biological goings-on moving through to the ways and reasons we worry. It’s very comprehensive but the option is left open to read the lot, or you determine the parts which pertain to you and your kids. He recommends that children get themselves a support team, and as a parent, that will mean you – so I’d suggest you read it with your child, before your child or being available for your child who’s reading it.

I also love the externalisation of anxiety using the Worry Monster  not dissimilar to our very own Kotuku Creative Worry Bug. Externalisation helps kids feel like the problem isn’t "them", it’s this "thing" that they can learn about, understand more completely, begin to and then fully manage. The idea Peters gives that the Worry Monster is a bully, is a great message to start from and work with. However, this might be the clue for older children that this book is for a younger audience, so be clear that this is an "idea", and may be useful for your older child, but all the other strategies are the same for any person (child or adult) wanting to overcome anxiety, and importantly, they work.

Creating a plan

I know I’m near raving, but the book just gets better! Peters extensively explains the effects of worry, especially on behaviour. Many children who worry will avoid situations as a means to cope, but he explains why this isn’t such a great strategy and fully details creating a plan to tackle the Worry Monster, so he won’t stop us doing things or going places. I love that these plans start with something a child knows they can manage, then they move their way up to more challenging tasks or situations. It’s a gentle, reassuring approach.

I have recommended this book so many times since reading it. If you’re a worrier, your child is a worrier, this book can certainly help. Warriors we are!

Reviewed by Anna Mowat, who works predominantly as part of the All Right? Wellbeing campaign in Otautahi, where she is based. She also delivers Incredible Years parenting courses for the Ministry of Education and is currently working on a Cure Kids research project to create support for parents whose children have emotional regulation issues.

book cover

29 November 2017

Conversations for Change

(2017). reTHiNK. 

Conversations for Change is an amazing new resource that reTHiNK has created as part of Like Minds, Like Mine to challenge stigma and discrimination toward mental health issues and encourage social inclusion.

It's comprised of a set of five activities to use with groups of young people aged 15–24 and is written so that teachers, youth leaders or young leaders can safely and effectively facilitate it. Although I read through the physical copy, it's free and easily downloadable from their website which means accessibility is not an issue.

All learning styles considered

Looking through the contents, what stood out to me was the fact that all learning styles were considered when compiling and creating the information. You'll find audio, visual, and practical activities and resources to utilise alongside the written content.

The team at reTHiNK has also done a good job at ensuring that activities are written in a way that all age groups can understand and engage with, which sets it apart from similar resources.

As a young person myself, I feel that this resource will help educate those in high school to be more mindful and aware of things that they say, while also informing the older generation about the real issues we're facing and to not just brush these things lightly.

One key thing that comes across is that the resource represents the New Zealand community. This comes across through the real life stories and quotes that are used throughout. This gives the resources a more human feel and helps to remind the reader/user that what they are learning is a reality for many within their own community.

I would highly recommend individuals who work with groups to tap into this resource to help educate people about mental health and wellbeing. I hope that this resource will also help those going through tough times to realise there are places and people who can help them and that asking for help is a courageous thing.

Reviewed by Sarah McLean, Business Management Coordinator at Vaka Tautua.

book cover13 September 2017

Māui – Sun Catcher

Tipene, T. (2017). Oratia Books.

In support of Māori Language Week (11–17 September), Constable Bryan and Bobby from the New Zealand Police read Māui – Sun Catcher to the kids from Red Beach School library reading group. The book is written in English and Māori, with Māori translations by Rob Ruha and was selected as a Storylines Notable book for 2017. 

We read Māui – Sun Catcher to a group of kids (aged 5–10), none of whom knew who Māui was or what his legend was. So this modern retelling of Māui’s story was both timely and remains important for every New Zealand child we believe.

With each turn of the page of Tipene’s book, words started to be muttered by the kids such as, "he is being brave", "Māui has a goal" and our favourite, "he has no fear". Waipara’s amazing art added new flavour to the story and lots of the kids liked the style of the book saying it was like a comic book.

Book sparks interesting discussion

When we got to the dramatic conclusion, we closed the book before the ending and asked the kids if they thought that Māui would stop the sun and if his whānau would help him. It started a great conversation about why you would stop the sun, what would happen, and if you needed help who were the people you could ask for help. When we got to the end of the book many kids then figured out the day/night angle of the story and how we could all have a day that was a little longer. The discussion then flowed to making a stand when you knew things were right and believing in yourself regardless of what people said about you and your goals.

We asked the kids to give us the Bryan and Bobby world famous book rating system we use at our reading group – thumbs up or thumbs down. Over 90% gave Māui – Sun Catcher a BIG thumbs up. The real vote of awesomeness for Tipene’s book was the fact many kids raced to go and find more books on Māui in the school library straight after our reading. One boy proudly stated to us: “Did you know he was a fisherman as well as a sun catcher?“ No we didn’t and we wonder what he caught.

Reviewed by Constable Bryan and Bobby from the New Zealand Police.

Bi polar expedition cover6 September 2017

Bi-Polar Expedition: An unlikely lifetime journey

Colegate, B. (2016). Self published.

This autobiography was gifted to the Mental Health Foundation's library and is quite an interesting read as Colegate writes well. The book follows his immigration to New Zealand in the 1960s and the journey of his family as they support each other through periods of mental unwellness. Colegate's mother and son both experienced schizophrenia, and Colegate himself was diagnosed with bipolar in his mid-twenties.

He writes in more detail about his mother and son than his own mental health journey, but it would have been nice to know more about his experience with bipolar. However, you do get to know about him through his storytelling and you learn what's important to him, which I assume are the same things which aided his recovery and kept him well. Threads that emerge include; humour, curiosity, being with family, connecting with people, whakapapa, travel and adventure. The book is sprinkled with family photos from the family album, eulogies and insights from his children and you get a real sense of the unity of his family despite some difficult times.

Colegate describes his wife Ann as the rock of the household through difficult times and we learn she also brought this strength to community work for which she received a Civic Award for her contribution to the Like Minds, Like Mine public awareness programme.

Even though this is more a memoir than a book about bipolar, that in itself shows that mental illness does not need to define you or limit your ability to lead a rich life. My understanding is Colegate is in his eighties and still giving presentations and advocating that people talk about mental health issues and seek help. I'm sure the work Colegate and his family have done over the years to advocate and encourage others as a result of their life experiences has impacted positively on many.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information & Resource Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Trauma cover23 August 2017

Trauma: From Lockerbie to 7/7: How trauma affects our minds and how we fight back

Turnbull, G. (2011). Transworld Publishers

The book was recently given to the Skylight library by a client with the accompanying words; “This is the most helpful book on trauma I have read”. These words from someone who had experienced traumatic stress piqued my interest in reading it.

At over 600 pages, it's not a book for the time poor. However, it's very easy to read and holds your interest. It covers the author’s journey with his own trauma incidents and his career working as a military psychiatrist in the UK. Among others, he treated first responders involved in the Lockerbie air disaster in Scotland in 1988, the Kegworth air disaster in 1989, returning soldiers from the Falklands, RAF pilots who had been shot down in the Gulf war, hostages freed from Lebanon, and later in his career, civilians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the Ticehurst Centre in England.

Changing view of PTSD

The focus of the book is PTSD – the effects of trauma and how that has been viewed in both the US and UK over the years and Turnbull’s own learning from treating people with PTSD after the above disasters and wars. Turnbull contributed to PTSD moving from being viewed as a “pathological fault” of the personality and therefore something that could put a person out of the military forever, to it being seen as the mind’s way of coming to terms with things seen, heard, smelled, sensed and touched that were often too terrible for it to comprehend.

In 1980, the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) categorised the existence of PTSD for the first time, though indicated it was a pathological condition. Turnbull made it his goal to tell as many people as he could that it needed to be re-categorised and separated from such labels as “shell shock” and LMF (lack of moral fibre) and not be seen as an illness.

He writes: “I realized at this time that I had very different ideas about the meaning of PTSD compared with other professionals who were extremely experienced in the field. They, by and large, saw PTSD as a psychopathology – as an illness. Lockerbie had shown me that it couldn’t be. I’d known the mountain rescuers before they’d gone to the scene of the crash and assessed them to be some of the toughest people, mentally and physically, on the planet. This was why Lockerbie had been so life-changing for me. It was difficult – impossible, actually – for me to believe they had developed a psychopathology.”

Forms of therapy outlined

I think PTSD still causes confusion for people today and we are quick to write off the effects of trauma as character flaws rather than embark on strategies that can help people through it. Unresolved trauma is often an underlying cause of a range of symptoms that can, if not treated, be debilitating. The book outlines numerous forms of therapy that are helpful and healing for PTSD.

The book doesn’t have to be read all the way through. It can be dipped into for different aspects of understanding trauma and its effects and the modes of treatment now available. Or, if you want an in-depth treatment of this topic, it’s an easy read for both lay and professional people with an interest in this topic.

The book is available for loan from the Skylight library. Phone 0800 299 100 to arrange for it to be sent out to you. For information about other books available in the Skylight library and all their services, visit www.skylight.org.nz

Reviewed by Jenny McIntosh, Skylight's Resource Centre Co-ordinator.

Overcoming borderline personality disorder book cover9 August 2017

Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder: A Family Guide to Healing and Change

Porr, V. (2010). Oxford University Press.

It’s not often you can say a book changed your life but this book was the catalyst that changed our family’s relationships for the better.

The book is written to support the families of loved ones with borderline personality disorder (BPD). The first thing I’d say is that Porr really understands and empathises with the experience of living day to day with someone with BPD, and the stress, uncertainty and sadness that it brings.

My second thought is that the book takes a very compassionate approach. It’s for families who want to know more, who want to love, understand, respond to, and help their loved one. The book focuses on two things; increasing your understanding of the disorder and giving you skills to handle the situations that arise.

Knowledge is power

Understanding BPD is a crucial first step to increasing the compassion you feel for what your loved one is going through. Porr explains the science behind the disorder – how brain scans show heightened emotional reactivity in the amygdala, slower recovery from these reactions, and impaired working of the executive functions of the brain that perceive, reason, and plan actions. She paints a picture of the impact of these changes and what it must be like to live with the disorder.

The rest of the book gives you tools and techniques for responding to and helping your loved one. These are grounded in two effective therapies for BPD – dialectical behaviour therapy and mentalisation therapy.

Dialectical behaviour therapy is based around a set of skills which can help tolerate distress, regulate emotions, and improve communication and relationships. While aimed at those with BPD, these skills can equally help families communicate and successfully navigate their own relationships with their BPD loved one. Learning these skills, particularly validation, together with a new appreciation and understanding of what was in front of me, was the turning point in restoring some hope to our family relationships.

Helpful, practical skills

Porr is not a believer in the tough love approach for BPD. Developing and using the skills she teaches tends to reduce the levels of confrontation and conflict in and of themselves, but she does also address ways a family member can set limits if they feel abused.

Mentalisation is the skill of intuiting what other people are thinking, and Porr devotes the last chapter to why misunderstandings occur so often, and what you can do about it.

This is a book I have gone back to again and again, for information, for skills, and to feel my experience is validated.

Reviewer chose not to be named to protect her privacy.

Wellbeing recovery and mental health cover image26 July 2017

Wellbeing, Recovery and Mental Health

Edited by Slade, M., Oades, L., & Jarden, A. (2017). Cambridge University Press.

In recent years interest has been growing in how positive human traits and environments can be an intervention for creating better personal and population mental health. Despite this, relevant theory, models and evidence have been limited. This is probably largely due to wellbeing interventions in mental health being a new field, and the inertia of current research agendas focussing on deficit approaches to mental distress.

The area of wellbeing for mental health research is gaining momentum however, and Wellbeing, Recovery and Mental Health provides a good overview of areas of current inquiry. For wellbeing enthusiasts who are excited about the possibility of wellbeing and positive mental health approaches becoming part of mainstream mental health policy and services, this volume will be a useful resource providing up-to-date evidence and thinking on the benefits of approaching mental health holistically.

Wide range of topics

The book also gives a good sense of the diversity of research and inquiry around mental wellbeing being an agent in reducing mental illness and assisting in recovery from mental illness. The range of topic areas covered across the 26 chapters includes:

  • Improving wellbeing and mental illness recovery definitions to assist future research and understanding.
  • The current wellbeing science and what it tells us.
  • Examining wellbeing in current social policy.
  • Mental health frameworks that integrate mental illness and mental wellbeing into an overall theory.
  • How wellbeing (mainly positive psychology approaches) are being used to help respond to severe mental illness, treatment and recovery.
  • Wellbeing in non-Western cultures.
  • How wellbeing is being understood, practiced and promoted across different environments.

There are many examples of Australian and New Zealand wellbeing research in the book, reflecting the location of the editors, and this should make the text more attractive to readers in this country.

Overall this volume provides good rationale and evidence that positive psychology based approaches are not just for “the worried well”, but can be used effectively in the therapeutic alliances with even the most unwell and distressed.

Wellbeing, Recovery and Mental Health shows that incorporating wellbeing and positive mental health into mental health policy and future service design will continue to provide opportunities for more engaging and strength based mental health service practice. As a result there will be challenges for the mental health system as wellbeing broadens the scope of how we view mental health in our public health service systems.

Reviewed by Hugh Norriss, Wellbeing Programme Consultant.

Postvention in action cover12 July 2017

Postvention in Action: The International Handbook of Suicide Bereavement Support

Edited by Andriessen, K, Krysinska, K & Grad, O.T. (2017). Hogrefe.

Suicide postvention is the support of those left behind after a suicide. This approach was developed by Edwin Shneidman and Norman Farberow, pioneers of suicide prevention in America in the 1960s. I think they would be cheering for this book which carries on their work. It’s dedicated to Farberow and published on the 50th anniversary of Shneidman coining the term postvention.

A collection of writing edited by Karl Andriessen, Karolina Krysinska and Onja T.Grad, contemporary leaders in postvention and suicide bereavement research, it’s satisfyingly solid from an academic perspective, yet very readable, uniting thought and research with a heart that brings balance, warmth and understanding, a perspective that invites a reader into wanting to know more.

Expert contributors

Contributors are researchers and clinicians, also leaders and experts in postvention. Topics covered include current demographic and clinical issues, coronial processes, mental health, support groups, support for youth, therapy, counselling, online support, indigenous healing practices, spirituality, cluster suicides, murder-suicides and development of postvention guidelines.

With 47 chapters, it’s a big read. As each chapter stands alone, these can be read in any order or as suits. There’s a structured flow to the text, with readings grouped thematically. Part 1 looks at current knowledge and what this implies for support. Part 2 covers suicide bereavement support in different settings, while parts 3 and 4 look at different populations and countries. New Zealand is located in the Asia- Pacific section and is represented by Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, who writes on her work to develop postvention guidelines for Pacific communities. Her approach involves keeping voices of Pasifika suicide bereaved central, allowing communities to identify their own issues and ways forward.

Informative and inspiring

From a work perspective, I find this book valuable. It’s informative and inspiring, it discusses what’s possible, what works and why, while noting limitations and sizable gaps in the research. It prompts action. On a personal level, as someone bereaved by suicide, I find it validating and reassuring to be able to dip into a book like this and learn that my experiences matter, while finding out more about current research and initiatives in suicide bereavement and postvention.

As observed in the book’s foreword, in former times: “There were usually only veiled references to suicide, let alone any suggestion that those who were bereaved through suicide should be considered worthy of study or indeed support.”

Yet as Andriessen goes on to explain in the preface, citing the World Health Organisation (2014): “Every year, more than 800,000 people die of suicide; that is one suicide every 40 seconds… given that suicide bereavement is a risk factor for adverse mental health outcomes and suicidal behaviour, there is a need for adequate suicide bereavement support… (this is) recognised by the WHO as an important strategy for suicide prevention… interventions should be offered to grieving individuals and national suicide prevention objectives should include support for the bereaved by suicide."

I would add that even for those who are seemingly well-adjusted, showing “resiliency” in the aftermath of a death by suicide, the specific nature of suicide bereavement requires active forms of compassion and support for all affected.

Wealth of information

This book holds a wealth of information that supports goals related to developing effective postvention supports. Andriessen also points out that bereaved are vital in supporting these goals: “Suicidology and suicide prevention without the active involvement of survivors would be poor suicidology. Postvention is prevention. Postvention is action.”

Policy-makers, researchers, clinicians, people working in this area, bereaved, counsellors, students, those simply wanting to learn more – use this book, read it, dip in and out as you need to. It inspires. It educates. It leads. It’s terrific.

Reviewed by Virginia Brooks, Community Engagement & Health Promotion Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

Contagious cover5 July 2017

Contagious: Why things catch on

Berger, J. (2013). Simon and Schuster.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a well-researched and intelligent book that explains why some messages or products take off exponentially and go viral in a second, while others fizzle out never to be mentioned again.

The author takes us through a journey of the six key principles which drive things to catch on. These are Social Currency (we share things that make us look good), Triggers (top of mind, tip of tongue), Emotion (when we care we share), Public (built to show, built to grow), Practical Value (news you can use) and Stories (information travels under the guise of idle chatter).

He uses really interesting examples to guide the reader through each of these steps, such as the telephone booth that was in fact a door to a secret restaurant and why a NASA mission boosted sales of chocolate bars, so it's a really interesting and fun read.

If you have a message to spread you need to read this book ASAP!

Reviewed by Cory Stewart, Health Promotion Consultant.

Tyson and Joey cover image21 June 2017

Tyson & Joey: Two Worlds Collide

Watts, T. (2016). Self published.

Tyson & Joey: Two Worlds Collide was recently shortlisted as a finalist in the 2017 International Book Awards. It's described on Amazon.com as a story about two young men from different worlds:

“Tyson is from the rough streets of Trentan, Joey from the affluent northern suburbs. The worlds of these two young men collide through a chance encounter, and as a result, they begin to question their life situations. This connection sparks a shared journey of self-development; one which brings about necessary changes for both men.”

Tom Watts' website says the story has a self-help thread throughout, inspired by Watt’s personal experience of living with anxiety and depression.

“The text conveys the truths that enabled him to rise out of suffering, and to live a life of peace and fulfilment. The teachings are centred on the concept of 'present moment awareness’, and how this can be applied to everyday life.”

Tom Watts was born in New Zealand and spent time living in Australia.

“After growing restless, he moved to London, where he currently resides and works as an urban designer, a career that he has been pursuing since graduating university. Tyson & Joey has been a background project for Tom, developing organically over several years as a response to his mental health challenges”.

I found their relationship very interesting, what was perhaps not so plausible was that Tyson was a drug dealer and yet he was also a leader and teacher, although ultimately he gave that lifestyle away. The book is great in that it clearly describes a type of mindfulness practice which we know can be very helpful for many people both with mental health problems and those without.

Reviewed by Janet Peters, registered psychologist and writer.

Presence again7 June 2017

Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges

Cuddy, A. (2016). Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Author Amy Cuddy is an American social psychologist at Harvard Business School. When she was a teenager she was involved in a car accident that left her with a serious head injury. Doctors told her she may never fully recover and to not expect to graduate high school.

“I felt like an imposter in my body,” she says.

This experience led her to study how confidence and doubt can affect a person’s life.

“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behaviour, and our behaviour changes our outcomes”. This is the mantra that sets the tone for her book.

Power pose your way to confidence

Presence has six key elements – being confident, passionate, enthusiastic, captivating, comfortable and authentic. By researching people’s behaviour, Cuddy developed a series of “power poses”. Power poses are about physically opening yourself up, taking up space and feeling powerful and there are aptly named poses such as “starfish” and “wonder-woman”.

In the chapter “Slouching, Steepling, and the Language of Body”, she discusses the All Blacks’ haka and how showing such power to others can make us feel strong. She suggests that by regularly “power posing” before stressful events such as a job interview or an important meeting, your body is telling your mind to, “believe in yourself and be powerful”. Instead of approaching an opportunity with anxiety, power posing can help you feel more confident and help you be your true self.

Practical, everyday advice

The book has many practical tips about projecting confidence even when you don’t feel it. At times, the ideas are overshadowed by her own research findings and personal stories from people who have been using power poses.

However, I think the concepts of feeling powerful to become powerful, and that lots of “tiny tweaks make big changes”, are wonderful take-home messages that many of us will find helpful.

So, before my next big challenge, you might find me in a corner somewhere doing my two minutes of power posing before bringing my true presence to the situation.

Reviewed by Sarah Cahill, registered nurse and medical writer.

24 May 2017

The special patientThe Special Patient

Inomata, A. (2016). Self-published.

True stories like Holden’s (not his real name) are the ones that make our hearts sink. He’s in a state of terrible distress, discharged without proper assessment and tormented by psychotic beliefs, another unwell person who has acted in the only way he believed was possible. In Holden’s case, he killed his father.

In this harrowing book, New Zealand academic and writer Aimee Inomata tells the story through the unfolding narrative of her own relationship with Holden – first as a neighbour and friend, now as his partner. She invites us to join her in coming to terms with his horrific crime, his long and painful journey through the forensic psychiatric system, and his rebuilt life in the community. Holden was found not guilty of his father’s murder by reason of insanity and sentenced to seven years in a mental institution.

Book doesn’t shy away from tough questions

It's not an easy read, and it doesn't shy away from difficult questions – Inomata details drug effects, the repercussions of clinical and legal decisions, and Holden's struggle to take control of his own recovery. Holden's is a story of simmering trauma, systemic neglect, substance abuse, despair, noncompliance, ever more blurred boundaries. Is a person in forensic mental health care in fact imprisoned, or simply there to get well? The answer is fraught with conflict, and its management is a perilous dance between legal precedent, public opinion, clinical judgment and risk assessment, and human intuition.

In a realm that has always been mysterious, it's a relief to hear a voice of experience. Is it really possible for mentally unwell offenders to recover? Is the experience of psychosis inherently dangerous? Is there life after the most terrible loss? How should we treat those of our community whose lived experiences encompass such devastating violence?

The Special Patient will be a thought-provoking read for clinicians, and an ultimately challenging and hopeful one for people living with the effects of mental distress and substance dependence. For the general public willing to understand more about a frightening and mysterious corner of human experience, this dense and well-researched book will be worth careful reading.

Reviewed by Elisabeth Kumar, Professional Teaching Fellow, Medical Humanities, University of Auckland.

Frazzled cover image10 May 2017

A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled

Wax, R. (2016). Penguin.

American Ruby Wax is best known as a comedienne, actress and writer, but who knew she had a Masters in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University?

She believes mindfulness is the answer to the modern-day problem of stress and feeling frazzled. She says of mindfulness, “It’s something that can help us all: learning to notice your thoughts and feelings so you can truly experience life”.

In the foreword, she talks about why she’s written the book and touches on her personal experience of depression and being institutionalised.

“My ‘aha’ moment came when I realized I had used my success as armour to cover the chaos inside me. I’d created a fabrication, like those smiling cardboard cut-outs of show-girls in Vegas. I was just a front; and, behind the front, no one was home.”

This Road to Damascus moment lead her to study mindfulness-based cognitive therapy at Oxford University.

Mindfulness for everyone

The book covers everything from what mindfulness actually is, to mindfulness for parents, teenagers, children and even babies.

She provides a handy synopsis of what’s contained in each chapter. For example, “Chapter 3: How our brains work and the science behind mindfulness. In this chapter, I show off how smart I am, giving neurological evidence as to why mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is so effective when dealing with stress. By stress, I don’t mean you had a bad-hair day, I meant he stress that eventually helps to shorten your life.”

The book includes a lot of scientific information and research and includes practical activities and exercises you can incorporate into your daily life to help you feel better. There is also a six-week mindfulness programme in the book that you can try out.

Wax injects her trademark humour into the book, which at times gives it a light, readable feel. However, other times the book is a bit waffly and I wish she’d just get straight to the point. The book definitely could have done with a good edit – more practical information and less of Ruby talking about Ruby would have been better.

If you’re a big Ruby Wax fan and you’re interested in mindfulness, then you’ll love this book. If you’re not interested in either then it will be a tough read.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, writer at Healthy Communications.

Book review cover26 April 2017

Towards My Inner Han-gu-ghin: Mental health and Recovery

Saw Woom Tor Charitable Trust. (2017). Self-published and supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

Mental health is still a taboo subject in many Asian cultures. People don’t want to confront their issues or share their stories. This booklet addresses sensitive issues with a gentle approach that has been well received by the Korean community in New Zealand.

The booklet is written in Korean and provides a lot of information about mental health. It’s very useful for family and friends of people experiencing mental health issues. It helps members of the community learn about mental health and the professional support services available to them.

Many people in the Asian community are prejudiced towards people with experience of mental illness, and their families. The booklet can significantly help Korean people have a better understanding of mental illness and the mental health system in New Zealand.

Culturally sensitive resource

The booklet greatly considers the reader’s views in a culturally appropriate manner. It focuses on Asian-specific mental health service providers and stakeholders, which is relevant to new migrants with limited English skills.

It also addresses a diversity of views, ethnicities, acculturation levels, values and cultural beliefs. The booklet is very interesting and inviting – it also uses plain language making the information easy to read.

This is not an academic booklet. However, it contains a wide range of useful clinical information, resources and evidence-based information with references to studies and original sources in a way that readers can understand. It also contains mental health service information and contacts.

The Towards My Inner Han-gu-ghin: Mental health & Recovery booklet comes with a descriptive flyer (in Korean) and an Introduction leaflet (in English).

Reviewed by Grace Ryu, Operations Manager at Asian Health Services, Waitemata DHB

Through the eyes of depression cover19 April 2017

Through the Eyes of Depression

Elliott-Kernot, H. (2017). Self-published.

I was drawn to read this book as I live with depression. I have read many medical books on depression which often only give an impersonal explanation of what depression is and how to manage it.

What I liked about this book is that it’s designed to show through words, illustrations, and poetry, what depression is like from the view point of those who have experienced it or live with it, and how families and friends can support their loved one. I wanted to read about the experience of others and was hopeful of finding some commonalities and perhaps some new information and ideas for treatment.

The author’s inspiration for the book came from the fact that when she was diagnosed with depression, her family didn’t understand what depression was which caused her to feel extremely alone and she found it impossible to speak about what her depression was like. She started to write down what she felt and through sharing her writing, it signalled a turning point where her family began to understand her depression and it helped them also.

The author makes an important note that professionals haven’t written the book, it’s written by different people who have experienced depression. She raised money via a Give-a-Little page to self-publish the book.

Tolkien quotes throughout

Tolkien quotes are featured throughout the book and I initially wondered what the relevance was. The author explains at the end of the book that when she was low with depression she watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy hundreds of times. She likened the fights between the Middle Earth characters to the fight between light and darkness in her own life. I thought this was an excellent analogy.

The book is an easy 94-page read and features a contents page which provides good structure. It flows from what depression feels like for those who live with it, to tips and advice for managing depression, how to help your loved ones when you have depression, how to support a loved one with depression, stories from family members, triggers and warning signs, success stories, through to a conclusion and topics for discussion resource.

I certainly felt less alone in my depression by having read this book. I found myself relating to many of the feelings expressed such as cancer of the feelings, and not being able to snap out of it. I learnt about the Zentangle Method (a relaxing way to create images by drawing structured patterns), which I checked out and am keen to try. And I thought some of the ideas around how to support a loved one with depression were particularly valuable as often family and friends are at a loss as to how to support someone with depression.

The book costs $15 (not including postage) and can be ordered at through.the.eyes100@gmail.com Payment is through online banking.

Reviewed by Delia Middleton.

Book cover collaborative5 April 2017

Collaborative and Indigenous Mental Health Therapy: Tātaihono – Stories of Māori Healing and Psychiatry

NiaNia,W., Bush, A. & Epston, D. (2017). Routledge.

This book is about understanding the paradigm of traditional Māori mental health practices and how they can work in line with Western models of medicine. It’s about the acceptance of Māori cultural needs and understanding how that works in the rehabilitation of Māori clients. And of course the acceptance of a Māori world view by clinicians is always a factor in the recovery of Māori clients.

Each chapter in the book recounts the story of a young person and their family’s experience of Māori healing. One of these stories is about a 17-year-old named Shannon.

Her world was rocked by the death of her paternal grandmother, which she was not prepared for. She descended into drugs and alcohol. Her grandmother had been her rock, she was faced with the fact she no longer had a shoulder to lean on, someone to cry with, confide in, or laugh with, and that’s when her world spiralled into a dark hole.

I read this book and had to gather my thoughts around partnerships and indigenous wellbeing. Yes, there is room for us to practice our cultural practices within mainstream but my thoughts will be always, how will our Treaty partners accept this?

There is a quote from my uncle Sir James Henare: “We have come so far not to go further; we have done so much not to do more.” It’s up to us how far we travel together, to insure the wellness of whanau, and how we can work together always for our whānau to flourish.

My review ends with two of the authors – Wiremu Nia Nia, a cultural therapist who brought his gift of tohungatanga to Te Whare Marie, a Māori mental health service in Porirua, and Allister Bush a psychiatrist, and how they combine their skills for the wellbeing of their clients and how both can flourish with the best of intentions, as in the story of Shannon.

I highly recommend this book. Please read it.

Mauri ora.

Reviewed by Witeria Ashby, Kaitakakawaenga at the Mental Health Foundation.

Hygge cover22 March 2107

The book of hygge: The Danish art of living well

Brits, L.T. (2016) Ebury Press.

What’s the secret to Danish people being consistently ranked amongst the happiest in the world? Apparently the concept of hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”) has a lot to do with it. Hygge can be loosely translated into English as “cosiness”.

The author defines hygge as, “A quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted and sheltered.” Hygge can be experienced alone or with others. It can be anything from cuddling your hot water bottle in bed, relaxing in your favourite chair with a good book or enjoying a drink with friends.

Denmark is well known for its high standard of living and often outranks other countries in education, healthcare, gender equality and equitable distribution of wealth. However, as the author notes, “A determined pursuit of happiness doesn’t necessarily lead to wellbeing. At the heart of Danish life, and at the core of hygge, is the deeper stability of contentment. When we are content our daily actions are infused with a quiet satisfaction that we share with those around us”.

The book is broken down into six chapters; Belonging, Shelter, Comfort, Wellbeing, Simplicity and Observance. It’s nice to dip into a chapter that takes your fancy at any given time. I particularly liked the Wellbeing chapter. It talks about Danish concepts around wellbeing and it’s always interesting to learn words from another language that don’t have an equivalent in English. For example, the word “livskunst” describes the things we do to create a life of authenticity and wellbeing.

Wonderful quotes throughout book

The book is interspersed with great quotes from some well-known people, and people I’ve never heard of. I particularly like the quote from Henry David Thoreau, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder”. There are also several quotes referring to hygge directly, for example, this quote by Carsten Levisen: “Hygge is ‘fragile’ because the process, in a sense, is the goal. It comes through collaborative effort and can easily appear but also easily disappear”.

Hygge stresses, among other things, the importance of being in the moment and giving things your full attention, which is similar to the idea of mindfulness. Appreciating tastes, textures, sounds and moments in time are all central to feeling contentment.

Some of the ideas surrounding hygge can be seen in the Mental Health Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing, particularly the ideas of giving, connecting and taking notice.

I would highly recommend this book. I found it easy to ready. It’s small in size (with a cool cover) and even cooler photographs and is written in a very simple yet engaging style. I like the idea of taking pleasure and comfort in small, ordinary things. A lovely book to read in winter snuggled up under a blanket with a glass of wine, or in any spot you can find hygge.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, account manager/writer at Healthy Communications.

Black sails white rabbits cover8 March 2017

Black Sails White Rabbits: Cancer was the easy part

Hall, K.A. (2015). Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.

Hall begins his self-published memoir by throwing you in the deep end, seeing if you will sink or swim through his story. I wanted to know how he became an Olympian and America’s Cup Sailor with Team New Zealand, but as I read, that first curiosity faded away and I became engulfed in the questions he was asking himself such as, “What are the right choices in life?”

Hall, who comes from America but lives in Auckland, gives a taste of his story for a few pages before he gives the reader a choice. He writes, “If you choose to be an artist, close the book. If you choose to be a pro-sailor, turn the page.”

That moment made me suck in my breath a bit, before I turned the page.

Author takes you on voyage

Hall takes you on a voyage with him, starting at Brown University in the United States in his twenties when everything changed in his life. Within a year he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and bipolar affective disorder, but those are just the hard facts.

Hall makes you feel the fear, hypersensitivity, confusion and lack of control.

“I was starting to apprehend the vague notion that not much made sense in my life anymore,” he writes.

You travel with him through the ever-changing split second decisions, ill health, family drama, and the overwhelming challenges he faces. He writes with raw honesty and humour about his personal story.

He wrestles with the concept of being a parent, what health is, understanding self-stigma and trying to find acceptance.

He writes, “I’m not asking you to accept my life. I’m begging myself to.”

I would recommend the book to anyone wishing to; understand themselves, understand mental health, and find more compassion for others and themselves.

Hall’s wife, Amanda, helps express the soul of the book in these words, “The only real achievement worth anything at all is self-knowledge and self-love. And from that, everything else follows.”

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Communications and Marketing Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

Unseen city cover22 February 2017

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness

Johnson, N. (2016). Rodale

Johnson is asking city dwellers to try a simple exercise – zero in on a bit of your surroundings. Notice, observe, and look for nature. He is out to prove a point: even in a city, there’s wilderness all around, waiting to be seen.

In this easy to read urban ramble, Johnson redefines what wilderness means to the modern world. Having grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills where he knew the names of all the trees, he’d become a stranger to nature in urban San Francisco.

When his daughter Josephine started pointing to trees and asking, “What’s that?” on their preschool route, Johnson didn’t have answers. He wanted her to have more than just, “It’s a tree” to describe her world. So began his quest, and along the way they discover nature previously unseen; the beauty and intrigue, the everyday and ordinary.

Learning to see the world like a child, Johnson argues, is a shift in thinking about nature. From something “out there”, nature becomes part of our everyday lives and part of us, like feeding pigeons. “To play with a wild thing provides some common ground for neighbours who may have nothing in common. This kind of casual shared experience is the foundation of friendship and, ultimately, of community.”

But how do you have an experience of natural wonder without leaving the city? Johnson sets the goal of learning about one new species per month. That pace, he writes, “Prods me to make an effort, but in a leisurely fashion”.

Universal ideas

While this book is a window into middle-class North America, the ideas of building community and growing great families through spending time in nature are universal and timeless. Perhaps there is less divide between nature and people in New Zealand, but as we become one of the most urbanised countries in the world, a reminder to notice nature, to explore and wonder and to make time to get out with the family could be the foundation to growing strong communities and a sense of kaitiakitanga.

After all, even in cities, trees trap carbon improving air quality. Green spaces are places to move and breath, exercise and play together and green views help decrease stress, improve mental health, and make us more productive.

Johnson argues, "Instead of glorifying only untouched wilderness, we might build an environmental ethic that allows humans and nature to live together". To me, Johnson attempts to build an environmental ethic that sees, values and respects nature. And along with some time together outside, that’s a good recipe for a better world.

Reviewed by Annabelle Studholme, Community Ranger at the Department of Conservation.

Our boys cover image8 February 2017

Our Boys: Raising Strong, Happy Sons from Boyhood to Manhood

Aston, R. & Kerr, R. (2016). Allen & Unwin.

When I read this book, so many of the parenting tensions and disagreements I’ve had with my partner, Jake, were re-framed and laid out plainly. Jake and I have two young boys, Rawiri (8) and Tamati (6).

I had a whole series of, “Oh” and, “Ouch” and, “Hey hang on... well no... you could have something there” moments. There's parenting gold in these pages!

The authors, who have a blended family with four kids, have key roles in the boys mentoring organisation Big Buddy. They clearly know a lot about boys and have thoughtfully laid out the chapters in stages relating to age, eg, 1. Hush Little Baby: The First Four Years, 2. Stepping Out: 4 to 7 Years, 3. The Explorer: 8 to 11 Years etc.

A book full of parenting gems

There are so many gems in this book, but there are two points that really stuck with me. Attachment is where it's at! Be with your boy as much as you possibly can, do stuff together, talk about that stuff then do more stuff. Watch who your little guy is, learn what he loves and get comfortable with who he is becoming. He needs your full acceptance.

The second is that it’s time for mum to step back, ouch! But I get it... now. Boys learn to be good men from watching and being with men, so surround them with good-hearted men and trust that while you might not understand the value of farting on cue or dad jokes, something mystical is at play here.

Oh and relax, you won't be on the bench forever. Maybe I'll use this “down time” for myself! #silverlining.

Tracey Sparksman, former Programme Design and Delivery Specialist, Mental Health Foundation.

Trauma is really strange cover25 January 2017

Trauma is Really Strange

Haines, S. (2015). Singing Dragon.

This is a useful introduction to how trauma affects the brain and nervous system and what people can do to overcome the effects in everyday life. My knowledge was updated (e.g our response to threat is more than just ‘fight or flight’). The book doesn’t address the most severe effects of early trauma – when someone has developed separate self-states to keep the awareness out of daily life (dissociative identity disorder). It’s in line with current thinking and refers to well-known researchers. The tone is encouraging and optimistic.

The graphic nature is inviting and the style is modern and although there are characters with dark and light skin, the main character is white and male. I was also disappointed to find small font text at the foot of most pages. It’s either a graphic book or it’s not! This text made unhelpfully brief references to other ideas and research. The references are cunningly concealed inside the cover flap.

The book starts well enough with a real-life example of transient dissociation but this is followed by a confusing mixture of symptoms of dissociation, hyperarousal /panic and shaking/tremors (restless legs are not a sign of shock).

Good introduction to trauma

The introduction to trauma which follows is good; wide-ranging and thought-provoking. It has three sections: trauma exists, we can heal from its effects, and healing involves the way our brains manage our bodies so our bodies have to get involved (talking therapy is not enough).

The second half examines how the brain and nervous system respond to threat. I didn’t find the explanation of the “new vagus” and “old vagus” control systems adequate. However, the three-stage response to threat (orient, mobilise, immobilise) was well done.

The next section uses helpful similes to explain the working of the amygdala and hippocampus, and how a neutral object or situation becomes a conditioned stimulus evoking unconditioned (inborn) anxiety responses.

Book could have been better organised

I didn’t find the book well-organised; section headings or title pages would have helped me track the progression from overview to specifics and keep track of the three sections of the introduction.

The final quarter describes techniques and principles for healing. This collection risks giving a simplistic impression but each is presented with a rationale which draws on previous pages and together they support the book’s thesis that we can heal from trauma by understanding how our brain and nervous system work. There is a useful summing up.

Reviewed by Margaret Graham, Senior Clinical Psychologist.

emotional agility21 December 2016

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

David, S. (2016). Penguin Random House.

This book provides simple, practical advice to allow people to make changes in all areas of their lives. It’s clearly and concisely written by renowned psychologist Susan David.

Emotional Agility walks you through why you can become stuck, and steps you can take to rectify this and truly flourish. The author carefully balances real life examples with academic research to back up her methodology for a new way of living, which she says can enhance your life greatly.

David writes about becoming aware of your true nature, accepting and facing your emotions and acting in accordance with your deepest values. She provides anecdotes and examples to help you understand how you can make these changes.

For those specifically looking for help raising children or in the workplace, there are separate chapters dealing with both of these.

There are no set exercises to work through so if that's what you're looking for this is probably not the right book for you. But for everybody else, this makes for an accessible and easy to read book on the topic of emotional agility.

Reviewed by Cory Stewart, Health Promotion Consultant.

The sound of silence cover image14 December 2016

The Sound of Silence

Goldsaito, K. (2016). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The words and illustrations in this story come together beautifully to tell the story of little Yoshio who lives in Tokyo, Japan.

He’s curious about his world, particularly sounds. He meets an elderly woman playing the koto, a traditional stringed instrument, who tells him that the most beautiful sound is in fact “ma” (silence). As he moves through the hustle and bustle of the day, Yoshio eventually becomes aware that silence is always there too, if only you learn how to notice it.

When I first spotted a promotional blurb for this recently published book for the 5–9 age range, I thought it might tick a lot of the Five Ways to Wellbeing boxes and it did not disappoint. The story encourages children to be curious, to contemplate, to get out and explore, connect with others, and to be respectful of the passing of knowledge between generations.

Book encourages questions

My seven-year-old son got fully involved in the story trying out the ever-changing sounds with Yoshio and asking questions about Japanese culture and customs.

Important values are portrayed through the story – respect for elders, rituals, music, the environment and studying. One thing that left me wondering was that even though Japan is a leader in mobile phone technology and use, in the beautifully detailed and busy illustrations of people, there is not a device in sight.

The background information contained within the afterword added depth to the story and connection to the author and illustrator’s lives.

Children get to experience this story through multiple senses, and they come away perhaps a little curious to reflect on their own lives to see if they can find pockets of silence among all the noise.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Addiction by design cover7 December 2016

Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas

Dow Schüll, N. (2012). Princeton University Press

Electronic gambling machines (also called pokies or slot machines) are considered the most harmful form of gambling in New Zealand and around the world. The fast-paced play, sensory stimulation, and never-ending cycle of betting and chasing losses have been proven time and again to be associated with high rates of problem gambling.

One of the most eye-opening books on electronic gambling machines in recent years comes not from a problem gambling counsellor or mental health professional, but from an anthropologist. Natasha Dow Schüll, an associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spent a decade and a half carrying out research in Las Vegas to discover why the casino-filled city has been throwing out the traditional games to make room for more pokies.

The dangers of entering “the zone”

Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas shows how the gambling industry has designed pokies that encourage players to enter the zone, Schüll's name for the hyper-focused state of the solitary punter who ignores everything but the lights and sounds of the machine.

One of Schüll's most shocking discoveries is that problem pokie players who get caught in the zone differ from other gamblers because they aren't playing to win. Schüll writes, "… it is not the chance of winning to which they become addicted; rather, what addicts them is the world-dissolving state of subjective suspension and affective calm they derive from machine play."

While a punter betting on a horse race or roulette wheel might be seeking the excitement of a big win, a pokie player is after a numbing escape from their troubles. A woman Schüll interviewed described it as being, "in the eye of the storm… your vision is clear on the machine in front of you but the whole world is spinning around you, and you can't really hear anything".

Psychology of players revealed

The in-depth book also discusses how the layout and interior design of casinos has evolved to facilitate the explosion of pokies, and how the sophisticated data-gathering methods of the gambling industry tell them far more than customers think they’re sharing. Finally, the book discusses the psychology of the players, with several interviews revealing how the forces at work in their lives led them to the pokies for escape.

I found the section on "the double bind of therapeutics" to be very interesting. Clients of problem gambling counselling services in Las Vegas describ the anxieties of living in constant close proximity to pokies, something many New Zealanders can identify with, especially those who live in areas where pokie venues are densely clustered.

Counsellors must understand the effects of the zone to truly understand the difficulties their clients face. When getting trapped in the zone produces the same calming effects as anti-anxiety medication or other therapies, the line between addiction and treatment can become blurry and their recovery efforts can work against them.

Reviewed by Nathan Burgess, Research Librarian at the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand. (The Problem Gambling Library has a a range of resources from NZ and around the world available to the public).

Rising tide cover image30 November 2016

Rising Tide

Dickson, S. (2016). Kōtuku Creative

Sarina Dickson and Julie Burgess-Manning are the pair responsible for the very popular Worry Bug resources (Maia and the Worry Bug and Wishes and Worries) brought about as support for children after the Christchurch earthquakes. However, don’t be put off if your child or students haven’t experienced, or don’t remember the earthquakes. This book appeals to any child with worries, and includes excellent strategies to help.

Rising Tide is Dickson’s new book, but for older aged children (Year 5–8). Cleverly however, Rising Tide is not Maia and The Worry Bug for older children. It’s a fresh, new story fully created on its own accord. Everything about it screams 8–12 year olds – the physical size of the book, the cover page illustration, and the use of minimal illustrations throughout.

The book centres on nearly ten-year-old Ari who lives with his parents and two sisters. The hooks come quickly – Ari has secrets. While these hold our interest in the story, it’s reassuring for us with our own, and there’s a subtle focus on Ari believing he’s the only one that suffers from his secret which keeps him feeling isolated and ashamed.

Creative lesson plans included

What captured me were the skills and strategies both Ari and his Dad use to manage and cope with things. The back of the book is filled with creative lesson plans for school use. I was impressed by the immediate connection Dickson makes between home and school and the extension of activities from interpersonal relationships to communities and environments.

A part of this focus is brought to self-fulfilling prophecies – our beliefs that we are the way we think we are, and how this relates to worry. This is of course challenged, and looks to embed a growth (rather than fixed) mind-set understanding. Because I’m not a teacher, my thoughts come from a parent perspective – do I want my children exposed to, and learning about this? Absolutely.

Useful strategies embedded

This is unmistakably a New Zealand/Aotearoa story – the use of Māori and the descriptions of what Ari notices in his rural township are so familiar. At no stage did I consider the themes in the book as having to relate to the Christchurch earthquakes. The strategies embedded in the story are useful for any young person whether they worry a lot or a little.

My daughter gave Rising Tide a solid eight out of 10. She told me it was “relatable” and that, “If I have secrets that feel really big and kinda out of control, I’d talk to someone… [like] you, nan or maybe dad.” Perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Check out the promotional flyer.

Reviewed by Anna Mowat, Family Advisor at All Right?

More attention less deficit cover 00223 November 2016

More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD

Tuckman, A. (2009). Specialty Press, Inc.

Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult can come as a huge relief. After years of wondering why things don’t work out as planned, knowing there might be a neurological reason can be highly validating.

But after that sense of relief has worn off, often comes the question, “Now what do I do”? It’s after a diagnosis of ADHD that the real work begins and Tuckman’s book is a good place to start that process.

Tuckman says, “The more you know about ADHD, the better off you will be…” and as a psychologist specialising in working with adults with ADHD, he has written this book to offer that foundation of knowledge that the ADHDer needs.

There’s a dizzying number of books now available to help the ADHD adult learn about this disorder. However, More Attention, Less Deficit offers a thorough, direct and complete overview.

The book is written to be ADHD user-friendly. It’s designed to be dipped into as needed, by topic, rather than read front to back.

Tuckman explains what ADHD is and how it can complicate just about every aspect of life from a personal level to work or career, meeting household responsibilities and intimate relationships.

Range of treatment options covered

He covers the question of treatment including the use of ADHD medication as well as other non-medical ways to approach treating ADHD, including working with a coach who specialises in ADHD issues.

Next to having a good grasp of what ADHD is, the use of strategies for working around ADHD challenges is most essential. Tuckman covers the most useful ones, how to make those strategies suit the individual and importantly, how to help other household members get on board with new strategies.

Tuckman is honest but doesn’t sugar-coat the matter. He’s seen countless individuals through his practice whose lives are troubled by ADHD so he doesn’t have a lot to say about the up-side or the “gifts” of ADHD.

ADHD may not be curable but with knowledge and use of strategies to suit the individual it can cease to feel like a deficit and more like simply a difference or even—dare we say it—a gift!

For the ADHD adult who wants to get to know ADHD and him/herself as quickly and directly as possible, this book is a good bet.

Reviewed by Brett Harrington, ADHD Association board member. (The ADHD Association has a library, which is free to use for association members).

2 November 2016

Down on the Farm image 1Down on the Farm: Mental health and rural families in the South

O'Hara, Y. (2016). Central Rural Life/Southern Rural Life

As a child, some of my best memories of rural New Zealand involve salty porridge, searching for eggs in a chicken coop, picking mushrooms, bouncing around on the back of a trailer feeding out hay to hungry cows, and eating plums and extremely tart apples straight off the trees.

As a townie, farms were exciting places to spend the holidays. There was always something new to do and it was almost always fun for someone who didn’t have to do it day in and day out.

It’s this pressure of living and breathing farming on a daily basis that journalist Yvonne O’Hara explores in her Down on the Farm series.

The Allied Press reporter looks at how farmers love working outdoors and enjoy the tangible results of their labour – but also how exposed they are to economic downturns and isolation.

Yvonne’s latest publication, Down on the Farm: mental health and rural families in the South, concentrates on the families of farmers.

The four-page resource has been distributed as a newspaper supplement, and gets straight to the point by acknowledging the stress many farming families are under.

Practical information contained in resource

Stories from educators, counsellors and specialist rural and mental health services explore the signs and symptoms of families who may be under pressure.

By discussing these experiences, readers can recognise their own family situation and begin to understand there are other people facing the same challenges – that there is no need to feel shame, and that they are not alone.

Of major benefit is the practical information contained in the resource. Each page is accompanied by the names and contact details for people and organisations working to improve the mental wellbeing of Kiwi farmers, as well as information boxes on what to watch for and what you can do.

Yvonne conveys the strong sense of community in rural areas; how people watch out for each other and how neighbours, friends and professionals are prepared to step in and support families in distress.

We’re reminded that farmers and their families are less inclined to talk about what is troubling them. However, Yvonne’s message is clear: It’s OK, and necessary, to ask for help.

With all 39,000 print copies now distributed, Down on the Farm: mental health and rural families in the South is currently available in PDF format only. Yvonne’s first publication, Down on the Farm: depression and mental health in the rural South is also available in PDF format.

As a resource, Down on the Farm is well written and has been well received.

Reviewed by Cate Hennessy, Media Grants Coordinator at the Mental Health Foundation.

Wishes and worries book cover28 September 2016

Wishes and Worries

Dickson, S. (2015). Kōtuku Creative

Wishes and Worries was written in response to the Christchurch earthquakes to help children who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety.

It’s designed for use in classrooms, while its companion Maia and the Worry Bug is designed for children to take home.

When my partner and son brought Wishes and Worries home in their weekly pile from the local library, I could see its immediate value. Our son has become increasingly worried about noises in the night and robbers.

Even though Wishes and Worries is intended as a classroom resource, it was an easy night time read, engaging, beautifully illustrated and the content was affirming. The author is adept at being able to turn the principles of cognitive and narrative therapy into a compelling story.

Easy to relate to for kids

The main character Dan's worries and fears are disrupting his ability to enjoy everyday activities and stopping him having fun with his mates. My son could really relate to the character’s focus on noises and listening for sounds of danger.

Through Dan's journey, kids who may previously have felt powerless over their thoughts and feelings can see how they can “untangle” and identify their own worries. They learn to reflect on how these thoughts affect their thinking and their bodies, and to use their creativity to find ways to be with, or direct them.

You also get a good sense of how a child may feel misunderstood when adults around them may think they are just being difficult and that parents and teachers need to be aware of the expectations we put on them to just “get on” with everyday tasks.

We read through some of the suggestions for class activities at the back, many of which are student-led.

The availability of this book in schools to support the curriculum would help kids realise they are not alone, that others feel the same and that their school is supportive.

My son laughed out loud at the suggestion of putting a box in the principal's drawer that kids could put their written worries into. He decided he would instead send his worries into space on the Millennium Falcon (from Star Wars).

The book provides readers with valuable skills and normalises kids’ concerns, but also has a dash of magic, fun and hope.

Available in both English and Te Reo Maori. Check out the promotional flyer.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Maia and the worry bug cover21 September 2016

Maia and the Worry Bug

Burgess-Manning, J. (2015). Kōtuku Creative

Maia and the Worry Bug is a story and resource book to help families experiencing mild to moderate anxiety manage their worries and understand anxiety better.

The book focuses on the affect the Christchurch earthquakes had on families and the anxiety and change they brought about. But I think the book would be beneficial to any family that is experiencing any kind of difficulties that come with change.

It’s a colourful book with exciting animations that will keep the attention of young kids. I think it’s a lovely story that can help give kids the words they might need in order to explain if, and when, they are feeling anxious, or when they notice their parents have become anxious.

Being American, I think this book would have been wonderful for many parents after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Toolbox helps families open up

I really enjoyed the family anxiety toolbox at the end of the book for families to see where their stress levels are and how to find ways to open up and talk about their worries.

The toolbox provides a space for families to write down their worries and ask questions like, “What does dad think mum’s worries are?” to help open up conversations for parents and kids to really understand what anxieties they have.

This book also provides space to write down all those worries and lock them away. “This is a way to stop worries from intruding all day long.”

I think this is a lovely book and I plan to get two copies for my nieces and my sisters in the United States.

Check out the promotional flyer.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Programme Engagement Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Puppy mind cover14 September 2016

Puppy Mind

Nance, A. J. (2016, August). Plum Blossom

Puppy Mind is a picture book for adults and children that follows a young boy whose mind is like a puppy – always wandering around and distracted.

As the mum of a seven-year-old energetic boy, who I feel I’m always asking to focus or sit still, I was interested in reading this book with him.

The author compares the young boy’s mind to that of an untrained puppy’s. The young boy in the story sets about learning to gently train his puppy mind to heel to the present moment, rather than it wandering into the future or past.

My son liked the illustrations by Jim Durk, who also illustrated the Clifford the Big Red Dog and Thomas the Steam Engine books.

Book generates interesting discussions with son

He had some initial difficulty grasping the analogy that the boy discovers his mind is like a puppy. He was more interested in the relationship between the boy and puppy, and what the puppy was getting up to.

However, it did start some interesting discussions that helped me understand my son better. He explained to me that he can relate to the boy feeling frustrated by all the things demanded of him and, in particular his frustration at the noisy kids in his class!

He easily picked up the concept of taking three deeps breaths and showed me how to do this, and the importance of saying kind words to himself when discouraged.

Reading the book together was good as I could see how it could become a family project, with parents and children committing to practising the techniques in their everyday lives and discussing how it went.

The book itself is quite simplistic but is intended to generate questions. This process is supported with a discussion guide for parents and teachers.

We tend to over complicate things in life, so it’s nice to think there are so many benefits from such a simple action as following our breath to ground ourselves. 

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

mind over mood7 September 2016

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think (second edition)

Greenberger, D. & Padesky, C.A. (2016). Guilford Press

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is probably the mostly widely used evidence-based therapy to treat mental illness.

Mind Over Mood, written by two leading clinical psychologists from the US, is a workbook designed for patients to learn CBT skills to treat and manage depression, anxiety and many other mental health conditions.

The book provides step-by-step methods on how to analyse thought patterns, complete with work sheets which are user-friendly and laid out in a cohesive, simple way.

Practical questionnaires and exercises

There are also lots of useful questionnaires to guide you on how to use the CBT methods to overcome challenges in a pragmatic way. I liked the summary boxes at the end of each chapter, which also include mood and goal checks, which encourage positive, mindful habits to practise.

Aside from the nuts-and-bolts strategies in Mind Over Mood, four case studies are outlined, which demonstrate the effectiveness of CBT. These real-life accounts break up a lot of information in the book that would be hard to navigate and absorb otherwise.

Originally published in 1995, it’s widely reported that many clinicians have used Mind Over Mood, in conjunction with using the accompanying clinician’s guide.

Mind Over Mood is not what I would call an easy read, but instead provides strong tools to learn the proven methods of CBT. Used as part of a wider therapy with a trained mental health professional, this book could make a big difference in the journey to wellness.

Reviewed by Paulette Crowley, freelance health writer.

app31 August 2016

MyPsyDiary app

The MyPsyDiary app helps you monitor and improve your wellbeing. It records and responds to your thoughts and emotions and contains psychological strategies to help you feel better.

Australian clinical psychologist Dr Amanda Commons Treloar developed the app to allow people to have a “pocket psychologist”. She’s really passionate about everybody having access to mental health support.

In an interview posted in Mobile App Spotlight, Commons Treloar talks about why she created the app.

“Last year I had a client whose personal journal was read by their family when it was discovered during moving house, and then another client who had a panic attack rang me during my lunch break and I had to talk them through it, but the client said to me, ‘I know this stuff so why can’t I do it now’?”

This prompted Commons Treloar to develop the MyPsyDiary app over a nine-month period. The app can be locked and has no data sharing capability, making it incredibly secure. It’s designed with security as a primary focus.

Fantastic range of features

Features include: mood monitor, sleep and lifestyle choice tracking, relaxation training (including MP3 recordings), goal setting, and positive thinking coach.

The app can be easily used in conjunction with a mental health professional to aid treatment monitoring and goals. It also contains many well-supported psychological strategies to help people feel good.

There’s also a unique function included within the app where the user stores a list of trusted contacts (such as a crisis phone counselling service or a mental health professional). The app will prompt you to contact these supports if it detects that your mood or emotional experience is depressed or anxious, and therefore assist with managing periods of risk more effectively.

In June 2016, MyPsyDiary received an award from the best mobile app (BMA) awards in the US for the best social and lifestyle app, and has been submitted for consideration as an Australian entrant in the 2016 World Summit awards, World Health Organisation. It has also recently featured in Australian newspapers and ABC radio, and involved in sponsoring suicide support in Australia.

MyPsyDiary has no in-app purchases or downloaded advertising and it’s cheap to buy, which makes it a great, accessible tool for a range of consumers.

Reviewed by Janet Peters, registered psychologist and writer.

Guide cover mockup 00324 August 2016

Guide to Effective and Safe Practice in Youth Mentoring (second edition)

NZ Youth Mentoring Network. (2016).

This guide contains the latest research into mentoring practice and provides a useful resource for anyone who is interested in mentoring young people.

The first edition was published in 2008. It pulled together important knowledge and information for the country’s emerging youth mentoring sector.

The second edition has been updated with the latest research and includes the new safety checking and child protection policy guidelines that were introduced as part of the Vulnerable Children’s Act 2014.

The aim is to, “provide a guide that seamlessly promotes safe and effective practice in youth mentoring to help ensure positive outcomes for young people”.

Comprehensive and easy to read

The guide is both comprehensive and easy to read. It was a pleasant surprise to find that it blended robust academia with simple language.

I particularly enjoyed how it contextualised contemporary society by addressing historical discourse, especially concerning Māori and Pasifika communities.

I also found the case studies were well placed and illustrated how some of the theories and ideas that were expressed throughout each chapter could look in practice. They also provided a more humanised and personal view of working with young people and their communities.

It’s clear that this work is grounded in client-focused and strengths-based perspectives and quietly emphasises that it’s the responsibility of any mentor to become aware of themselves to ensure they are not practising control or oppression of young people.

The foreword is written by Minister for Youth, Nikki Kaye. In it she says that adolescence is a time of significant change for youth, which can be compounded by a complex and rapidly changing environment.

“The benefits young people receive from good quality mentoring relationships and positive role-modelling are not only supportive in a time of uncertainty; but for some youth can have a life-changing impact.”

I highly recommend this guide to anyone who currently works, or plans to work, with young people.

Reviewed by Jono Selu, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Even under pressure17 August 2016

Even Under Pressure: Simple Ways To Enhance Your Resilience For Adversity And Turbulent Times

By Watkins, T. (2016). Self published

Turbulent times can test even the most resilient folk who already have a great skill-set of tools for emotional wellbeing. All your knowledge can fly out the window when you’re in the middle of a crisis and feel overwhelmed.

Even Under Pressure offers ways to cope with life’s obstacles and to harness the skills you inherently have to get you through a crisis.

Resilience and mindfulness are the umbrella themes in this book, written by Kiwi leadership and self-management coach Tom Watkins. Dealing with adversity, he says, is a part of life and the more open you are to dealing with it, the better.

The ultimate aim is to be able to practice your existing, or developing, set of coping skills and have a positive attitude in the middle of a challenge.

Adversity reveals character

Everyone has an innate capacity for resilience – not just the natural optimists of the world – which can be developed with good techniques and practice, Tom explains in the book.

“Some say that adversity builds character, others, that adversity reveals character.”

The theory of mindfulness and being aware that our thoughts create our feelings, and the effects that has on our bodies, is the backbone of coping with adversity, Tom says.

Mindfulness fundamentals include; what you pay attention to grows; your experience is only based on what you pay attention to; and your attitudes are dependent on your willingness to keep them.

No quick fixes

As a professional training consultant, Tom has taught these principles in workshops to many companies and people over the last few decades.

“In all things personal or professional, I value mindfulness, self-responsibility and collaboration above improvised quick-fixes, blaming, complaining or going it alone. I recommend the scenic route,” he says on his website.

Other helpful advice he provides in Even Under Pressure includes addressing denial and avoidance of “slow-creep problems”, preventing and reducing stress, limiting conflict and cultivating resourceful thinking. Changing unhelpful perceptions and “dropping anchor” during the eye of the storm are also chapters that are valuable for coping with life’s challenges.

This is a self-published book and lacks a professional touch – the language, editing and layout is a little clunky and the topics are not that easy to navigate – but the content is science-based and promotes solid methods commonly practiced by mental wellbeing professionals.

What I found really useful were the chapter summaries – What? So What? Now What? – which provide reflections to consider the patterns of your thoughts and behaviours, and provide challenges to get on the right track.

Overall, this is a great book to have on hand and an excellent go-to in times of adversity when you need all the help you can get to stay centred. It’s a practical guide that you can easily dip into for simple tips on becoming more resilient and to remind yourself of what you’re truly capable of.

Reviewed by Paulette Crowley, freelance health writer.

Lunas red hat book cover10 August 2016

Luna’s Red Hat: An Illustrated Storybook to Help Children Cope with Loss and Suicide

By Smid, E. (2015). Jessica Kingsley Publishers

It’s really encouraging to see a picture book aimed at helping children who have experienced the loss of a family member or loved one from a suicide.

There aren’t a lot of story books out there for this particular audience. The beauty of this book is the conversations it can inspire while reading it with a child.

The book is designed to be read with children aged over six years and would be suitable for children up to the age of eight.

The story follows a young girl called Luna, who is having a picnic in the park with her dad and little brother. She’s wearing her mum’s red hat. Luna’s mum took her own life a year ago and she’s struggling to understand why.

Luna worries the suicide was somehow her fault but her dad provides some thoughtful answers for her difficult questions.

The picnic ends with the family laughing and recalling positive memories of mum. The final picture shows them sitting under a tree, dad with his arms around the children as they watch the sun go down.

As an adult reader, my heart breaks for them but the picture suggests that life goes on. The family are learning to accept their loss. As a person bereaved by suicide myself, I know there is pain behind this narrative of acceptance and that realistically, difficult times still lie ahead.

The children in the story will forever miss their mother – just as real children bereaved by the loss of a parent do. But I find the message of hope heartening. And I am glad there are picture books like this that can share this message with all ages.

Beautiful illustrations add to story

The illustrations are lovely – complete with visual details that offer opportunities to talk about the text and how Luna is feeling.

For example, at the start of the story when Luna is not happy – a red and black cloud of scribbled lines appears above her head, denoting the difficult tangle of emotions she is experiencing. Words slant unevenly down the page.

The page before this shows Luna swept up on a huge dark wave against a red sky. Words tumble down the watery slope: “Today was not the day for liking things”.

As the story peaks and Luna’s pain and questioning subsides, the pictures become gentle and joyful. The beauty of the park they are picnicking in can be seen. The grass is green and flowers are blooming. Luna remembers happy times with her mum.

Sense of hope important

It’s important to instill hope after a traumatic loss. This book can help parents and caregivers to communicate the message of hope to young (and not so young) readers.

The last two pages of the book are a guide for parents. The short information section includes how children understand death, how to tell your child about a death by suicide, and how to answer questions children may have.

The advice given is worth repeating – be honest and straightforward, adjusting your words to suit the age of the child involved. Allow children to ask questions, even if they are hard to answer.

And a last piece of advice for adults, which puts the emphasis back on self-care and respecting the grieving process:

“Make sure to look after yourself as well, and create a network of support around you. This will show your child that they do not need to look after you, and that they are allowed to focus on their own grief.”

Reviewed by Virginia Brooks, Programme Design & Delivery Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.


10 steps to happier living3 August 2016

10 Keys to Happier Living: A Practical Handbook for Happiness

By King, V. (2016). Hachette

We all want to lead happy lives, and for the people we know to be happy too.

I often wonder how people I see on the news, in documentaries and on the internet can have so little but be so happy.

10 Keys to Happier Living: A Practical Handbook for Happiness explains how anyone can unlock the secret to a happier life and take action to make that their own reality.

It does this by taking the Five Ways to Wellbeing – give, connect, take notice, be active and keep learning  and growing them to 10!

The additional five give balance to the first five and, for me, add credibility to being able to live a happier life.

Choose what works for you

If you enjoy a book that you can dip into and choose the things that will work for you, mix in a few ideas that you may find challenging, and others that I’m sure you have encountered before, then this is the book for you.

The 10 keys to happiness spell out GREAT DREAM – an acronym for: give, relate, exercise, awareness, trying out, direction, resilience, emotions, acceptance (of yourself not life’s rubbish!) and meaning. This makes it easier to remember and pay attention to every item.

Each chapter is devoted to a key: it’s concept, intentions, evidence and references. It’s easy to find your way around with lots of examples from the Action for Happiness website with lists and pointers.

Pause points act as reminders

The chapters also include some pause points for readers to think about. These pause points may be for you to remember things you have already done in the past or things you have achieved or enjoyed, and how doing certain things makes you feel you are the instigator and the receiver.

The pause points might ask you to commit to doing one or two things in the following week so that you can see how they fit with you and how taking certain actions can make you feel. Not everything suits everyone and the book offers plenty of ideas to find the things that you feel comfortable with or, if you are brave enough, challenged by.

Practical handbook for happiness

One aspect I really enjoyed was the index, cross-referencing and linkages between the 10 key areas. The most important thing about this practical handbook for happiness, is that it focuses on action. Read a section in the morning with your coffee, reflect on your day and decide what you might try out.

I want to get my own copy, so that I can bend it, write on it, make notes, doodle and make it my own. It’s a starting point and an opportunity to change small things that could make a big difference in my life and in the lives of those around me.

Reviewed by Vicki Burnett, Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation.


baby long pexels27 July 2016

Why am I? The Science of Us

Four-part TVNZ documentary series by Mark McNeill

For the past 44 years, researchers have been following the lives of 1037 people born in Dunedin between April 1972 and March 1973.

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, also known as The Dunedin Study, saw researchers at Otago University investigate what factors determine their personality, health, wealth and happiness.

There has been a staggering 1150 publications from this longitudinal study, many of which have assisted policy makers in New Zealand and abroad.

Documentary made about study

The Dunedin Study was relatively unknown to the wider public but that changed when documentary maker Mark McNeill received funding from New Zealand On Air to film a four-part documentary on the study.

TVNZ recently screened the documentary, aptly named Why Am I? as it looks at the age-old question of nature versus nurture. How does a mix of our genetics, personality and life events impact on our physical and mental wellbeing?

The first episode of the documentary focuses on a child's early years and how their mannerisms and behaviour may indicate what sort of adult they may become.

The second deals with the teenage years, the third looks at what happens when nature clashes with nurture, and the final episode looks at how modern life is affecting people's health and wellbeing.

Global interest in study

The study has been described as the broadest and most in-depth study of human beings in the world. The study’s director, Professor Richie Poulton has said the success is partly due to participants being flown home regularly from wherever they are in the world to undergo tests and answer questions. An amazing 96 per cent of the original participants, whose identities are kept secret, are still taking part.

What struck me was how down to earth the researchers were as they passionately guided the audience through their work.

There is great interest in the documentary series by overseas networks, and the study is now receiving additional funding from abroad, as more countries can see the gains from the research.

The producers and researchers were reportedly hopeful that the documentary would get people talking.

I’ve had several people mention the documentary series to me and talk about what they found most fascinating – so I think the researchers and participants’ years of dedication has impacted positively on many lives.

Why Am I? Available now at TVNZ on Demand 

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

what abi taught us20 July 2016

What Abi Taught Us: A mother’s struggle to come to terms with her daughter’s death

By Hone, L. (2016). Allen and Unwin

Lucy Hone’s 12-year-old daughter Abi was killed in a car accident in Canterbury in 2014. Also killed in the accident were Abi’s friend Ella and Ella’s mum Sally.

Lucy has taken every parent’s worst nightmare of losing a child and turned it into a book about how to survive an unbelievably terrible situation.

Lucy is a research academic who works in the field of resilience and wellbeing psychology, so she is more than qualified to write on the subject. But she has also lost a child in horrific circumstances, so she brings a personalised voice to the book.

She “shares her story and research to that others can work to regain some sense of control and take action in the face of helpless situations”.

Lots of practical tips and strategies

As a parent, reading a mother’s personal account of losing her daughter had me welling up several times. While this book is absolutely heart-breaking given the subject matter, it’s incredibly uplifting to know that there’s hope and that there’s a way to navigate through such a terrible tragedy.

The book would appeal to anyone who has faced a terrible loss or tragedy and wants to learn some practical strategies to make it through.

The parts where Lucy talks about the pain of losing her daughter and what life is like without her are incredibly moving. What I really like about this book is that there are lots of practical tips and strategies about what you can actually do to help get through the grieving process.

There’s a section called 10 tools to build resilience in which she lays out practical things to do to help with grief.

The book has 20 chapters ranging from Six strategies for coping in the immediate aftermath, to Managing exhaustion and depression through rest and exercise.

Resilience not an armour

The foreword is written by Karen Reivich, who was Lucy’s teacher in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology programme at the University of Pennsylvania.

Karen writes about their shared interest in understanding the nature of resilience.

“We share a deep interest in understanding the nature of resilience… at the very core, we understand that resilience is not armour that protects us from pain. Rather, resilience enables us to feel pain (and anger, anxiety, guilt) and to move through these emotions so that we can continue to feel joy, awe and love.

“The bottom line is this: we cannot change the past. All we can do is show up for the present and work toward the future we want. Lucy has written a moving book that will help us do just that,” she writes.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, writer at Healthy Communications.

Applied positive psychology cover 00213 July 2016

Applied positive psychology: Integrated positive practice

By Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014). London: Sage Publications Ltd

The authors define positive psychology as “the science and practice of improving wellbeing” to change people’s lives for the better. I love the practical aspect of the discipline, whereby the knowledge isn’t restricted to a theoretical debate in a book but has practical or applied application.

The authors of the book are lecturers at the University of East London on the MSc course in Applied Positive Psychology. The book reflects the content of their eight-week course. They are active researchers who have published numerous papers, books and book chapters on various aspects of the emerging area of positive psychology.

They start off reflecting upon Martin Seligman, who used his 1998 American Psychology Association presidential address to usher in the new innovative field of positive psychology, which has since flourished. Noting it is not a new specialty within psychology but is rather seen as a “collective identity” unifying researchers interested in the “brighter sides of human nature”.

Five ways to wellbeing

They note that “positive psychology interventions can be used by the public generally as a form of scientifically-based self-help”. This brings to mind the most prominent example of a positive psychology initiative being the Five Ways to Wellbeing developed in the UK which the Mental Health Foundation has adapted with great success in New Zealand.

This book is most definitely a textbook, aimed at students of positive psychology, though personally even though the content is at times dense and takes a few reads, I think it would suit anyone curious about learning more about wellbeing.

In a few hours the reader gains a comprehensive overview of the key concepts, influential researchers and the supporting evidence base. As far as text books go it is a very user-friendly one, it is comparatively brief, and full of interactive learning tools, such as learning objectives, case studies and quizzes that structure each chapter.

My favourite learning tool, as a break from the more academic sections, is the “Try Me” boxes where you are encouraged to pause and reflect to gain direct experience or insight into the concepts discussed.

The book gives you a really good stocktake of the proven benefits of positive psychology across multiple settings, for individuals and communities, as well as robust debate about what exactly wellbeing is.

They take into account societal, cultural and individual influences, they use a multidimensional model of wellbeing known as the Integrated Framework Example (LIFE) which is weaved into all the successive chapters as a map to guide you and to layer your learning upon.

You get a real sense that difference is respected and regular acknowledgement of the multiple influences that shape us as individuals – this isn't a one answer suits all approach thankfully.

Encouraging read

With regards to best practice, as well as presenting a solid event base for initiatives, the author's final chapter focuses on reflective and ethical practice.

To end I will quote a fact the authors remind us of – that our wellbeing is shaped 10 per cent by our circumstances, 50 per cent is determined by genetics and 40 per cent by our activities.

I think the authors have successfully managed to produce a resource that is encouraging and they definitely provide tools and understanding to help readers make their lives betters, which was the authors identified motto.

I feel more empowered and convinced that perhaps little changes in my daily activities can make the world of difference to my wellbeing in the long run.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation

starboard6 July 2016

Which Way is Starboard Again? Overcoming Fears & Facing Challenges Sailing the South Pacific

Kirtlan, A. (2015). David Bateman Ltd

When self-confessed “uncoordinated and impractical” boating novice Anna Kirtlan decided to sail around the South Pacific, it was bound to result in an incredible adventure. Not only was she new to sailing, but she also had mental health challenges.

Kirtlan details in this well written, humorous book her experience of sailing with her partner Paddy around the South Pacific in his boat Wildflower. The book tells of Anna and Paddy’s adventures on board their boat, the amazing places they visit and wonderful people they meet.

Mental health challenges

Kirtlan learns how to sail from scratch and has to overcome anxiety attacks, something she has experienced since she was a teenager.

She writes openly and honestly about when she was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety as a youngster.

“In the early ‘90s there were no brave celebrities and sportspeople putting a face to mental illness, there were no campaigns letting people know that one in five people were going through the same thing you were. I was 15 years old and utterly convinced that if I let too many people know I would find myself in a nice comfy padded room.”

I really admire Kirtlan for her bravery in taking on such an epic challenge as sailing around the South Pacific and being so open about her personal challenges.

“Things can be hard for us in ways most people don’t understand, but if I can sail around the South Pacific, then you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Interesting facts and tid bits

While detailing her high sea adventures on a personal level, Kirtlan also inserts a lot of interesting facts about sailing, the countries she visits, cultural observations, language and other random things.

The book is broken down into three parts. The first part is called The Dream, the second Living the Dream and the third Back to Reality. Within each there are several chapters.

Kirtlan’s background in journalism and writing made this book easy to read and engaging. She is a great storyteller and knows how to write. Her sense of humour really shines through.

I enjoyed Which Way is Starboard Again? Her physical, mental and emotional journey was compelling and uplifting.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, writer at Healthy Communications.

From Psyciatric Patient29 June 2016

From Psychiatric Patient to Citizen Revisited

Sayce, L. (2016). Palgrave

The battle against mental health discrimination and stigma has come a long way in recent years, but there are still questions about how to do it effectively.

This book looks at the best ways to overcome mental health discrimination and stigma. The author, Liz Sayce, acknowledges that achieving equality and full participation is not straightforward.

“I hope this book helps people debate how best to frame the questions, consider the solutions and approach the task,” Sayce says.

She is an expert in her field with over 30 years of experience. She is chief executive of Disability Rights UK and a Commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and has personal experience with mental health issues.

A right to belong

Sayce talks about the fear and prejudice that exists against people with mental health challenges. Rates of employment and social participation remain very low. However, she remains optimistic.

“The vision is one of a shared, deep commitment to everyone’s right to participate; where people living with mental health challenges are completely confident in their right to belong; and where our common humanity is assumed by all.”

This book is part of the Foundations of Mental Health Practice series. Each chapter is clearly set out and comes with its own conclusion, a reflective exercise and list of further reading.

The reflective exercises are designed to get the reader thinking about the issue at hand. An example of one of these exercises is: “For someone experiencing mental health challenges, what may be the pros and cons of considering yourself disabled?”

Two ways to help remove discrimination

The book shows how people working in mental health can help challenge discrimination and looks at the role of friends and family and people with a legal, policy or campaigning interest.

It suggests two ways to remove discrimination. The first is by ending discriminatory mental health law. The second is by ensuring participatory rights for those affected by mental health issues, especially when it comes to things like employment, education and independent living.

Focusing mainly on the UK, the book also draws on the experiences of other countries including New Zealand and Australia.

From Psychiatric Patient to Citizen Revisited would suit academics, researchers and students. It’s very technical and dry and references a lot of research and studies, but it gives an incredible overview of mental health challenges.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, writer at Healthy Communications.

The HappinessTrack June 2222 June 2016

The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success

Seppala, E. (2016). Harper Collins.

We all want to be happy and successful, but in this modern age is it coming at too high a price? Author Emma Seppala argues that it is and that happiness is actually the key to success, not the other way round as we are taught from a young age.

Seppala is a leading expert on health psychology, wellbeing and resilience. She believes most of us want to be successful and happy, yet achieving those two things has never been more difficult.

Technology overwhelming us

She argues that because of the growth of technology, the pace of our lives is reaching overwhelming levels. We are constantly checking our phones, replying to emails and text messages – all while doing other things like planning the shopping list. We are all under deadline pressure and it’s taking its toll because we can’t unplug and escape.

She writes about highly successful people she knows who have achieved incredible things. However, she’s been saddened to see these ostensibly successful people burnt out, disconnected and unhealthy.

She says the way people are taught to seek success (what is culturally supported and encouraged) is completely wrong.

“We are compromising our ability to be truly successful and happy because we are falling for common but outdated theories about success.

“From a young age we are taught that getting ahead means doing anything that’s thrown at us with razor-sharp focus and iron discipline – and at the expense of our happiness,” Seppala says.

She details six false theories about success. These include; never stop accomplishing, you can’t have success without stress, persevere at all costs, focus on your niche, play to your strengths and look out for number one.
While some people may have achieved success this way, it’s happened at great cost, she says.

How do we get happy and therefore successful?

So how do we become happy and therefore successful? Drawing on research, she shows how six strategies for attaining happiness and fulfilment are actually the key to thriving professionally.

These six strategies (which correspond to each chapter) will apparently help you be happier, which in turn will enhance your success. All you need to do is: live in the moment, tap into your resilience, manage your energy, do nothing, be good to yourself and show compassion to others. I think this is easier said than done though.

I liked the chapter about the benefits of living in the present moment and how doing “nothing” is good for your creativity.

This book has an interesting premise – happiness is the key to success not the other way round. However, I found it a bit bland in places and hard to relate to. It’s one thing to suggest how to be happy but it’s something else to actually be able to do those things.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, writer at Healthy Communications.

Am i depressed and what can i do about it book cover15 June 2016

Am I Depressed And What Can I Do About It?: A CBT self-help guide for teenagers experiencing low mood and depression

Reynolds, S., & Parkinson, M (2015). Robinson.

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has been widely recognised as one of the most effective tools for supporting young people who have experienced depression. However, for a variety of reasons many young people aren’t able to access this support when they need it.

Am I Depressed And What Can I Do About It? along with its companion Teenage Depression, A CBT Guide for Parents provides young people and their whanau /families with advice and practical strategies to help them manage and even treat their own symptoms using CBT.

Practical tools that fit in with young people’s lives

This book focuses on practical examples that can easily be applied to day-to-day life. It’s full of cartoons and worksheets that can be filled out by young people, and even used to track their progress. Recognising that many young people experiencing depression may struggle to commit to reading a whole book, the authors acknowledge and even encourage readers to dip in and out, reading or even skimming chapters as need, so they get the information and skills they need at the time.

Another feature that really impressed me was the ‘Case Studies’. Three young people, aged 14, 16 and 18, with different backgrounds and experiences of depression, were are used as examples of how CBT may (or may not) help young people manage their lives. These case studies had a real authenticity, and are obviously based on real young people with complex lives and experiences. These prove that CBT is not a ‘one-size fits all’ treatment. It needs to be adapted to your own needs and experiences, and when done so it can provide real benefits.

But is it relatable?

While I am no longer a teenager (a fact that I am grateful for) my teenage years are not so long ago that I have forgotten, so reading this I tried to remember my feelings as a teenager. And the teenager inside me found much of the information too technical. I think the authors could have benefitted from thinking about the difference between seeing a therapist and reading a book.

It’s not really realistic (or, I might argue, beneficial) to ask a teenager to administer and score psychological tests to determine whether they meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression. Instead I’d rather have seen an overview of the issues they might want to change, so readers can decide for themselves whether CBT would be helpful in their lives.

Also, throughout the book the authors take the role of a well-meaning adult giving advice to a teenager. While some young people may find this reassuring I think the teenage me would have felt talked down to, particularly discussions of topics like social media which did seem out of touch with young people’s lives.

Does this mean I wouldn’t recommend this to any young people? Not necessarily – I think it depends on the young person and their context. Rather than giving this to a young person to read on their own I think this book should be read in partnership with a supportive adult.

That way the young person will be encouraged through this process and the adult may be able to help translate some of the technical information to help it relate it to their lives. It may be a useful partner for SPARX and Aunty Dee, two other tools that use CBT to teach young people skills to manage depression.

Reviewed by Briar Milligan, Youth Health Information Specialist at Counties Manukau Health.

8 June 2016

The marshmallow Test twoThe Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self-control and How to Master It

Mischel, W. (2014). Transworld Publishers

If you were given the choice of eating one marshmallow right now or waiting and eating two later, what would you do?

Influential psychologist Walter Mischel delves into the topic of self-control. What is it, why is it important and how can we master it?

Mischel is famous for conducting an experiment in the 1960s at Stanford University’s day care in which pre-schoolers were given a choice: eat one marshmallow now, or wait and enjoy two later. He looked at what happened to the children in later life and found there was a difference between the children who could delay their gratification and those who ate the marshmallow straight away.

This now iconic experiment, and many studies that followed, found that the ability to delay gratification early in life greatly improved the chance of having a successful and fulfilling life later on. The children who could wait and enjoy two marshmallows later, had better social and cognitive functioning, achieved higher university admission scores, had healthier lifestyles and a greater sense of self-worth over the course of their life.

So basically – if you display signs of self-control as a child, chances are you’re going to be better off mentally and physically over the course of your life.

Fascinating read in three parts

This fascinating book is broken down into three parts. The first part looks at why the children’s ability to delay gratification predicts so much about their future wellbeing and success. The second part looks at how self-control can be harnessed to improve your life and how willpower can be something that becomes automatic and doesn’t require a huge effort. Part three looks at the benefits of self-control and the implications it has for self-care, child-rearing, education and public policy.

But the thing to remember about self-control as Mischel points out is that, “A life with too much of it can be as unfulfilling as one with too little.”

Learning self-control

But is self-control something you are born with – something you either have or you don’t have?

The good news is that apparently self-control is malleable and something you can work on and improve. While some children and adults seem to naturally have more or less self-control, it’s actually something you can learn. This is great news for all the marshmallow scoffers out there like me.

Mischel argues that self-control techniques can be taught, which is music to the ears of the millions of people around the world who grapple with quitting smoking, losing weight or whatever other aspect of their life that requires self-control. Self-control can also help you with things like planning for retirement, overcoming heartbreak and making major life decisions.

I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting, relatable, and Mischel’s writing style is easy to read and fun. Best enjoyed while drinking a hot chocolate – with several marshmallows on the side.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, writer at Healthy Communications. 

Stepping out of the Shadows1 June 2016

Stepping out of the Shadows: Insights into self-stigma and madness

Edited by Dr Debbie Peterson and Sarah Gordon. (2009) Case Consulting

This easy-to-read book is a collection of essays, articles and personal stories about self-stigma associated with mental illness.

Each chapter explores the idea of self-stigma from the perspective of a person who has experienced mental illness, researched self-stigma, or both. This makes the book really compelling and super easy to read.

The introduction gives an overview of what self-stigma is and how self-stigma is part of a cycle that can be broken. The first chapter provides a more detailed description of self-stigma, which is broken down into easy-to-read subheadings.

A short biography of all the authors is included, which provides a nice insight into each contributor. There is a great mix of stories from people from all walks of life.

This book is so accessible because it’s not drowning in technical terms or jargon. It’s not an academic text book, even though some parts of it come from an academic perspective, which makes it easy to understand.

Moving personal accounts

I found some of the personal accounts of what it felt like to experience mental illness quite moving. They provided an incredible insight into something that is often such a private, personal experience.

I developed a real admiration for the people who opened up about what they’d been through and the obstacles and discrimination they overcame.

The way in which some of the authors were treated after being admitted to hospital when they were experiencing mental unwellness, was very shocking.

Editor Dr Debbie Peterson outlines key things to be taken away from reading the book. She hopes readers gain an understanding of the experience of self-stigma, the role self-stigma can play in the lives of people with experience of mental illness, how the effects of self-stigma differ from person to person, how interventions can work, and that for many people, ‘madness’ is a valuable part of their life experience.

I think this book achieves those things and more and I would highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Maggie McNaughton, writer at Healthy Communications


8 keys to mental health through exercises COVER25 May 2016

Eight keys to mental health through exercise

Hibbert, C.G. (2016) W.W. Norton & Company

Well-crafted and easy to read, Eight keys to mental health through exercise is for everyone from the exercise-averse couch dweller, to the toned, tight and tirelessly devoted fitness fanatic.

Written by Christina G. Hibbert, a clinical psychologist, mum, author of other self-help books and exercise enthusiast, Eight keys pre-prepares, prepares and then eases you ever so gently into the idea of regular exercise.

Hibbert begins by clearly explaining the evidence surrounding exercise and wellbeing, even breaking down the benefits for each particular mental health condition. The bottom line, exercise is amazing for the mind and body. Why then, is it so hard to do?

Well, there’s a series of events that needs to occur before you can actually put your running shoes on and keep putting them on, day after day. Hibbert discusses the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy, habit making and breaking, the mechanics of motivation and self-esteem, and, where needed, the importance of seeking professional advice before you get started.

Each section ends with a series of small worksheets to let you focus and retain what you’ve just read and apply it in a practical way to your own situation.

Real, practical advice

One of the key strengths of Hibbert’s methodology is exploring the complex nature of health conditions and the associated barriers to exercise. For example, if you live with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or have experience with panic attacks or anxiety, exercise can actually freak you out, big time.

When you think about the sensations of intense exercise, such as shortness of breath, sweating and heart pumping, it’s easy to see how similar it is to panic. Hibbert offers less strenuous alternatives, like yoga, where you can still reap the benefits of exercise without panic.

She also sensibly deals with the myriad of physical roadblocks that come with other chronic illnesses, age and disability. Hibbert does her utmost to inspire you that any kind of movement is great, even if it starts with walking to your letterbox and back, or boogying to your favourite tunes while doing the housework.

Terminology trouble

Overall, I found the book fascinating and enjoyable, but the lexicon sometimes bogged me down. Using terminology such as “suffering” with depression, or anxiety, really rubs me the wrong way and Hibbert overuses it.

What’s more, such words go against the grain when mental health messaging focuses so strongly on combatting stigma by trying to teach the world that living with mental illness is not a sign of weakness. Describing someone as a sufferer of any mental illness is hardly empowering.

But don’t let that put you off, there’s plenty to gain from reading Eight keys. Even if, like me, you are already an exercise convert, you will not only feel empowered by reading this book, but also motivated to dig deeper when it comes to fully realising exercise’s potential.

Reviewed by Lucy Ratcliffe, Communications Consultant at Healthy Communications.


Stuff that sucks cover image 00218 May 2016

Stuff That Sucks: Accepting what you can't change and committing to what you can

Sedley, B. (2015) Robinson

This book is informative, practical and definitely aimed at young people in their teen years. It is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and offers some insightful perspectives on the stuff that sucks in life.

I particularly enjoyed the way the author addresses how different things can impact on a person. For example, Sedley acknowledges that although some feelings are internal and caused by your own perception of yourself, there is also the external and the systematic stuff that can impact the way that you think, feel and talk about your emotions.

Useful read

I think this is really important in realising that there are things that are out of your control but that there are also ways that the individual can counteract the way that this stuff affects you.

As an adult who works with young people, I found some of the language difficult to digest, although it sounded very much like the language that some of the young people I work with use.

Add to that the explicit references to social media and contemporary culture, I think this is a really useful read and would thoroughly recommend it to any young person who is struggling with hard stuff.

Reviewed by Jono Selu, Information Resource Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation

Health wellbeing and environment in Aotearoa New Zealand 3rd ed COVER11 May 2016

Health, Wellbeing & Environment in Aotearoa New Zealand

Shaw, S., White, L., & Deed, B. (2013) Oxford University Press

The book gives students an introduction to the concepts of health and wellbeing within the New Zealand environment and is written to encourage analysis and critical thinking.

I asked myself would this text be beneficial to students in the psychiatric and mental health field of practice? Yes, indeed it would. There is a clear need to anticipate solutions to big health and wellbeing challenges in New Zealand. The forward by Max Abbot is readable and sensible, describing the complexity of care and challenges over time.

Compassion important

The text is well set out with 18 contributing authors for the 18 chapters. The chapters give good consideration to a number of issues with accompanying summaries, excellent chapter overviews, and an adequate index.

The book examines case studies and it heartens me that it takes a considered approach to all relationships. Compassion is important in mental health work and I feel an approach of thoughtfulness and empathy is evident in this text.

Topics that jumped out included a part about online etiquette, which is useful in today’s evolving world. I would recommend this book. It would be helpful as it is always reassuring to a student to have case studies to refer to, complete with the outcomes, both negative and positive, to guide one’s practice. 

Reviewed by Michael Oakley-Browne, retired psychiatric nurse

Always looking up the adventures of an incurable optimist

4 May 2016 

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist 

Fox, M. J. (2008) Hyperion

 As a child of the 1980s, I grew up with Marty McFly among other Michael J. Fox movie and TV characters. These days Fox is world renowned for his experience with, and advocacy of, Parkinson’s disease. Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist is Fox’s second autobiographical book. He’s very open about his continued struggles with Parkinson's, but at the same time he’s optimistic about his life. 

Fox describes his life after the TV series Spin City. He ends his career with Spin City feeling he can’t carry on because of the progression of his Parkinson's. He goes on to channel his energy into the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which ploughs money straight into Parkinson's research. He wants the foundation to be made redundant within a decade because his ultimate aim is to find a cure. 

Optimistic attitude 

I found his accounts of living with Parkinson's to be relatable to any long-term health condition. He describes having to tweak drug levels up or down to get the right balance of symptom control and tolerable side effects. He most certainly has an optimistic attitude towards it. He has periods of time when he can forget about his disease. He describes not knowing how bad his symptoms are until he sees video footage of himself moving around. 

Fox involves himself in politics for the sake of advancing the search for a cure. He recounts using his celebrity to influence the decision-makers by making advertising to endorse candidates who are pro-stem cell research. He also talks about some of the other celebrities he relates to, and meets. In particular, cyclist Lance Armstrong who went through cancer, and former boxing great Mohammed Ali, who also has Parkinson’s. 

Fox has an amazingly supportive wife and four children. While the disease is a big part of his life, you get the impression that it’s secondary to his family, his faith and his optimism. His story is relatable, funny and offers hope for the future. 

Reviewed by Gina Giordani, Programmes Administrator at the Mental Health Foundation.

Happy City cover US websize27 April 2016

Happy City – transforming our lives through urban design

Montgomery, C. (2014) Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Can cities be engines of happiness and not just for the convenience of commerce?

What if designers and policy-makers focused their outcomes on achieving the wellbeing of the people who live, work and play in their cities?

These are the big questions that Charles Montgomery wrestles with in Happy City. He wades into the plethora of evidence on the social and structural determinants of health as well as the health outcomes of happiness to comprehensively construct the case for a new approach to urban design and planning.

Flawed urban design

Montgomery systematically critiques a century of flawed urban design theory through the use of evidence. Cities have been planned and designed since the first half of the 20th century for the convenience of cars not people. Montgomery piles up the evidence of how this has led to not only the ill-health of populations and the environment, but also the economic wellbeing of cities.

Happy City provides a blueprint for building, shaping and even retro-fitting cities based on human wellbeing that stems from equitable and just distribution of, and access to, resources, amenities and public space. It emphasises the goal of increasing social connectedness and participation – key ingredients of ‘happiness’ or mental wellbeing.

Christchurch earthquakes

In 2015, he was invited to visit Christchurch to share his knowledge towards the rebuild of the city following the disastrous earthquakes of 2010—11. Ahead of his public address hosted by civic leaders, the All Right? campaign hosted a community-led forum where Montgomery was a guest and invited to listen to six key community leaders and their views on what makes a city happy.

Happy City offers a recipe, aligned with evidence and seasoned with a dash of hope, for combining the ingredients of happiness to create a wellbeing-focused, socially just, prosperous and environmentally harmonious city of the people.

Reviewed by Ciaran Fox, Programme Design and Delivery Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Better than before cover20 April 2016

Better than before: Mastering the habits of our everyday lives

Rubin, G. (2015) Crown

It seems so obvious doesn’t it – when you change your habits, you change your life. Author Gretchen Rubin notes most humans repeat about 40 per cent of behaviour almost daily, so your habits shape your existence, and your future. Rubin is a well-known author with two previous books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home both making it to the best seller list.

Though obvious, what struck me was that habits I establish may free me from daily decision making and having to use self-control. Rubin suggests life becomes simpler, and your daily inner struggle over choices is lessened. And that these routines allows you to get some traction with your personal goals resulting in you becoming more productive and creative.

She cites research that people with better self-control are happier and healthier. They’re more altruistic; they have stronger relationships and more career success; they manage stress and conflict better; they live longer; they steer clear of bad habits.

Different approaches to habit making

The chapters are full of different styles and ways of approaching habit making, reinforcing the idea that the habits you nurture need to be personally selected to ensure they reflect your values and mesh with your personality. Don’t let the chapter headings put you off! Titles such as monitoring, scheduling, accountability, and abstaining can send shivers down anyone’s spine.

Rubin shows you many sides to these instructions, noting there is no one way and it is best to test drive ideas to see how they may fit in your life. Her moto is: first, you must know yourself. Only then you can shape habits to suit yourself.

Some may accuse Rubin of overthinking things as her book on what seems like a simple subject is quite lengthy and detailed. But her chatty writing style, and introductions to her family and friends, draws you in and she tests out her theories with those closet to her. She manages to normalise the battle we all have on a daily basis where you declare of list of good intentions in the morning but somehow the busyness of life detours you.

Rubin goes as far as saying that the habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself. I can see how making a commitment to your wellbeing can fortify you, and honouring daily health promoting habits would give you the energy and resolve to repeat such actions.

You are presented with four distinct groups that describe common ways of relating to habit making, I neatly fit into the “obliger” category. This means I am great at meeting deadlines and helping others, but fail miserably at honouring commitments to myself.

While the subject of developing healthy habits seems basic, it’s common to fail miserably at sustaining them in the long term. If this sounds like you, Rubin’s book might be well worth a read.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

10pm question13 April 2016

The 10pm Question

 De Goldi, K. (2010). Candlewick Press

In Kate de Goldi’s beautiful novel The 10pm Question, we meet 12-year-old Frankie Parsons, a young boy with an old soul.

Frankie is a worrier. He worries about his health, his mother, and the rest of his family. He worries about diseases, about smoke alarm batteries, the fat content in his food, and whether his cat has worms. He marvels at those around him who seem to sail through life untroubled by the sea of disasters Frankie spies from every direction.

The smartest thing about his best friend, Gigs, Frankie believes, is “that he never, ever, ever worried”. He pours out his fears and anxieties every night at 10pm to his mother, whose patience at his litany of worries knows few bounds.

Frankie’s worries are not unfounded, and when a new friendship forces him to see his life reflected in her eyes, he starts to ask some deeper questions. When the weight of his woes inevitably causes him to stumble, I was heartbroken for him. I truly cared about what would happen to Frankie, to his friends, and his family, and that alone made this book almost perfect to me.

A beautiful reminder of childhood

This book reminded me of something that I often forget: childhood is not just an idyll, enchanted period of magic and imagination and bedtime stories. Childhood is scary. With little experience to form your expectations, the future is limitless – and this is both wonderful and terrible.

A career as an astronaut seems as likely as one as a butcher, but who will talk to you at school in the morning? What if that rash kills you? What if you do grow up to be a soldier and you have to actually go to war? Everything is, as De Goldi puts it, “terrifyingly possible.”

However, the golden parts of childhood aren’t brushed past. As I read, I was reminded me of the pure thrill of inventing languages, the disappointment when teachers made me switch partners for school projects, the smell of damp ferns when I ran beneath them on summer mornings, the exhilaration that came when I completed a successful cartwheel.

I remembered the butterflies in my stomach when I made a new friend, the gradual realisation that my parents didn’t know everything, the wonder of learning or discovering things on my own that helped me to make sense of the world.

This book is peopled by characters that immediately seem real and alive, and many of whom I would want to meet (some from a safe distance). Frankie himself is a revelation – he’s curious, neurotic, affectionate, and (there’s no other word for him) a darling. His friends are delightful, and if his Aunts suddenly sprang to life and invaded my living room in a cloud of food and whisky fumes I would struggle to contain my glee.

Funny, poignant, and original

The 10pm Question is a funny, poignant, and original book that tackles the subject of anxiety in both children and adults in a compassionate way. It’s definitely a book that grown-ups can relate to and will stay with you long after you reluctantly finish the final page. Intelligent and insightful, The 10pm Question can be found in the children’s section at your local library.

Reviewed by Sophia Graham, Communications Officer, Mental Health Foundation

Fifty DVD cover ed6 April 2016

Fifty: The Movie

Law, M. & Ritson, J.J. (2016) Flashworks Media

Fifty: The Movie follows mental health advocate, athlete and fundraiser extraordinaire Malcolm Law and his friends as they run 50 marathons up 50 peaks in 50 consecutive days. Along the way they start mental health conversations and raise more than $500,000 for the Mental Health Foundation.

The movie is a great example of how inspirational a person can be if they challenge personal and societal boundaries around what can be achieved.

On paper, the task of running 50 marathons in 50 days seems insurmountable, but then add in traversing 50 peaks and you might be forgiven for thinking you’re hearing a piece of fantasy.

Yet you are brought down to earth with Mal’s heartfelt disclosure of what inspired him to run these mountains. His personal experience of family loss, trauma and its imprint on his life, is heartbreaking and, sadly, is something that it is becoming more common in today's society.

Generosity and banding together

What this movie highlights is the boundless generosity of the community, and that when we unite, our voices can be heard to reduce stigma and raise awareness of mental health.

Halfway through watching the movie I had an epiphany about what Mal was demonstrating. If you live with depression, your mountain peak is day-to-day living. Just getting out of bed to face the day, with the thoughts and feelings you experience, is like climbing Everest. This is played out by Mal in Fifty, as he experiencies both mental and physical challenges that takes him to brink during the High Five-0.

As a running fan myself, who no longer runs marathons due to old knees, this movie and Mal’s journey has inspired me to find an alternative to marathon running. The benefits of keeping moving and connected with nature are numerous no matter what the distance.

Reviewed by Paul Hellesoe, a psychiatric nurse in Auckland.

The upside of stress cover30 March 2016

The Upside of Stress: Why stress is good for you, and how to get good at it

McGonigal, K. 2015 Published by Avery, 5 May 2016, Second Edition.

I was first alerted to this book as it was listed in the Berkeley University Greater Good Centre list of recommended books for 2015.

Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s 2013 TEDtalk on this topic has had millions of views; the public who have brought her book often rave about it, though not everyone in the positive psychology field endorses her book.

I found reviews that challenged her reframing of existing theories and arranging data to suit her purpose. Personally I found it had quite an impact on me; it was a refreshing read, with a good mix of research, case studies and self-reflection exercises. I can’t say in my case that I have learnt to embrace stress as she writes, but yes to see it with fresh eyes with the realisation I am not as powerless as I often assume in the face of everyday stress.

She introduces the reader to the concept of ‘mindsets’ that are beliefs that shape your reality, they are powerful because they affect not just how you think but also how you act. For example, when we view stress as harmful it becomes something to be avoided. By contrast, people who believe stress can be helpful are more likely to cope with stress in a proactive manner, and see it as an opportunity to grow. Which leads to the outcome where you build your resources for dealing with future stress, become more confident and create a strong network of social support.

The belief that stress is helpful becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This can also result in a change to our physiology where instead of a threat response sensitising the brain to future threats, it makes the brain release resilience-boosting hormones. Interesting also is you are more likely to see your challenges as temporary.

McGonigal notes that embracing stress is a radical act of self-trust, you don't have to wait until you have no fear, stress or anxiety to do what matters. If one continues to put dreams aside until life is less stressful or busy, those dreams may never be perused.

Days after reading this book I would catch phrases I was using to describe stress, and in that moment I released I had a choice to reframe what I was thinking. Though I wouldn’t always do that, I feel more aware of my "automatic inner dialogue".

The author also notes that we can extend this way of thinking to our wider world, to also be aware of how we talk about stress to people we care about. She says that we can also use the mindset approach to help them identify their own strengths and values that assist them through their struggles.

I can see how some people might view her approach as Pollyanna-ish, not taking into account things like poverty, but I feel her approach has merit, especially as it emphasises staying connected and actively looking for support. I found her book to be a beacon, whereby each individual can take clear messages from the research and personalise them.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation

The CBT Art Activity Book 100 illustrated handouts for creative therapeu...23 March 2016

The CBT Art Activity Book: 100 illustrated handouts for creative therapeutic work

Guest, J. (2016). Jessica Kinglsey Publishers.

Mindfulness colouring books are all the rage at the moment, so when I saw this book I was curious to see if it was different from others on the market. There are similarities, but the difference with The CBT Art Activity Book is that there are tailored worksheets to use in therapeutic situations with support by a qualified professional. Author Jennifer Guest notes this respectful and compassionate support from a professional is important as emotional disclosure can be challenging and leave you feeling vulnerable. Time needs to be committed to the therapy process, especially if you have been through a traumatic experience.

Guest has a background in fine arts and designed the worksheets herself, incorporating cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and art therapy principles, initially using them in her therapeutic work as a counsellor.

Are these therapies effective?

CBT has a solid research base, and art therapy is an emerging modality with limited high quality studies. That said, a 2015 review notes that art therapy has significant positive effects, such as a sense of personal achievement, expression of feelings, increased knowledge of self, future goals, and aiding relaxation. The results also highlight the need for a skilled therapist, and that art therapy may not be everyone’s cup of tea due to the creative aspect.

Each worksheet has a visual design that can be coloured and a series of questions to prompt self-reflection, a skill which is key to the CBT process. Self-reflection is when you become more aware of how your thoughts and feelings affect your behaviour. Guest hopes readers will be inspired by the images and they will help people communicate visually.

A tool for a therapeutic environment

The worksheets initially seem quite basic, but are intended as an additional tool within an existing therapy environment. Guest notes the worksheets provide an opportunity for people to aid and accelerate their personal learning by doing. They also give you another way to approach an issue you are working on.

While this workbook provides another tool for a practitioner to use with clients, how much it would get used totally depends on the client – not everyone is catching on to the colouring craze!

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Parenting OCD cover 116 March 2016

Parenting OCD: Down to earth advice from one parent to another

Sanders, C. (2014) Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Author and mother Claire Sanders talks about life with her son, who has severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This book’s real strength is the author’s honesty in her reflections of her first-hand experience and practical advice.

She covers what is involved in getting a diagnosis, what to expect in therapy, how to cope with panic attacks, how it might affect the rest of the family and how you might feel as a parent.

You get a sense of OCD as an insatiable beast; the more you accommodate the condition, the more it demands, impacting not just the individual but the whole family dynamic. Sanders describes the moment when she realised her son’s OCD was stronger than his bond with her and that she would have to fight like a tiger to maintain their relationship. You can sense her love for her son and her wish for him to flourish, despite his disorder.

As with any recovery journey, the individual needs to overcome problems at their own pace. Sanders’ son developed symptoms at eight years old and by age 13 made some leaps forward. Sanders speaks with raw honesty at the end of the book where she concludes that until her son makes a personal commitment to his treatment, OCD will continue to have a strong hold.

A balancing act for parents

As a mother, what I find the most challenging is the fine balance between comforting and enabling; we all have our little rituals that help us cope with life. Sanders notes that with OCD it is important to support the person, not the rituals. Your child may find their environment challenging but it’s important to cope through the anxiety. Through this experience they will understand their own inner strength, rather than resorting to rituals.

Reading about Sanders’ experiences with her son’s schools highlights how important it is in the schooling environment that the curriculum and staff promote inclusiveness and wellbeing:

“OK so, in your child’s head lives a bully. It puts horrible thoughts in their heads, horrible images, and makes them do things they don’t really want to do because they are scared of the threats their bully makes. That’s how OCD operates. Then, to make matters worse, not only do they carry that bully around all the time, very often there are other bullies in the ‘real world’ that think it is hilarious that your child taps or counts or is scared of something.”

Sanders also highlights the potency of humour; both as a coping tool and a way to reclaim power among the absurdity of some OCD symptoms. This book would have been an invaluable read for my extended family in the early days of living with OCD. I would recommend this book to any family for whom OCD has an impact.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation. 

Wayfinding leadership book cover9 March 2016

Wayfinding Leadership: Groundbreaking wisdom for developing leaders

Spiller, C., Barclay-Kerr, H., & Panoho, J. (2015) Huia Publishing

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and upon returning to work after the holiday season, I was asked to review Wayfinding Leadership: Groundbreaking wisdom for developing leaders. I found it relevant and timely as my career took a new direction to support the Mental Health Foundation to provide leadership in its responsiveness to Maori.

Wayfinding Leadership is named for the great wayfinding tradition of the Polynesian navigators who explored the Pacific Ocean, which included my tupuna (ancestors) from the Kurahaupo and Mamaru waka, and navigated their way from Hawaikii to Aotearoa.

This book challenged my 25 years of middle-management experiences and skills. Wayfinding Leadership provided me with a framework and reasoning as to why I, as a Maori woman, thought and acted differently compared to my non-Maori colleagues in similar roles. Each chapter provides practical exercises based on its content and challenges your thinking and current practices to consider the traditional wayfinding philosophy, values and principles; thus enhancing your leadership skills and attributes within a contemporary context.

Be still with moving parts

As I considered my role within the Mental Health Foundation, this book taught me to keep the destination (vision) in my mind and to not aim for it in a straight line, but instead to read the signs and adjust myself to be still, while still calibrated to a moving world. As a leader, your role is to inspire others and to weave the group together into a unified whole. Leading in a mana-enhancing way cultivates personal sovereignty of each person. Finally, if we want to be transformational and create true wellbeing, as well as to respond to a fast-changing environment, we need a dynamic strategic approach. Eventually the destination comes to you.

I will now continue my journey as a leader, equipped with wayfinding knowledge, helping me traverse through unchartered waters.

This book has given me the theory, wisdom and foundation of some of my practices, which are innate as a Maori leader. I challenge my colleagues to take up the wayfinding experience. It has been a personal journey of enlightenment, providing me with a deepened understanding that resonates with my values and beliefs, which I will continue to reference for the rest of my career. I must give credit to the authors for developing such a valuable resource and the taonga (gifts) they have given are not only for me but for my family and generations to come.

Nga mihi mahana nga rangatira ma. Tena koutou Tena koutou Tena koutou katoa.

Reviewed by Ellen Norman, Director Maori Development at the Mental Health Foundation.

superbetter2 March 2016

Super Better: A revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient

McGonigal, J. (2015) Penguin Press.

This book is a creative way to use some of the concepts of gaming to build resilience and a happier, stronger you. Super Better uses many scientific studies to explain why taking a more "gameful" approach to life can make a real change and how the game and app, of the same name, can help make that happen. The book is filled with quests that ensure you are experimenting with being gameful right from the start. But along the way you discover things about challenging yourself, power ups, battling the bad guys, allies, secret identities and epic wins.

Part one looks at why games make you super better. Actually, the book could have lost me in part one because while I can see why the Super Better game makes you feel super better, I will never be convinced that sitting in front of a computer playing games is a good idea. However, the great quests along the way kept me motivated to find out more and I appreciated the different perspective on gaming, particularly for anyone worried about the impact of gaming on someone in their life.

A quick way to shift your mindset

The quests throughout the book alone are a great resource of tools to quickly and positively shift your mindset and they all come with a clear explanation of why they work. Moving onto part two, How to be gameful convinced me that playing Super Better was a creative and fun way of approaching problems like depression or anxiety in a really active way. With small wins and small activities you can shift yourself and become empowered.

That said, the book was super long and had too much detail for me. But I have recommended it to a number of people already, including a friend who has a 13-year-old struggling with type 2 diabetes and weight problems. What a great way for her to approach her challenge, not full of things she should and shouldn’t be doing but by playing a game to change her mindset and move forward everyday in some way. I am convinced taking a more gameful approach is a great way to shift and overcome a challenge. Start playing today!

Reviewed by Ngaire Newland, behaviour change champion at Be More Now.

travelling to infinity24 February 2016

Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen

Hawking, J. (2013) Alma Books.

Even if you’ve not seen the Academy Award-nominated movie The Theory of Everything, starring best actor Eddie Redmayne, you’ll have heard of the film’s protagonist, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, infamous for his Black Hole theory.

The film emulates the memoir of Hawking’s wife Jane, Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen. Jane’s autobiography chronicles the exceptional life she lived with Stephen and their three children in Cambridge, UK, spanning a quarter century, from their young marriage in the 1960s to their divorce in the late 1980s.

Jane dedicated her life to supporting Stephen in his battle with motor neuron disease – a debilitating illness that crippled his body and stole his power of speech – in his pursuit of physics and in raising their family.

What makes this story so poignant is the mental fortitude both Jane and Stephen show against heavy odds; an apathetic National Health Service, the patriarchal bureaucracy of Cambridge University where Stephen spent most of his career and crippling health issues all served to weaken their resolves.

The fact that Stephen is still alive, let alone that he is an internationally-lauded genius, is testament to one man’s triumph over physical disability and resilience through periods of intense despondency. Stephen’s existence is a paradoxical dichotomy of intellectual genius and physical incapacity; his success thanks largely to Jane’s commitment to their wellbeing.

Jane details their turbulent marriage and how she managed her suicidal thoughts. She describes her guilty state of mind over finding comfort in another man’s love and feelings of sheer desperation while caring for a disabled person in unique circumstances. She found solace in her spirituality, escaping into nature, and confiding in her support network.

Travelling to Infinity provides insight into one woman’s battle to secure happiness and wellbeing for herself and her family under harrowing conditions and is well worth a read.

Reviewed by Hayley Tillard, Communications Assistant, Auckland.

17 February 2016

Teenage depressionTeenage Depression, A CBT Guide for Parents: Help your child beat their low mood

Parkinson, M., & Reynolds, S. (2015). Robinson.

Professor Shirley Reynolds and Dr Monika Parkinson have many years’ hands-on experience with young people (who are acknowledged in the introduction), and involvement in research trials aimed at investigating enhanced outcomes for child mental health problems.

The advice in the book is founded on real life examples as you follow three families applying the skills. Teenage Depression is aimed at parents, but there is also a companion book for young people, Am I depressed and what can I do about it? A CBT self-help guide for teenagers experiencing low mood and depression. Both books follow the same structure and make use of the same case studies, but Teenage Depression incorporates additional strategies for parents.

Focus on the problems of the now

Authors make it clear that depression is a complex illness, rarely caused by one thing or event. Reynolds and Parkinson say it is more useful to instead to work out what might be causing the problems going right now. This means individuals and families have the power to do something about the problems and to make positive change.

Though the book is about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), the first five chapters cover a raft of other useful topics. For example, information on depression with checklists of symptoms, steps parents can take now, how to formulate a safety plan, examples of possible wording for bringing up the topic with their teen, and preparing together to talk to the GP.

Back to basics

The authors encourage parents to help teens prioritise the basics (sleeping, eating, and exercise) to build a solid foundation for wellbeing. Also “doing more to feel better”, which may feel difficult at first, but becoming more involved in life’s small details can have a significant positive impact on mood, especially when you start adding up all the small activities and achievements. All goal setting is done together with the lead from the young person, ensuring any goals are linked to values they hold dear.

The second half of Teenage Depression outlines the basics of CBT and the authors insist it is a tool not just for the young person, but also the parents, who are often not aware of their own negative thought cycles. Using an example comparing the thought cycle of a parent and child, and you can clearly see how frustration and misunderstandings can block communication and opportunities to support.

As a mother in one of the case studies says, parents need to be prepared to be on this journey together with their teen. I certainly feel this book provides parents with good practical tools to support their child during their recovery period through which both parties will learn and grow. CBT is a proven therapy and, even though it is a simple concept, it can be incredibly effective.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Can I tell you10 February 2016

Can I tell you about anxiety? A guide for friends, family and professionals

Willetts, L., & Waite, P. (2014) Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Megan, a fictitious 10-year-old girl who experiences anxiety, explains the different types of anxiety and the effects it has on her life, and ways that it can be treated. The book says it is suitable for seven years and older. Personally, I feel there are sections that would suit kids aged over 10 with support from an adult when it comes to clinical words and definitions. That said there are pages with simplified text and illustrations that provide more age appropriate information for those under 10.

Can I tell you about anxiety’s friendly approach normalises feelings of anxiety and gives a good baseline to measure against when anxiety gets in the way of everyday activities.

The young reader is regularly reassured that they are not alone, that anxiety can run in families and that children with anxiety have positive traits as well, such as: kind, caring and thoughtful. The story gives the reader hope and a clear message that they can learn skills to cope.

Roles for family, friends and teachers

Support for a young person with anxiety is key and there are several pages detailing how family, friends and teachers can be there for children experiencing anxiety. Interestingly, it notes how parents, often in their desire to protect their child, encourage them to avoid stressful situations. But this means the child doesn’t get the opportunity to learn to cope in stressful situations.

One such tool discussed that can be used to learn coping strategies is the step plan, or hierarchy, where the child chooses a concern, or situation, to work on challenging first. Another suggested approach is to empower, rather than just assure an anxious child that everything will be ok. You can empower a child by asking questions, such as: how are you feeling, what are you thinking and is there another way of approaching this?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is covered with examples, allowing the young person to be their own detective and become more mindful of their thoughts and proactive in choosing new ways of reacting or self-soothing. The bibliography of further books written for young people using CBT principles to cope with anxiety is very useful and these titles would complement what is learnt in Can I tell you about anxiety?

It would be nice to know more about the kids who inspired Megan. Some real life case studies would have added depth. That said, the book brings insight, solid advice and reputable tools to help kids and adults in dealing with anxiety. The book would also help break the ice when broaching the topic, allowing kids an opportunity to think about what might work for them.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

cultural safety3 February 2016

Cultural Safety in Aotearoa New Zealand

Edited by Wepa, D. (2015) Cambridge University Press

In the second edition of Cultural Safety in Aotearoa New Zealand, editor Dianne Wepa exemplifies an array of theoretical and practice-based topics to illustrate what cultural safety means. Wepa focuses on the situations nurses in New Zealand face day-to-day, to help explain the importance of understanding cultural safety while at work.

Wepa came into nursing with the realisation that cultural understanding was missing from the educational system, but she struggled to explain it. For me, it seemed strange that the nursing system didn’t understand cultural safety until Wepa says, “these young people had come to be nurses and the work on racism, cultures and difference that I was offering appeared to have little bearing on nursing which was a profession in their view which cared for people regardless of who they were.”

A person’s culture can never be separated from them

The overarching practice of nurses helping people regardless of any differences, was completely opposite to what Wepa was trying to convey. She explains, “the idea of the nurse ignoring the way in which people measure and define their humanity is unrealistic and inappropriate... People are still prepared to die in order to maintain their cultural, religious and territorial integrity.”

Wepa’s description of cultural safety is exactly what I think every government or company needs in their staff introduction: “Cultural safety offers practitioners an approach to practising ethically. It assumes that it is not possible to fully understand a client’s culture but instead requires professionals to carefully consider the impact of their own cultural history and experience, and how this might impact on the client’s cultural practices.”

Culture can be how you brush your teeth, what you eat for breakfast, what you do and the way you think. It is near impossible to fully understand another culture, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand cultural safety.

In one section, Wepa creates a hypothetical situation focusing on mental health, providing follow up questions to test your understanding of cultural safety within the situation. I think Wepa’s lens on the topic and how she challenges your understanding of a situation is thought-provoking. The beauty of culture is what makes humans and complex mammals, yet it is because of that cultural complexity that we must practice cultural safety. I believe this book should be taught and discussed throughout New Zealand.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Programme Engagement Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Developing27 January 2016

Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha brain one simple practice at a time

Hanson, R. (2011) New Harbinger Publications

Just One Thing is a good book to read upon returning to work as life gets busy again after the holidays. This book was written by Rick Hanson, psychologist and senior fellow of the Greater Good Science Center in the US. It is the second of three; Buddha’s Brain was published in 2009 and and Hardwiring Happiness was published in 2013.

As with the other two titles, Just One Thing’s content is well-referenced and backed by emerging research in the positive psychology field, focusing particularly on neuroplasticity – training your brain to better retain positive emotions and experiences. Research shows that short daily brain training practices can change the way your brain works, and protect against stress, lift mood and build emotional resilience.

Just One Thing is simpler than Hanson’s aforementioned titles. No prior knowledge of Buddhism, regular meditation or mindfulness practice is needed to grasp the concepts, it is designed for the average reader to pick and use when inspiration or equally so, desperation strikes.

Befriend your imperfect edges

I like that the book’s philosophy doesn’t imply that you should take a Pollyanna approach to life but instead to acknowledge, validate and befriend your imperfect edges and struggles. It also normalises the many difficulties you encounter, and offers practical advice and steps on how you can work with those difficulties.

The nuggets of wisdom that stood out for me are – be good to yourself, enjoy life as it is, and that it is often the smallest changes that can have the largest impact on your quality of life. All very obvious but sometimes you just need someone to remind and reassure you.

I think it is a book you would keep for life, perhaps for the coffee table or bed side. Flicking through the pages to see which section jumps out to be read, reminds me a bit of the dilemma when faced with choosing from a bag of mixed lollies. Often it is the lollies that look the least appealing that surprise you the most.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Resources Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation.

Promoting health book cover20 January 2016

Promoting Health in Aotearoa New Zealand

Edited by Signal, L. & Ratima, M. (2015) Otago University Press

Promoting Health in Aotearoa New Zealand fills a significant gap in health promotion literature that is relevant to Aotearoa. Drawing on the rich experience and knowledge of 25 contributors, the book brings together a comprehensive picture of health promotion in Aotearoa, with a particular focus on Māori health promotion. As such, health promotion in a unique New Zealand context is clearly defined and articulated. For example, the editors have intentionally and successfully created a health promotion text that “integrates Māori and Pākehā analysis, consistent with an approach that emphasises the Treaty [of Waitangi] partnership and indigenous rights”.

Starting with an outline of the history of health promotion in Aotearoa, the book moves on to broadening your understanding of Māori health promotion, including Māori health promotion models and what these look like in practice. Pacific health promotion, and health promotion with immigrant communities are covered, with great examples that bring health promotion work with these communities to life.

The fundamentals of health promotion

Promoting Health in Aotearoa New Zealand then focuses on fundamentals of health promotion; evaluation and intervention design, ethics, equity and politics. Populations (specifically children and young people) and settings as a focus for health promotion are described, along with the challenges and opportunities for developing the health promotion workforce. The book concludes with a chapter on critical reflections and future challenges.

Health promotion is the cornerstone of creating positive mental health. While there are limited references to mental health, the principles, values and practice that underpins the work of the Mental Health Foundation flow through the book, and you are reminded that “good health is a foundation for the achievement of potential for individual, groups of people (including families, whānau, hapū and iwi), and society as a whole.” At the same time, there are key health issues of concern and health inequalities are increasing, to which health promotion can make a difference.

The book is engaging and interesting to read. It includes a good balance between theory and practice, peppered with local examples of initiatives that bring health promotion to life. Promoting Health in Aotearoa New Zealand raises the challenges for health promotion, such as the need for ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of health promotion activities, and the influence political ideology. It’s the “go to” text for all health promotion practitioners, students, and teachers in Aotearoa, and internationally for anyone interested in indigenous health.

Reviewed by Kathryn Nemec, Project Manager, Mental Health Foundation.

When life16 December 2015

When life gives you lemons: A resource for young people dealing with depression and anxiety

Painter, C. & Krieble, A. (2015) CreateBooks New Zealand

The minute When life gives you lemons landed in my hands, I smiled. This book is bursting with creativity and spirit which instantly takes you on a journey through the artistic minds of these two teens explaining the complexities of depression and anxiety.

Celia Painter illustrated the book while she was living with depression and anxiety. In the introduction, Painter says how therapeutic it was for her to draw while she was struggling with her own mental health and hopes the images will help others too. Writer Abbie Krieble does an excellent job of explaining mental illness, what the symptoms are and tangible ways to help support yourself and others.

A picture is worth a thousand words

When life gives you lemons is fun and inviting. The information is easy to read and organised with delicately written words and images, helping you grasp medical terms as well as sharing interesting mental health facts and quotes. The images on each page help bring the words to life and express many of the complex feelings that are hard to put into words.

What to do with lemons

When life gives you lemons is a beautiful way to support teens to understand mental illness for themselves and also for friends and family. The authors have created a well-rounded resource that delivers: tangible skills, explanations, understanding and important information on supportive services for teens. I wish I had this book when I was a teenager.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Programme Engagement Specialist at the Mental Health Foundation. Read more about Celia Painter and Abbie Krieble.

15 steps9 December 2015

15 steps to overcome anxiety and depression

Barrow, I. (2015)

The documented lived experiences and events in the book allowed me to see, specifically and clearly, how someone can become affected by depression and anxiety. I came away knowing about the need to ensure you have mental balance much like physical balance. Too much tension on one limb could cause it to break – there is no difference with the mind.

15 steps to overcome anxiety and depression is inspiring, it includes exercises to support someone to understand what, how and why they may be experiencing symptoms of fatigue, lack of energy, concentration, irritability, just to name a few. I also learned how, when and what steps one may need to take to overcome this exhausting condition.

Overall, the book acts as a reminder to bring you back to the basics of wellbeing – don’t lose focus of the amazingly wonderful you and your needs.

Reviewed by Noradene Paniora, Maori Development Advisor at the Mental Health Foundation.

The most good2 December 2015

The most good you can do: How effective altruism is changing ideas about living ethically

Singer, P. (2015) Yale University Press

The Most Good You Can Do is an inspiring and thought-provoking guide to achieving maximal good in society with the resources you have. Written by internationally renowned philosopher and Princeton University professor Peter Singer, the book explains some of the theory and practical applications of a new philosophy called “effective altruism”.

Effective altruism is a growing social movement, encouraging everyone to give an affordable portion of their limited resources to others (be this time, money, or abilities). These limited resources should be directed towards the people, places, or charities where they will achieve the most good, objectively.

Singer would argue that it’s much more effective to give your $10 to a charity where you know this donation will cure the blindness of 10 children, than it is to give to a charity that cannot produce information on what this $10 will actually achieve. In the case of the latter, how can you know that you’ve actually contributed any good to society?

A convincing philosophy

It’s a convincing philosophy and surely one that Singer argues well. When you give in this way, not only are you making an effective and observable difference to the world, but you’re also helping to bring some meaning and fulfilment to your daily life.

Singer actively encourages you to become effective altruists, by providing a host of strategies and resources to help you decide where to give your limited time, energy, or funds. I particularly appreciated how a section was included on effective New Zealand-based charities to support.

This book serves as a timely reminder that even with your busy schedule and limited funds, you can still make an observable contribution to the lives of others today, through giving effectively.

Reviewed by Kate Loveys, Communications Assistant at the Mental Health Foundation.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

pay it forward again25 November 2015

Pay it forward

Hyde, C.R. (2014). Simon & Schuster.

Twelve-year-old Trevor didn’t know how easy it was to change the world. Trevor drives through a rough neighbourhood, it’s the middle of the night and he worries if he will survive the night. The car catches fire and he jumps out of the burning car. Two men sprint towards Trevor and he is frightened – the men bravely put the fire out and then they disappear. That experience made Trevor realise the best way to give back to those men who helped him was to do the same to others in need.

A new teacher arrives at Trevor’s school and that teacher changes everything, including Trevor. Trevor’s teachers asks if he would like to do an assignment on changing the world. Trevor’s idea of paying it forward spreads from California and becomes internationally famous.

Trevor’s idea is simple: do a good deed for three people, and instead of asking them to return the favour, ask them to pay it forward to three others who need help. Trevor passed out a small message which became huge and changed the world. Small things can make a huge difference.

His amazing idea means he meets the US president. Trevor is determined to see the light and good inside everyone, even though the world may not always seem too kind.

Reviewed by 11-year-old Kiwa Tipene-Weneti, Chisnallwood Intermediate School, Christchurch.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

everyday kindness18 November 2015

Everyday Kindness: Shortcuts to a happier and more confident life

Dowrick, S. (2011) Allen & Unwin

Everyday Kindness lives up to the promise of its title. The central theme focuses on the importance of building kindness into every aspect of your life both towards yourself and others and provides gentle tips for achieving this goal. It covers themes that you can resonate with – from building personal power and self-confidence, to relationships and identity.

Short and easily digested

This book is written in short, digestible paragraphs. The writing style is conversational and anecdotal making it very approachable reading. Everyday Kindness tackles many of the anxieties, fears, stresses and pressures that are common in life but that we often think we’re alone in experiencing.

Reading Stephanie Dowrick is like listening to all of your mother’s best life advice. With clear themes for each chapter, it is the kind of book that you can dip in and out to get valuable advice as you need it. I imagine it could be a useful long-lasting resource as you would relate to different parts of the book at different times in your life.

A little light

Something to be aware of, however, is the brevity means there’s to a lack of depth. Dowrick occasionally falls into the trap of providing easy sounding solutions for what are actually very complex psychological and deep-rooted emotional issues that require a lot of hard work to change. This can leave the reader wanting some more practical next steps for how to tackle these issues with long-lasting impacts. This can also have the unfortunate side effect of making her sound a little preachy at times.

But, don’t let these criticisms put you off reading Everyday Kindness, overall it is a haven of positive, practical life advice and a wonderful place to start for those wanting to build more kindness, generosity and positive wellbeing into their lives.

Reviewed by Hannah Mackintosh, Wellington Timebank Co-ordinator.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

The hidden gifts11 November 2015

The hidden gifts of helping: How the power of giving, compassion and hope can get us through hard times

Post, S.G. (2011) Jossey-Bass

This is the story of author Stephen Post’s young family who endured the relative trauma of displacement and “placelessness” in moving between towns/cities and states in the US and about social connectedness. And, of course, the book is also about the power of giving; the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

While the situations are different, reading this story prompted me to think about the journey our son, daughter-in-law and 2 year-old granddaughter are taking in their move from New Zealand to Australia. Post talks about the implications and impacts of moving on health, family, friends and community networks. This has been our son’s experience also over the past nine to 12 months.

The giving glow

Post, the founder of the Centre for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, New York, refers to “the gift of the giver’s glow” in his book. In his work with people living dementia and Alzheimer’s – the “deeply forgetful” – he talks about just being with someone helps. “Helping truly does help the helper… giving of yourself to someone else; even the smallest act is healing.”

The hidden gifts of helping also explains how helping others improves mental and emotional health. Another lovely saying Post uses in the book is: “We eat because it keeps us alive and we help others because it keeps us human.” He talks about the act of giving being useful in ameliorating depression as it allows positive emotions like concern and compassion to push aside negative ones.

Helping helps you

Helping others may help you live longer, too. Whenever you die, however old, you will feel young at heart if you live a generous life (research-based findings). Or as Post says: “Reaching out to help others saved my life – or so it feels.”

Post encourages you to think about how you can find the hidden gifts of giving in your life.

Also covered in the book is the gift of hope and hanging on to hope. “We all need a garden of hope in life’s challenging periods – real hope, the kind that grows deep roots.”

Reviewed by Gary Sutcliffe, Consumer Advocate and Peer Support Specialist at East Tamaki Healthcare.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

I like giving4 November 2015

I Like Giving

Formsma, B. (2014). Waterbrook Press (a division of Random House).

I Like Giving is a quick read that should inspire you to give more in your daily life. A text based on personal stories and scientific facts, it maintains that your life and the lives of others will be happier if you reach out and lead a generous life.

Acts of kindness will enrich you and others. Your gift can be anything; a smile, a present, a listening ear, a donation or maybe just time. When you focus away from yourself life is more fun and more interesting opportunities can open up for you.

On a scale of one to 10, I think this book is a six. It's a little too religious for my liking but the sentiments are worth taking note of if you are seeking to have a more full filling and generous life.

Reviewed by Wendy Everingham, Lyttelton Harbour Timebank Coordinator.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

The paradox28 October 2015

The Paradox of Generosity

Christian, S. & Hilary, D. (2014) Oxford University Press.

The Paradox of Generosity presents the findings of a US study of adults who completed surveys and gave in-depth interviews regarding their generosity and wellbeing.

The book is divided into five chapters and some of the information is repetitive at times. The first chapter is overwhelmingly about the data with lots of numbers and graphs with more in the appendix for those that are interested.

Persevere through the first chapter and the reward is in the second, where the authors address the sceptics’ question as to whether: people are generous because they are happy, or happy because they are generous? Authors explain causal mechanisms and nine inter-related ways in which generous practices enhance human wellbeing. For example, generosity can trigger chemical systems in the brain and body that increase pleasure and experiences of reward, reduce stress and suppress pain.

Lives of the generous and ungenerous

The final three chapters talk about generous and ungenerous Americans with examples and case studies that show how generosity is practiced or absent in their lives and, what this means for their wellbeing as measured by their happiness, physical health, purpose in life, avoidance of depression and interest in personal growth. The authors conclude that both generous and ungenerous people live lives that are less than ideal, but that generous people are able to take hardships in stride, believing that life is good and still worth living.

Reading this book prompted me to think about my own attitude toward generosity and think more about what I can do with what I have. It helped me broaden my thinking to include more than just financial giving or volunteering time and also to consider the cost of not becoming a more generous person.

The Paradox of Generosity falls short of explaining how to actually become generous and the authors conclude that those research findings are for another book. However, they definitely achieve their aim of providing a compelling argument that practising generosity really is genuinely good for you.

Reviewed by Katherine McEwing, a part time social worker in schools for Barnardos NZ.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

Why good things happen14 October 2015

Why Good Things Happen to Good People

Post, S. & Neimark, J. (2007) Broadway Books.

"Giving is the most potent force on the planet," asserts Stephen Post, a bioethicist, founder of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love and co-author with Jill Neimark of Why Good Things Happen to Good People. The book explores 10 different ways in which you can give.

Each chapter is packed with stories and anecdotes from academics and noteworthy friends of the authors. There is also plenty of research-based evidence to support the case that giving is not only good for the receiver, but, also benefits the giver. The authors cite many studies, for example one study shows that people who are giving during their school years have better physical and mental health throughout their entire lives. Other studies show that older people who give live longer than those who don’t give.

Self-help and compelling science

The book is also a self-help manual, each chapter ends with a self-review questionnaire for the reader who wants to assess how they measure up on each of the 10 items on the giving scales. There are also lists of practical actions you could take to improve your own wellbeing through acts of giving. This aspect is somewhat gimmicky and adds little to the overall flow and sense of the book. The science in the book is compelling. Who wouldn’t want to live a longer happier life in a happier world?

Reviewed by Belinda Sharp, an Organisational Development Specialist with Barnardos New Zealand.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

Born to be good7 October 2015

Born to be good: The science of a meaningful life

Keltner, D. (2009). W.W. Norton & Company.

Keltner’s book is filled with a wealth of interesting anecdotes and references to research, including his own, that show human beings are built to cooperate with and care for each other. Keltner explains the origins of human goodness are rooted in your emotions and in the first part of the book, he walks you through decades of evolutionary research showing humans are actually wired for good.

Keltner and like-minded scientists conclude compassion and the desire to work in with others are contagious emotions and the likelihood of spreading them across people and space increases as more people show kindness to another. Even hearing about the good acts of others can inspire within you the desire to reach out in caring ways to others. I see this at the early years hub. When parents hear stories about what other parents have shared or donated, immediately they start to think about what they could do.

Being good to each other

Warm smiles, laughter, caring touches, playful light-hearted movements and gentle teasing; are all expressions of positive emotions which can be gained through connecting in healthy, respectful ways with others. Not only do the hormones released by such behaviour increase our own wellbeing and quiet “the press of self-interest” but they also promote wellbeing others.

The pursuit of happiness and success often refers to sensory pleasures or material wealth. Keltner points out that what is missing in such discourse is the language and practice of emotions like compassion, gratitude, amusement and wonder.

In a nutshell, this book provides scientific data to prove what we all already know; it feels good to love and care for others and those feelings enhance our own wellbeing. If you enjoyed Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease, you will also like reading Born to be good.

Reviewed by Jacinta Liddell, Project Leader Levin Early Years Hub.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

Give and take30 September 2015

Give and Take: How timebanking is transforming healthcare

Boyle, D. & Bird, S. (2014) UK: Timebanking UK.

David Boyle and Sarah Bird's most recent publication, Give and Take: How timebanking is transforming healthcare, tells real stories of individuals and medical practices who are using timebanking in the UK. There are lots of books on self-help – but how do you help the system which is designed to help people, and which is itself being crushed by the weight of demand? It turns out the answer is deceptively simple; by releasing our greatest untapped resource – ourselves.

Give and Take helps you understand the concept of timebanking through meeting people like Geoff from Blackpool, who has been better able to cope following his wife’s death because of his relationships with others in the timebank. These stories show how timebanking can be used to improve both individuals’ lives and the services that can assist them.

Isolation as bad as smoking

Recent research shows that isolation is as dangerous to health as smoking. Timebanking is a tool for community building which incorporates all of the Five Ways to Wellbeing by encouraging people to share their skills and talents in an equal time-based measure – one hour equals one hour. From chronic pain, to heart attacks, to depression, Give and take shows timebanking is linked to better outcomes.

Give and Take is an incredibly engaging and easy-to-read account of the research. It provides anecdotal and statistical evidence showing the use of timebanking in health – and particularly mental health – delivers real results for the NHS, health service providers and centrally for the people using the services, whose skills, it turns out, are just what the doctor ordered.

The book not only recommends embedding timebanking into the health system but provides a guide for how to do it. The small steps taken in hundreds of small towns across the UK, and documented in Give and Take, are fascinating and inspirational and show a way forward for ailing health systems.

This is an invaluable book for anyone aiming for better outcomes for patients or interested in the sustainability of the health system, as well as for individuals who have an interest in mental health and the idea of service users as co-producers of future health outcomes.

Reviewed by Genevieve de Spa, Ambulance Officer for St John, Timebank Co-ordinator and Masters student.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

Beyond happiness23 September 2015

Beyond Happiness

Seldon, A. (2015) Yellow Kite

Beyond Happiness has a wonderful combination of theory, personal experience and how-to steps, providing layers to the conversation about reaching personal joy. The main objective of the book is to help you notice and reclaim your song inside, to uncover it, and help lead you to ultimate joy. This comes from the Henry David Thoreau idea that “most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."

Seldon promotes the theory of positive psychology which claims “that it makes sense to study what is right about people in addition to what is wrong”. The term was coined by psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1950, and Seldon wishes to focus on this concept for people to reach joy, a deeper and richer fulfilment of life.

Understanding the meaning of happiness

Seldon does a wonderful job in using the words you know (pain, happiness, pleasure) and asking you to truly understand the meanings for each word and be mindful with your usage of them. He supports his explanations with quotes an excerpts from literary work as well as religious texts from multiple backgrounds providing a wider understanding and greater cultural scope for anyone reading and wishing to reach personal joy. The concepts in the book are simplistic, but because of their simplicity, understanding each word and the concepts around them are complex and thought-provoking.

There were two sections of the book which stood out to me the most, one was understanding “to choose is to be human… the notion that we are mere victims is a product of incorrect and lazy thinking”. For me, this is one of the hardest levels of acceptance to overcome to reach joy, because it requires everyone to take responsibility of their actions and personal drive. Seldon explains the notion of victimisation is from “learned helplessness” and one way of combating this notion is positive self-belief.

The second is giving, “if we see ourselves as isolated individuals, then our focus might naturally be on ourselves alone”. Seldon explains that giving does provide happiness for the giver but it is not only that, giving is the simple understanding that when you are aware and take notice to then give to someone, you are reaching outside yourself and connecting with the people around you, spreading kindness and happiness.

Beyond Happiness is an enjoyable read, simple in its writing, yet provocative in its concepts. I think someone who is seeking happiness, or someone who believes themselves to be happy, should read this book and continue to understand the levels of happiness and become mindful of their personal journey.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Fundraising and Communications Intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

Great days at work16 September 2015

Great Days at Work

Hazelton, S. (2013) Kogan Page

As most of us spend at least a third of each weekday at work, Suzanne Hazelton, a coach, trainer and consultant who works to help people thrive at work, pored over the latest insights in positive psychology to create this guide, believing that if we try to improve our wellbeing at work, the positive benefits will spread into the rest of our lives.

The book is very easy to read, and for the most part you can dip into the chapters that you feel are most relevant to you. Hazelton reframes our idea of "success", and posits that there is no true success without happiness. It is for this reason she believes both employers and employees need to spend more time actively working to ensure the workplace, whatever it may be, promotes the wellbeing of everyone in it – when people feel engaged, involved and hopeful about the work they do, success almost inevitably follows.

Almost everything Hazelton says is backed up by references to major studies, the cumulative effect of which is meant to reassure us that there are some broad, fundamental truths to be uncovered even when we don’t feel that specific studies relate very well to us as individuals. The result is that the book reads somewhat like a very long lit review.

Troubled by endorsement of Felicia Huppert’s idea

I was troubled by the author’s endorsement of Felicia Huppert’s idea that Government and mental health charities should not focus on improving the mental health and wellbeing of under-privileged people (who she refers to as "the lowest in our society"), but instead work to increase the wellbeing of the privileged, the idea being that this will then trickle down to those less fortunate. I found this theory simplistic and, as I read on, I realised this book is really written primarily for people in what the author calls “the higher levels of society” – people who have no real barriers to happiness except those they create for themselves. It is not a book for any one experiencing poverty, deprivation, family stress or violence, ill-health or any of the other myriad of reasons why some of us may not always have great days at work.

However, I did find there were many useful pieces of advice in the book. I appreciated the real, practical suggestions for improving wellbeing at work, and have incorporated some into my own working life. The book has plenty of real-life examples to illustrate the theories the author is explaining, and I was particularly interested in the author’s take on the value of goal setting and how better communication with colleagues can improve your wellbeing. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but worth a read if you’re struggling to enjoy your work and would like some tried and true suggestions to enjoy better days at work.

Reviewed by Sophia Graham, Senior Communications Officer, Mental Health Foundation

Reality slap9 September 2015

The Reality Slap

Harris, H. (2011) Exisle Publishing

I think The Reality Slap nicely describes how miffed you can feel when you don’t always get what you want – but the slap can also wake you up to the limited ways you are thinking and responding.

Author Dr Russ Harris sums up the whole technique in a sentence: “Instead of running or fighting we can simply drop anchor, unhook from our unhelpful stories and make room for our painful emotions, and engage fully in doing something with purpose”. It sounds simple but Harris notes due to your busy mind it can be difficult to develop good self-awareness skills and moments of presence are difficult to sustain. But there is hope, as the moment you catch yourself, you are free, and every moment of practice makes a difference.

Getting lost in the smog

I like the description of the internal chatter resulting in you being lost in a smog and you lose connection with yourself, your life and world. I really enjoyed the chapter describing the “Not Good Enough goggles”, this made me realise I was often lost in a haze of discontent. Once I started taking more notice of my thoughts, I was amazed at how much energy and time I waste judging and making comment on myself, others and things I have no control over. It felt quite enlightening to identify something as unhelpful, and empowering to decide to let go.

I was inspired to purchase the MP3 downloads available with The reality slap, and there is also an extended section at the back of the book for those interested in further reading on acceptance and commitment therapy. I may not master all the techniques but I think from reading the book I have clearer self-awareness of what ingrained patterns of coping that are not so helpful, and that awareness is powerful in itself.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Officer, Mental Health Foundation.

critical psychiatry2 September 2015

Critical Psychiatry and Mental Health: Exploring the work of Suman Fernando in clinical practice

Edited by Moodley, R. & Ocampo, M. (2014) Routledge

A continual theme from this collection of ethno-psychiatry and multicultural mental health practices and policies is to understand mental health as a global topic. Don’t forget that no matter how global the concepts seem, they are generated from the community, the culture, and the people who hold all of these factors within themselves and their community.

This reminds you that though many people around the world experience mental health challenges at times, the reasons and the ways to provide support must be conscious of all factors which support positive mental health.

“Good mental health depends on many factors, but among indigenous people the world over, cultural identity is considered a critical prerequisite.” (p.231)

Kiwi connection

Critical psychiatry and mental health covers the work of Suman Fernando and how his work affects the global understanding of mental health through the world’s leading scholars and their research.

Within the many works there is a section called “Culture and mental health in Aotearoa, New Zealand” written, by Maori mental health consultant Wayne Blissett and the Mental Health Foundation’s CEO Judi Clements who worked with Dr Fernando during her time at Mind UK. Blissett and Clements choose some very poignant words from a Maori elder to highlight Fernando’s work as well as the work which New Zealand is striving for, “’he tino nui rawa o tatu mahi, kia kore o matu nui… We have come too far not to go further, you have done too much not to do more,’ (whakatauki spoken by Ta Himi Tau Henare, Kgati Hine, 1989)” (p.234).

This book covers a vast scale of detail and study which is quite dense, requiring you to take your time on the discussions to grasp and contemplate the theory accurately. But the work which Fernando does, along with others who take his work and research to the next level within their countries and communities, is enthralling. I believe anyone who wishes to learn more about ethno-psychiatry as well as the concept of theories in current mental health would find this book very enlightening and captivating in its accounts and discussions.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Fundraising and Communications Intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

release the beast26 August 2015

Release the Beast

Zunde, R.S. (2014) Beatnik Publishing

“When I get mad, the beast boils in my bones, he stomps in my feet and roars in my mouth.”

In Release the Beast, Romy Sai Zunde explores children’s anger and frustration in a fun but clever way. The book could be a useful tool to starting the conversation about anger with a child.

The story follows a young boy, who goes through various stages of feeling angry, with the beast personifying his out-of-control, angry feelings. Being told to share toys with his little brother wakes up the beast. The boy describes all the imaginary things the beast would do. The illustrations are expressive, interesting and dramatic. After the beast is let out – “then I felt a little bit better”.

The book identifies that there can be lots of different triggers for anger and distress, like being told what to do, and feeling like you are being treated unfairly; “Grown-ups are naughty all the time, and no one tells them what to do”. As children are early in the process of developing skills and strategies to manage intense (and sometimes confusing) feelings like anger, it’s an important area for children to be able to talk about and understand.

Using the beast to identify anger

Viewing anger as a beast helps it to be discussed and therefore could help children to identify feelings of anger – an important first step in being able to self-manage emotions. Some of the metaphors and pictures might be a little complicated (and some a bit dark) for younger ones to understand – however the underlying message is still effective.

In a subtle way, Release the Beast touches on the brain’s inability to process information clearly when angry or distressed – “mummy yelled and yelled but the beast and I couldn’t hear a thing”.

The book finishes with the boy apologising and the mother having a conversation about her own anger and what her beast does when she’s angry and frustrated with different things. It’s an important ending, because it normalises anger as something healthy and human, which everyone experiences – even adults who, from a child’s perspective, often seem like they have everything under control and don’t have these challenges. It also suggests that honest conversations about challenges with others can help you feel better.

While Release the Beast doesn’t seem to offer clear strategies for managing feelings of anger, reading the book might open an opportunity for a conversation about anger, how it is a normal, important response and also how to express it in healthy ways.

Reviewed by Michelle Dendale, Information Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

Oku19 August 2015

Oku Moe Moea: The dream which is bigger than I am

Hammond Boys, S. (2015) BMS Books

Oku Moe Moea is about a young Maori boy named Victory, who is faced with social and economic difficulties, yet finds his passion through art. The book focuses on the importance of the creative mind, and fostering the differences of individuals.

Beautifully written with the style of oral lore, Oku Moe Moea exemplifies the simplistic beauty of rural New Zealand. In the context of small communities, the book also depicts the hardships in which people face as society changes such as unemployment, crime, poor housing and toxic relationships. These troubles affect Victory and instead of seeking help, he continues to feel more alone and shuts himself away into his mind.

Victory feels isolated in his small town, because he was seen as different. Yet, you see how his world changes and he learns how to foster his love for art, while hiding it away from those who don’t support him or understand him. In just a few words, this book covers multiple complications of daily life, opening your eyes along with Victory’s, changing and learning as you go.

Oku Moe Moea illustrates how people are effected by hardship, loss, seclusion, family ties and love. With beautiful pieces of artwork throughout the book, this story will touch your heart, and help you see a different side of New Zealand than you perhaps have forgotten about or might have never known.

There is also a short film based on this novel to promote the children’s art clubs in New Zealand. To buy a copy of the book and/or view the short film to support this cause, please visit the website https://vimeo.com/ondemand/artiam/128440784

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Fundraising and Communications Intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

uncovering happiness12 August 2015

Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming depression through mindfulness and self compassion

Goldstein, E. (2015) Atria Books

In Uncovering Happiness, author and psychologist Dr Elisha Goldstein explores some of the neuroscience behind what keeps a person stuck in a depressive loop and how to get unstuck. It's not promoted as a miracle cure to replace more conventional treatment, but more so as an accessible and empowering way individuals can help themselves through practising exercises to improve self-awareness. The self-help aspect of this book seems more suited to those experiencing mild to moderate depression or low mood, those experiencing severe depression might need extra support to work through the material.

Goldstein clearly explains what depression is and how the mind works so the reader can see how easy it is to drift into a low mood unaware. He explains that a depressed brain has significantly more activity in the right prefrontal cortex than the left prefrontal cortex. The right side is associated with avoidance, negative emotions and “stuckness”. With an inactive right prefrontal cortex, it’s harder to choose healthy behaviours and regulate emotions – so the cycle goes on. The left side is associated with approaching, positive emotions and resiliency. Goldstein suggests that as relapse prevention is about developing resiliency, and it is comforting that he notes you can help yourself by finding ways to actively stimulate and strength the left prefrontal cortex.

Activating that left side

There are five ways you can stimulate that left side, Goldstein calls them natural antidepressants: mindfulness, self-compassion, purpose, play and mastery. Mindfulness and self-compassion are key. The science behind mindfulness shows that it can cut down on depressive relapse significantly. Using mindfulness, you can develop your resilience as you become aware of your personal depression cues and negative unconscious thoughts. Often people who have been depressed have a low degree of self-compassion and are prone to critical thinking. Self-compassion is a skill that allows you to intentionally turn the volume down on rumination and activate the self-soothing states of the brain to provide an experience of safety, courage and resiliency.

Goldstein encourages you to become familiar with your own depressive loop, where you can get stuck especially if you have experienced depression before, through learned helplessness whereby your thoughts and actions lead you deeper into a depressed state. Apparently, all of us have an automatic negativity bias whereby humans are highly attuned to the dangers and negative possibilities of life, to protect ourselves. Goldstein assures you even though depression occurs as a result of a combination of genetic and environment factors, it is not who you are – it involves a conditioned habit that your brain has learned, and that your brain can unlearn. Researchers call this ability to actively rewire your brain: neuroplasticity.

I loved this book it was very encouraging, and empowers you, allowing you, in your own time and at your own pace, to experiment with the ideas presented. It is easy to read and dilutes complex concepts to make them simple to understand. Uncovering Happiness is jam packed with bite-sized practical exercises and tools, that can be referred to time and time again. I came away primarily with a clearer understanding of how the mind instinctively works, and that at times this doesn’t work in your favour, and that there are ways you can actively work to readdress this balance.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Officer, Mental Health Foundation.

Being mortal5 August 2015

Being Mortal: Illness, medicine and what matters in the end

Gawande, A. (2014) Profile Books

Judging by the number of coffee tables I’ve spotted this book on recently, Being Mortal seems to be required reading for baby boomers, many of whom are still involved in the care of elderly parents. And in this era of unprecedented worldwide ageing, it is indeed a book that explores the important questions of inevitable mortality.

Surgeon, Harvard professor, staff writer for the New Yorker and 2014 BBC Reith lecturer, Atul Gawande, contends that life stories need to have, if not happy, at least dignified endings.

The first half of the book explores aged care in the US, with examples of brilliant initiatives and how they’ve been eroded, while the second looks at the dilemmas faced by doctors, families and patients, of managing bodily decline when there is no possibility of cure.

Less risk, more humanity

The irony of modern healthcare is that while people can stay alive for longer than ever before, longevity itself is prioritised over quality of life. Gawande concludes that society is not well-equipped to help people age with dignity and self-respect. The nursing home option is often pushed by the worried children of parents who “don’t want to be a burden” but who, with a bit more community support, could still function well enough in their own homes. Where institutions are necessary, Gawande argues that they need to be less preoccupied with risk and more about humanity.

When it comes to caring for the terminally ill, there are pitfalls in having too many choices of treatment. Doctors are often reluctant to give up, even in the face of the inevitable death of a patient.

An easy, excellent read

Gawande gives a moving account of his own father’s decline and death from the perspective of a family member, rather than that of a detached medical observer, as he helps his father (also a surgeon) to a peaceful death at home.
This précis doesn’t do justice to the depth and overall readability of Being Mortal. You also need to bear in mind that Gawande is writing about the US healthcare system where the interests of insurance companies often prevail over those of patients. That said, there are ideas and options that are relevant to New Zealand and its ageing population.

Discover more: http://tinyurl.com/kcjal5f

Reviewed by Auckland writer, psychologist and baby boomer Katherine Findlay

buddhas brain29 July 2015

Buddha’s Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom

Hanson, R. & Mendius, R. (2009) New Harbinger Publications

“When your mind changes, your brain changes, too.” This might seem like a strange sentence, but while you wiggle your thoughts around its meaning, you realise that that is the whole point of this book. Buddha’s Brain is a wonderful combination of Buddhist concepts with the added explanations and reasoning of neuroscience, to enhance your life and relationships with others.

Neuroscience has recently discovered that the human brain is not fixed. A person’s brain doesn’t stop developing and changing after a young age, instead it continues to shift and create new aspects to itself throughout your life. This means that your mind and your thoughts are able to create change in the ways in which your brain works. This is fantastic! But how do you change your mind, to then change your brain? This is what Buddha’s Brain is all about.

Changing your mind to change your brain

Author Richard Hanson suggests focussing on and understanding two main questions: What brain states underline the mental states of happiness, love and wisdom? And how can you use your mind to stimulate and strengthen these positive brain states?

To guide you through the answers, the book follows along the path of awakening – to reduce any distress or dysfunction, increase wellbeing, and support spiritual practice. The book is divided in the traditional Buddhist teachings: understand suffering, then happiness, love and lastly wisdom.

Buddha’s Brain is a great book, focusing on Buddhist teachings while providing personal narratives from Hanson to explain concepts emotionally, and also providing the neurological reasoning and explanations behind what your brain is doing. This book provides a rounded description for all readers to comprehend and with meditation practices you can begin on your own.

Hanson organises the book amazingly and creates a wonderful manual for anyone wishing to change their thoughts and create a kinder understanding of yourself and your surroundings.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Fundraising and Communications Intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

sleep deep22 July 2015

Sleep Deep 

Lawrence, L. (2015) Sleep Deep Ltd.

Sleep Deep is a guided meditation book written by Auckland GP Leanne Lawrence to help children learn how to relax into sleep and develop a regular bedtime routine.

Lawrence sees the daily the effects of stress on health in her practice, and was encouraged by the emerging evidence behind the benefits of meditation and relaxation for wellbeing. She sees this progressive relaxation technique as a skill for life for children, with its beneficial effects cumulating with regular use.

I particularly like the preventive aspect, and that this resource provides parents with an in-road to encourage and advise children of the importance of self-reflection and of looking after their wellbeing and energy levels.

Relaxation aides sleep, reduces stress

Lawrence’s technique is based on the principle that relaxation aids sleep and reduces stress in the body. The story telling aspect builds on a child’s confidence through encouraging them to reflect on the positive aspects of their day, and ways in which they are supported and loved.

My friend’s young children tried it out and initially they found it engaging, and seemed to relax and unwind. However, the kids lost some interest near the end when the images finish and the remainder of the book/video is for listening only.

I think over time if children repeatedly use this technique they will come accustomed to the trailing off of the pictures as a signal that it is time to close their eyes, let go and hopefully are lulled into sleep by the soothing voice.

As many children have nonstop energy and often only nod off when completely exhausted, this technique may give them a way to learn to relax not just into sleep, but to pause, reflect and rest their busy bodies and minds.

Lawrence notes it is intended for young ones aged three to seven, but as my friend and I found firsthand, adults can also benefit and may well nod off themselves.

You can purchase Sleep Deep as a book/CD set from Lawrence’s website or try out the Vimeo for free.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Officer

All the bright places15 July 2015

All the Bright Places

Niven, J. (2015) Knopf Books for Young Readers

I wish I read All the Bright Places when I was 15 or when I was at university. Luckily, Jennifer Niven has finally written the book we all need.

The story is a simple. It’s about a girl and a boy, yet all isn’t what it appears to be. Violet is trying to understand the meaning of being a survivor while grieving for her sister. Finch is trying to do anything that keeps him awake and present in the moment. Together these teens work through all the complicated emotions which make life what it is, yet when you believe they are reaching a healing place, their lives spiral out once more.

This book beautifully illustrates what grief is and what power a stigma has. Instead of telling the reader how a character feels Niven is able to express the emotions which grip at your lungs and burn the back of your mind and throat, “She sighs, and I’ve never heard anything like it. It’s a sigh full of pain and loss”.

Physical sickness vs mental sickness

This is the first young adult novel that accurately explains the true feeling people with poor mental health are dealing with, “The fact is, I was sick, but not in an easily explained flu kind of way. It’s my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting… just to make it simple for me and also for them”.

All The Bright Places is a book that will stay with you, it is a book that people want to talk about and should talk about. This book is for anyone who enjoys a lovely story, who has ever gone through depression, or has had a loved one go through depression. Niven wishes for readers to understand,

“Labels like ‘bipolar’ say: This is why you are the way you are. This is who you are. They explain people away as illnesses”.

This book doesn’t label, doesn’t give answers, and doesn’t know the reasons why; it exists so we can all understand and love.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Communications and Fundraising Intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

sam8 July 2015

SAM – Self Help for Anxiety Management app

University of the West of England: http://sam-app.org.uk

Smart phone apps are a convenient, readily accessible tool and for people experiencing anxiety who want quick guidance without the need for lengthy searching or taxing cognitive tasks in the heat of the moment, the Self Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) app is ideal. Developed by a university team, the content is accurate and based on current psychological models.

SAM is the most comprehensive anxiety app I have come across so far. It offers tools for assistance with anxiety in the immediate moment, such as breathing, mindful observing of pictures, and redirecting your focus, all of which are valuable techniques. Additionally the techniques are simple, clear, directive, and what is perhaps most appealing is that they are uniquely interactive. You can, for example, uncover pieces of a picture at a time by dragging your finger across the screen. Slightly longer term tools are also offered, such as increasing awareness of unhelpful thinking styles, questioning your thoughts, and self-care among many more. Granted, a number of these tools are very brief in their description and some could use a little more expansion (or space to type!), but an app is by its nature not a comprehensive resource, nor do the developers claim it to be one.

Great visual cues

Another excellent feature of this app is a brief four-part visual analogue scale for rating your anxiety and tension, worrying thoughts, unpleasant physical sensations, and avoidance. The anxiety tracker provides a visual summary of the your anxiety over time, enabling ongoing monitoring, an important component of change.

There are numerous additional features that add to this app’s appeal, including the ability to save favourite tools to your anxiety toolkit for ease of access later. Combined with the “things that make me anxious” section this has some of the makings of a mini staying well plan. The SAM app also has a social cloud area where users can interact. As with any form of social media, this can have its benefits and pitfalls, but you can choose whether to enter this area or not.

Overall, the SAM app is the most practical anxiety apps I have seen, and with the added benefit of it being university-developed, it is one I certainly recommend.

Reviewed by Dr Mieke Sachsenweger, an Auckland clinical psychologist.

Meditation now1 July 2015

Meditation Now: A beginner’s guide

Reninger, E. (2014) Althea Press

From the creators of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Mindfulness Made Simple, this is a simple step-by-step guide to meditation for beginners who want to develop a regular practice. These 10 minute meditations can be fitted easily into your day and practiced when sitting, walking, eating or while doing yoga or other physical activities – even housework!

The first section introduces the basic meditation technique, then addresses possible obstacles, describes the benefits, and looks at common myths about meditation.

Part two gives detailed instructions for 32 different meditations involving a variety of techniques such as using a mantra or focussing on an object and suggests practical applications. For example “Flowing into the gap” meditation can be used to relieve stress when sitting in traffic, “Focus on rest” meditation can help those struggling with insomnia.

If you want to cultivate positive energy, deal with difficult thoughts and feelings, de-stress or improve your concentration there are meditations to suit your purpose.

With such a variety to choose from the final section gives guidance on how to select which meditation to use and provides three 28 day meditation plans and a plan for a full or half-day meditation retreat at home.

This is an easy to read guide to meditation filled with quotes and practical tips to inspire and motivate the reader.

Reviewed by Jo Beck, an Information Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

anxiety toolkit24 June 2015

The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for fine-tuning your mind and moving past your stuck points

Boyes, A, (2015) Perigree Books

What a great little book! I picked it up because the word toolkit indicated it might be more practical than wordy, and it is. The Anxiety Toolkit is divided into three sections – "Understanding yourself and your anxiety", "Overcoming your stuck points", "Where to next?"

Chapters within these sections feature short questionnaires – to help you determine how a matter might apply to you, practical steps, and reinforced messages. This reinforcement is in a friendly, casual manner – not preachy. Actually none of the book is preachy, which along with its easy-to-read language and style, is its best feature.

Contributing to the book’s feel-good, uncritical style, is that author Alice Boyes tells readers first up that she suffers from anxiety herself and uses many personal examples. I was interested to learn about my own particular anxiety issue – procrastination.

There’s a chapter on that (and chapters also on letting your thoughts hold you back, paralysing perfectionism and fear of criticism) with steps to overcome it. I naturally said to myself that I’d get around to doing those steps one day. But then I was pleasantly surprised in part three to find my response acknowledged with gentle no-guilt-generating messages about how to counter it.

The author recommends this book be used as reference book, dipping into it when the tools are required. I am reluctantly returning this to the library and have already decided to buy a copy for myself.

Reviewed by Margaret Wikaire, Executive Assistant at the Mental Health Foundation.

how to live well17 June 2015

Mindfulness: How to live well by paying attention

Halliwell, E. (2015) Hay House

Ed Halliwell has a list of impressive achievements to his name; he’s co-author of The Mindful Manifesto and works with UK Parliamentarians to bring mindfulness into public policy. But, to me, his personal writing style is a stand out.

He uses imagery to convey concepts that stays with you long after you finish reading the book. I can identify with the image of someone barely hanging on to a horse galloping along at a furious pace, with no idea where they are going. This book provides many practical tools to encourage you to take a closer look at how you react to events and emotions, and to take a wider look rather than focusing on immediate daily challenges. Perhaps taking time to slow down to a canter, and even rest your horse in a field, smell the flowers and as he states in the title, “live well by paying attention”.

Fighting change blindness

I found his discussion of the concept of “change blindness” to be a real wake up call. Change blindness refers to how common it is to zone out or be on autopilot. Halliwell tells of an experiment where the majority of people being served did not notice the changeover of the assistant helping them at a desk, even though they looked quite different from the first assistant. This makes me wonder what I could be unknowingly missing, besides the drive home on autopilot.

This book is considered; it does not overwhelm the reader, instead Halliwell advises you to not to be in a hurry to understand mindfulness. The chapters are bite-sized and he suggests taking a week to work through each one and its recommended practices, over a period of nine weeks. You also get a chance to see how the concepts can be adapted in real life scenarios through the journeys of five others. What really won me over was the generous font size and gaps between lines; effortless on the eyes how can you not relax into this book? Halliwell realistically advises there is only so much you can glean from a book and that face to face experience with an experienced teacher or group is vital to build a lifelong practice.

Mindfulness is a hot topic; there were multiple people who had reserved this book in the library. I would definitely put my name down on the list to read it again, it is a gentle but persuasive read.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, Information Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

claming10 June 2015

Calming the Emotional Storm: Using dialectical behaviour therapy skills to manage your emotions and balance your life

Van Dijk, S. (2012) New Harbinger Publications

Emotional dysregulation means you react emotionally to some situations and your reaction is more intense than the situation warrants, and it takes you longer to recover from such strong emotions. After reading that, I felt like I had emotional dysregulation! But that is the point that Calming the Emotional Storm is trying to make; everyone has difficulties with their emotions, but there are simple ways to change your feeling of uncontrollable emotions.

Calming the Emotional Storm is a perfect book to outline and illustrate ways in restoring emotional stability by focusing on the four Dialectical Behaviour Therapy skills. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is formed from the basic premise that our emotions, thoughts and behaviours are all interconnected, but US psychologist and creator of DBT Marsha M. Linehan adds the concepts of mindfulness and acceptance to this idea. The book gives explanations along with exercises that the reader can use, creating more active learning.

I enjoyed the writing of the book; it’s very organised and well-thought out. The writing is simple which helps define complicated emotions that we all feel. It was a wonderful introduction to mindfulness while not focusing too long on the concept. This book is great to read through, but more ideal for having on hand in order to turn back and refer to its exercises when they are needed. The simplistic Zen Buddhist concepts are soothing to contemplate and simplistically difficult, a juxtaposed concept similar to our daily emotions.

The book doesn’t give the expectation of mastering mindfulness in 30 days, it gently reminds the reader that change takes time, and can be difficult in parts, but sometimes change is just about listening and getting to know your body. Understanding yourself can start with simply listening to your breathing.

Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Communications and Fundraising Intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

out of time3 June 2015

Out of Time: The pleasures and perils of ageing

Segal, L. (2014) Verso

I guess someone has to raise those niggling between-the-cracks questions about ageing, and who better really than Australian-born, UK-based feminist, writer and activist Lynne Segal? A baby boomer herself, she dissects the process of ageing, particularly for women, with formidable intellect, imagination and wit.

Segal’s aim is to discover “cultural narratives that we might draw upon to provide more nuanced thoughts on ageing” than those currently offered to us.

Drawing heavily on the psychological, political and personal writings of many famous writers on ageing, plus her own “looking into the mirror” experiences, Segal theorises that attitudes towards women that subordinated and negated them 40-odd years ago,when she first joined the Women’s Movement, have now been transferred to the elderly – at least in Western society.

Dim-witted arguments and selfish politics

She describes as “dim-witted” arguments that the “selfish” politics of the baby boomers have been to blame for the economic situation in the UK – arguments that are beginning to surface here in New Zealand as our population ages. She also reminds us that positive ageing strategies can serve the interests of neo liberal governments, and champions the ideal of interdependence over independence.

Segal is perhaps at her most interesting when writing about sex and desire in later life. She doesn’t quite buy the idea that unpartnered heterosexual older women who say they feel more liberated “post sex” are telling the whole truth. Somewhat ironically, given her focus on how the ageing female body is constructed as ugly and undesirable, Segal has personally solved the older heterosexual women’s dilemma by finding herself a younger, female partner.

It’s a slightly unsettling book in that it raises more questions than answers, and while there are some affirmations of ageing, readers may be forgiven for thinking that she comes out – at this stage of her life at least – a little more focused on the side of the perils.

Reviewed by Auckland writer, psychologist and baby boomer Katherine Findlay.

Sanctuary27 May 2015

Sanctuary: The discovery of wonder

Leibrich, J. (2015) Otago University Press

“I felt as if I did not belong to myself any longer: I had locked myself out of myself.”

So began Julie Leibrich’s pilgrimage within, to find and cultivate a safe, sacred inner space, and to recover after an overwhelming experience of depression. Finding a way to reconnect with herself and nurture her wellbeing is understood through the idea of sanctuary:

“I call it the space within my heart. It’s the place where I meet myself. It’s where I belong. It is where I find a sense of deeper connection – with myself, and with something beyond myself – a spirit greater than myself.”

Sanctuary: The discovery of wonder is an exploration of this spiritual relationship with herself and the world, and how it has supported her to live well. It is part conceptual framework, part spiritual memoir, part poetic contemplation and part self-help guidebook.

Though the book is deeply, generously personal, it’s not at all self-absorbed – the specificity and depth of Leibrich’s individual story illustrate ideas that have broad relevance. In sharing her own path, the author illuminates the way for others travelling similar routes.

Poetry, personal stories, lists and more

The book shares multiple ways in to thinking about sanctuary: through poetry, personal stories, structured lists, photographs, journal entries, etymology, metaphor, theory and theology. It dances between styles, like a brain following tangents and making connections around a central idea. Based on personal history and experiences, the book is a profoundly individual reflection on sanctuary, but not exclusively so – it’s woven through with reflections from friends and other writers about how the ideas relate to their own lives. And while Leibrich's own spiritual path has connected with Judaism and a Trappist monastery which has provided physical sanctuary, the book’s lessons are not specific to a religion or spiritual path.

I read the book in an eager rush over a long weekend, but it’s structured so that it can be read slowly and quietly, with time between short chapters for contemplation. Since hurrying through the book a second time, I’ve found myself dipping back into specific sections to revisit ideas or concepts.

The book’s structure offers a poetic and practical framework for creating, protecting and enjoying sanctuary. The introduction explores ideas of sanctuary, and shares some of how Liebrich came to realise the need to have access to quiet inner space. “Illuminating sanctuary” offers clues for connecting with experiences of sanctuary, through finding places to belong, people to love, time for oneself, and connection with mind, body and spirit. “Protecting sanctuary” shares tools for nurturing the sense of sanctuary, through cultivating space, solitude, silence, simplicity, slowness and stillness. The fourth section names some of the treasures that might be found within: mystery, meaning and miracles. Finally, an appendix compiles definitions and experiences of sanctuary shared by Leibrich’s friends.

Sanctuary: The discovery of wonder is generous, beautiful and rich with wisdom. Personally, it left me with a deep craving for quiet (translated the next day into a booking for a silent meditation retreat!) and a strong sense of the value of prioritising my relationship with myself.

Reviewed by Moira Clunie, Service Development Manager at the Mental Health Foundation.

first week blues20 May 2015

First Week Blues

Greenslade, J. (2014)

First Week Blues is a perfect book to review for Pink Shirt Day as it teaches children about diversity and acceptance. In First Week Blues Jesse Greenslade tells a story of a time in our lives when we are most likely to be excluded because we go to a new place where we do not know anyone and feel different from others. The story reminds us that everyone has fears to overcome and sometimes need support to do so. This book has been reviewed from three perspectives; parent, child and a primary school teacher.

Mother and child – Kim Higginson and her son

As a mother whose son has not long been at primary school, I was interested in this book as I can see how classroom and playground dynamics really can impact on a young person’s self-esteem and sense of belonging. Its distinctive New Zealand flavour with native birds as main characters helps children instantly relate to the familiar setting. When the main character is teased, as in real life I felt the urge to micromanage and protect my son, and was tempted to dissect the story and offer advice on what the main character should do. Instead I allowed my son time to absorb the story, that naturally progresses to encourage the reader to reflect on the actions of the characters, and in turn themselves, allowing them to come away with some tangible learning.

My son has heard this story three times, which I think is a good sign as he normally only likes to hear a book once. He was focussed and interested in the story, and he particularly liked the main character Blue. He thought it would be a good book for a bully to read. After reading the story he could highlight what made him special (a prominent mole on his forehead) and what made him feel vulnerable (not liking water).

I think both mother and son were able to gleam some wisdom from this book, it particularly made us reflect on our personal reactions to the scenario the main character encounters, and it prompted some heartfelt dialogue.

Primary school teacher – Victoria Stevenson

I shared this picture book with my Year 2 class at Titirangi Primary, and we loved it! The children were impressed straight away by the bright and vibrant illustrations. They were quickly captivated by the story because it was easy for them to connect events with their own experiences. The children showed a lot of empathy for Blue when the other birds were laughing at and excluding him, and they were relieved when Blue was included by Pukeko.

From a teacher’s perspective, I enjoyed the rich use of descriptive language and the clear social message. It was very relatable for the children and they responded positively to the story.

The example of Pukeko thinking of a way to include Blue helped promote discussion about how to stand up for others. I also liked the dream sequences, where the children got to see that everyone has their own fears and vulnerabilities. I would definitely use this book again as a fun and effective way to promote important social messages in the classroom.

Reviewed by Information Officer at the Mental Health Foundation Kim Higginson and Titirangi Primary School Teacher Victoria Stevenson.

dont think13 May 2015

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants

Whelan, S. & Jones, G. (2015) Exisle Publishing

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants is a lovely picture book about a young girl called Sophie, whose night-time anxieties overwhelm her imagination, keeping her awake for hours and leaving her tired the next day.

I leapt at the chance to review this book because I’ve known a few anxious children. Recently I sat down with an eight-year-old and discussed the things that were on his mind. “What if there’s a tsunami,” he asked me, “and all my friends get swept away?”

“What if,” he said, with big, fearful eyes, “my mum gets busy at work and forgets to pick me up? What if I wear my uniform on a mufti-day? What if my friends don’t want to play with me tomorrow?”

Capturing the worries, big and small

Authors Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones do a beautiful job of capturing these worries – big and small – that play on children’s minds. With clever use of colour and black-and-white illustrations, they show that when you’re little, not having enough milk for cereal in the morning can be very troubling, and needs to be taken just as seriously as bigger concerns.

Like many of us who know anxious children, Sophie’s family try lots of ways to help her, and nothing works until her mother comes up with a cunning plan – worry as much as you like, but don’t think about purple elephants!

I really enjoyed this book. It’s simple, engaging and wonderfully illustrated. I felt that it showed adults the effect anxiety can have on children (and the need for us to do what we can to address it) without scare-mongering or ever actually using the word “anxious”! It’s a small book with a bigger message – when we work together and care for each other, our troubles will often subside.

Reviewed by Sophia Graham, Senior Communications Officer, Mental Health Foundation.

hardwiring6 May 2015

Hardwiring Happiness: The practical science of reshaping your brain and your life

Hanson, R. (2013) Harmony

We have become more accessible with the increased use of communication technologies. Some days, it feels as if I have become the dog who keeps chasing its tail. I hardly take the time to embrace the good that happened during the day or struggle to find the time to take notice or connect.

Rick Hanson's book helps to build resilience and wellbeing and become mindful of what is going right instead of the wrong. He offers a scientific explanation and easy steps to rewiring our brain which still responds to basic surviving skills: fight or flight.

It provides the psychology as well as the emotional explanation of how the brain works. It gave me a better understanding of the basic three needs of the human response; challenge the basic assumption of ourselves. It requires active participation while reading the book to make a tangible change.

As someone who has experienced depression for years, learning to take in the good doesn't seem to come in naturally. The book, however, has given me a reason to take the deliberate steps in taking the time to think about the good and take it in.

Reviewed by Ivan Yeo, Information Officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

A prescription29 April 2015

A Prescription for Psychiatry: Why we need a whole new approach to mental health and wellbeing

Kinderman, P. (2014) Palgrave Macmillan

A Prescription for Psychiatry is an inside job. Author Peter Kinderman has written a manifesto for using the psychosocial model to address mental health in direct opposition to the alarmingly unhelpful disease model we have inherited. Kinderman draws battle lines between the biological approach to psychiatry, steeped in the medical tradition of pathogenesis, diagnosis and illness, and the social psychiatry model much more at home in understanding how life circumstances influence the way we make sense of and interpret the world. And Kinderman has some personal and professional insight into this debate; he is a practicing clinical psychologist, was twice the chair of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, is a line-manager of psychiatrists, psychologists and GPs, is a sibling of someone with serious mental illness, and has himself used mental health services. Kinderman knows as much as anyone could know on the topic of mental health and illness, and his advice is plain: Drop the language of disorder and adopt a psychosocial understanding.

The prescription is reform

Kinderman says the determinants of mental health are largely the events and circumstances of people’s lives—for example, life events are far more predictive of future depressive episodes than genes associated with serotonin production. Kinderman also points to the rise of suicide following the global financial crisis, the association between abuse and mental illness, and the few studies that pit biological and social explanations head to head for explanatory variance (social explanations claim most of the variance in these studies). It is interesting to note that only two of the disorders in the DSM (PTSD and adjustment disorder) are directly ascribed to external circumstances, which draws attention to the fact that external factors are plainly omitted in every other diagnostic category our mental health system currently uses.

Personally, I find his model of mental health refreshing and accurate; while biology (nature) and events (nurture) are both inputs into our psychology, events are the overwhelming determinant. The brain as a learning organ constructs ways of seeing the world and interpreting events which produces psychology, which then goes on to influence behaviour, and mental health or mental illness somewhere on the continuum is the outcome. One of the most helpful analogies he uses is a reinterpretation of Plato’s’ dictum to ‘cut nature at its joints’, meaning that we should classify the natural world accurately. This has been taken too far, or applied where it should not, Kinderman argues, for instead of being a chicken, say, with clear categories and different parts, mental health is more of a sausage with far less clear joints and cut-offs. Vegetarians might not find this explanation as helpful as I did.

I also enjoyed the nod to Wilkinson and Pickett’s Spirit Level argument, but then I would as a social reformist at heart. They weren’t the first, but perhaps were the most empirically articulate, to point out mental health problems are highest among nations with the highest inequality. Kinderman is not shy in suggesting that social and political changes are likely to make much more of a difference overall than anything individuals can do alone.

No need to throw the baby out

But this is not all about throwing out biomedical science in favour of blind compassion—both approaches are required. And to be more accurate, a psychobiosocial model is called for, and a resulting collaborative, team approach, to care is prescribed. In a real show of maturity, Kinderman recommends that his own field take less of a leadership role in treating mental illness, in favour of having a collaboration of professionals from the biological (medical psychiatry), social (social and community workers), and psychological (clinical) approaches. Teams based in community settings would be most helpfully guided by GPs and family doctors—not psychiatrists—as they have more understanding of the ecology of individual life circumstances and who are best placed to determine what levers should be pulled to help intervene in the individual’s system.

The strapline for A Prescription for Psychiatry is: why we need a whole new approach to mental health and wellbeing. To see as good a reason as any other for Kinderman’s prescription, we should be able to recognise the many benefits, but importantly the defined limitations, that the disease model provides.

“The need for reform in mental health services is acute, severe, and unavoidable”; to progress any further Kinderman recognises that disruption to the current system is necessary, which can either be led from within the profession of psychiatry itself, butchange must come nonetheless.

Reviewed by Carsten Grimm, Mental Health Promoter, Mental Health Foundation.

Promoting22 April 2015

Promoting Public Mental Health and Wellbeing: Principles into Practice

Brown, J.S., Learmonth, A.M. and Mackereth, C.J. (2015) Jessica Kingsley Publisher

Choosing this book to review from the Mental Health Foundation information service was an easy decision for me. Right from the introduction, the authors challenge the reader to answer the question: what creates mental health and wellbeing? Each chapter begins with key points to ponder and evidence and case studies to support the book’s underlying principles. These are part of the learned experience of most mental health promoters and the authors use the Ottawa Charter as a framework on which to base their strategic thinking.

The mental health strategy in the UK looks to all sectors of the population to work together to promote independence and choice, with six broad objectives as follows: more people will have good mental health; more people with mental health problems will recover; more people with mental health problems will have good physical health; more people will have a positive experience of care and support; fewer people will suffer avoidable harm and fewer people will experience stigma and discrimination.

What affects mental health?

These are outcomes that are also sought by New Zealand’s health services and are affected by improving the wider determinants of health throughout life. The second chapter asks what affects mental health and wellbeing and begins with examination of the wider social and physical issues.

Key points include: peace is an essential prerequisite for mental health and wellbeing; the impact of housing on mental health and wellbeing is increasingly being recognised as vital both as a cause of and a consequence of mental health problems; many studies have shown a strong association between access to green and open spaces and to nature, and better mental health; any approach to public health should address the challenge of sustainability; those with a mental health problem are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators, particularly when it comes to violent crime. I found myself reflecting on the similarities between the key points and what Auckland Council is experiencing as the city grows.

Suicide risk profiles similar to UK

The extended case study on the prevention of suicide and self-harm revealed many themes very similar to what we see in New Zealand. Those at higher risk of suicide in UK include men, young people and people aged over 85. Life circumstances associated with depression are likely to be linked to suicide. In this chapter, social services, primary care, accident and emergency departments, alcohol and drugs services and community-based mental health services figure among factors for prevention and treatment.
Other case studies look at what different sectors can do in relation to long-term conditions. The provision of equipment to aid self-management and independent living, with stair-lifts, access ramps, emergency alarms, mobile phones and TV are mentioned. The training of frontline staff to recognise long-term conditions and participatory interventions including social activity and support is highlighted for young and old people.

Lengthy read leads to self-questioning

These case studies, together with the preceding chapters, make this book, and its 50 references and subject and author index make for a long read and also much self-questioning on my part, as well as recognising a need to read many of the books listed.
I am concluding with an abbreviated description of an older woman known to the authors. She smokes and lives alone in a deprived area with little scope for recreational or safe walking. Social isolation is not unlikely; she is no longer going out to work and all these factors make her feel less happy or confident in herself and can lead to depression. The vicious spiral continues. It is harder to get a job when physical health problems adversely affect mental wellbeing but joblessness exacerbates mental ill health.

On the other hand, a positive spiral effect can emerge if action is taken. For instance, if the woman is befriended and gains the confidence to go out once a week, she may then start to gain social contacts and improve her physical fitness. In turn, this will make it easier for her to increase the amount of social contact she has. I recommend the book to people who want to promote the mental health and wellbeing of others and also enhance their own.

Reviewed by Marie Hull-Brown, Mental Health Promoter, Mental Health Foundation

landscape15 April 2015

Landscape and Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing

Souter-Brown, G. (2015) Routledge

Urban design is an area of interest for me; as well as having been on community park committees, taken landscape design courses and run main street refurbishment projects, I’ve just moved from way up north to the centre of Auckland. So I was really looking forward to reading this book and getting some positive reinforcement and ideas about the benefits of well-designed spaces for the health and wellbeing of the community.

My anticipation was rewarded but I was also disappointed. The book was preachy; paragraph after paragraph and chapter after chapter reinforced the same message of the health and wellbeing benefits of well-designed public spaces. I kept wondering, who was the target audience? The introduction says it is for “students and practitioners of design, health and education”. I get that, and it’s a worthy aim, but let’s not turn them away from the excellent message with too much preaching.

Getting past the preach

Fortunately I can report, once I got past the preachiness, I found a very interesting and informative book. The history of healing gardens, with references to Islamic and monastic gardens as having nailed the health-giving peacefulness of gardens, is thought provoking. And the discussion on school playground design that, of late, has minimal seating to encourage more physical activity but, in reality it has instead encouraged violent play.

The chapter on salutogenic design guidelines will be one of the most referenced and the acknowledgment of the limited budgets that communities usually have for these types of projects is refreshingly real.

Lists, bullet points and boxes may have made this type of book more readable than the large tracts of text, but it is broken by case studies and photos. The relevance of the case studies make interesting reading – but perhaps would have made more impact with more accompanying before and after photos.

This is a book that makes you dream of a world where nature comes first and development fits around it. It is the book that you wish all town planners, school boards and elected representatives would read – and that if they persist through the reiteration, they’ll learn the positive impact that they can have on the health and wellbeing of he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Reviewed by Margaret Wikaire, Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive at the Mental Health Foundation.

youth wrap8 April 2015

Youth WRAP: Wellness Recovery Action Plan

Copeland, M.E., with Elenes, L., Marquez, K., Cortes, A., Elenes, R., Alvarez, P., Roost, L., and Anthes, E. (2012) Peach Press

What a neat little parcel this 63-page soft cover booklet is. Not only does Mary Ellen Copeland explain the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) in a scant few pages, she manages to do it in a way that is easily understood by adults and teens alike – I know because my 14-year-old read the introduction and was able to tell me exactly what the concept was, who it was for and how it should be used.

The youth edition is written by youth for youth working with Dr Copeland – who created WRAP in 1997 – and Ed Anthes to better assist youth in managing their wellness and their lives.

Great pocket guide

It’s a great pocket guide that uses language, plans and activities that transcend its US origins, so that it applies just as much to an American teen as it does to a Kiwi one.

The contents contain an overall description of WRAP, how to get started with your own WRAP and how to develop a wellness toolkit. Then the next six sections are intended to be used to actually create your own plans using lots of checklists and to dos. There is a daily maintenance plan, triggers and action plan, early warning signs and action plan, when things are getting much worse and action plan, crisis plan and post crisis plan.

There is a final section on how to use WRAP in your everyday lives and it encourages plan makers to celebrate! Making a WRAP is suitable for anybody wanting to feel better, get well and stay well over time. It’s a sensible, non-emotive practical resource. I like it.

Reviewed by Susie Hill, communications consultant and medical writer

brainstorm1 April 2015

Brainstorm: The power and purpose of the teenage brain

Siegel, D. (2014) Tarcher

“If I had to summarise in one word all of the research on what kind of parenting helps create the best conditions for a child’s and adolescent’s growth and development, it would be the term ‘presence.’” – Daniel Siegel, Brainstorm.

And there it is, a timeless reality, realised and expressed in diverse ways by all cultures through the ages. It’s a no-brainer really – if we are not present for our experiences and for experiences of significant others, then the likelihood of stress, dysfunction, misunderstanding and even serious mental health problems can increase. On the other hand, when we are present for the continuously shifting sands of such experience, we foster self-awareness, increase empathy, and promote an ever-deepening sense of integration.

There are three terms (self-awareness, empathy and integration) that Siegel uses a lot throughout Brainstorm, which seek to help both teens and adults better understand and navigate this intense time of change in the brain. It's a period where the brain is re-organising and seeking to integrate a great deal of development that has unfolded in preceding years.

Pushing the boundaries

Given Siegel’s analysis, it's no surprise most teenagers push boundaries in search of novelty. This is part of healthy brain development as young people look to explore their world more widely and to express ideas more creatively. Such exploration will involve some push-back against the rules and some turbulence as the nature of relationships shifts toward a focus on peers and in preparation for leaving the safety of the nest.

If there weren’t this drive (which occurs in other species as well), then what would be the motivation for leaving home, and what asks Siegel, would that mean for the diversity of the human gene pool? And all of this fuelled by an intense emotional spark, which is essentially the spark of life!

A time of opportunity

Adolescence is a time of immense opportunity, where we, as adults, can support young people to maximise the immense changes occurring in the brain, by being present for these changes in a way that is curious, open, loving and mindful. Yes structure is important, but so too is empowerment.

Siegel reminds us children and young people need to feel safe, seen (but not smothered), soothed, and secure. From that basis, their exploration of the world and what it means to be human can soar. Siegel provides tips for ripening these conditions by providing tools throughout the book. These are essentially mindfulness-based practices ranging from the traditional to the innovative designed to support teens and adults alike.

Two targets not successful

If I were to have one criticism, Brainstorm attempted to target both teen readers and adults. While I enjoyed it immensely, I wonder how many teens would. I'm approaching middle age and have no idea what a teen would read these days! Maybe Seigel was right on the button? And in his defence, he doesn’t try to come across in a way that a middle-aged man might think teenagers would speak (a grave mistake made by many). Instead he approaches this work with warmth, honesty and authenticity. It's the reflection of a person who is most likely very self-aware, empathic and well-integrated.

Reviewed by Grant Rix, operations manager, Mindful Aotearoa at the Mental Health Foundation

The brain25 March 2015

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New insights

Goleman, D. (2011) More Than Sound

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence is a concise overview of the concept of emotional intelligence for the novice, and a boon for the time or attention-challenged. At less than 80 pages, it’s a zippy read, yet rich in scope, discussing emotional intelligence versus IQ, creativity, self-awareness and mastery, motivation, stress, how to achieve optimal performance and more.

Daniel Goleman has written several longer books (which I’ve not read) on emotional intelligence. Goleman's introduction suggests that this short volume is intended as an update to accommodate new research, but not an exhaustive review: “this is a work in progress that focuses on actionable findings, on new insights you can use”. In some ways it reads like a blog. Research findings and technical diagrams are interspersed with chatty anecdote and suggestions for practical application.

A bit choppy and jumpy

However at times its brevity, teamed with its ambitious scope, makes for choppy jumps in tone and topic. It can be unclear who the intended audience is: students, teachers, managers, coaches, the science-curious lay reader? After a little digging, it appears that this was, at least in the original digital-only edition, indeed an anthology of selected essays, which accounts for some of the unevenness.

That said, I found many enlightening points to ponder, for example the links between creativity and relaxation, (bearing out the value of a long-held habit – a walk around the block when blocked) and the negativity bias of email. Emoticons are my new best friends!

I would recommend this as a reasonably easy toe-dip for anyone interested in learning about the underlying mechanisms of emotions, or to those seeking a brief but thorough introduction to the field of affective neuroscience.

Reviewed by Amy MacKinnon, graphic designer at the Mental Health Foundation.

The big18 March 2015

The Big Little Book of Resilience

Johnstone, M. (2015) Pan Macmillan

They say good things come in small packages – well that’s certainly true of this little book. The Big Little Book of Resilience couldn't have come to me at a better time in my life. The book is filled with words of wisdom that shed light on the human condition. It teaches us how to accept things that life throws at us, complete with useful ideas to build resilience. What's more it is easy to read with beautiful illustrations.

The book is divided into two parts, on talking about the reality of life and what it has to do with resilience, the other providing information about eating, sleeping, forgiveness and ideas about how to have a healthy mind and body.

In a nutshell, this is such a good gift for friends, and I have also decided to buy one just for me.

Reviewed by Ivan Yeo, information officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

suicide in men11 March 2015

Suicide in Men: How men differ from women in expressing their distress

Edited by David Lester, John F. III Gunn, and Paul Quinnett

Suicide is a complex problem, and doesn't have simple causes or solutions. One of the complexities is the higher numbers (often much higher) of men, than women who die by suicide in all countries, except China. This is despite universally higher numbers of women who attempt suicide. In most populations higher numbers of women also meet the criteria for diagnoses of depression and anxiety disorders.

Suicide in Men is an internationally orientated volume that explores the possible explanations for higher rates of death by suicide in men, and it also looks at a range of related issues around male suicide. Chapter topics include the realtionship between suicide and loneliness, depression, drugs and alcohol, risks and protective factors, athletes, armed forces, gay men, other cultures (including Chinese, Ugandan and Palestinian men), suicide bombers and creativity. Towards the end of the book there are also chapters on what may work in prevention programmes.

In all there are 17 contributors to this book, with the bulk of the writing coming from the three editors. Most of the the chapters are written in academic style, reading like literature reviews, with very tentative conclusions and the ubiquitous phrase of most academic papers: "more research is needed...".

At times the academic caution, formality and provisos makes the reading a little hard going, and also rather dry, feeling a little removed from the tragic and heart-wrenching subject matter. A few chapters, however, do have a more human touch (the chapter on‘fatal loneliness, for instance) and some take a more theoretical analysis and several argue for complete paragdigm shifts in suicide prevention for men.

Overall, this is not a book that will attract a more general readership, but is likely to be of great interest to those working or studying in the field of suicide prevention and mental health services with a gender focus. While the book is focussed on suicide in men, it of course make comparisons with women's experiences, and considers many of the sub groups within men. So it could also be a useful resource for anyone with an interest in population approaches to suicide.

Unfortunately for an Aotearoa audience there is no chapter looking specifically at indigenous male experience and suicide within a colonising European origin culture.

I believe this book is an extremely valuable resource for those who want to discover the depths and limits of what we know about suicide in men as well as some emerging answers for successful approaches to prevention. The numbers of men globally who die by suicide, must be one of the major and and more tragic public health problems today, but the impression from this book is that it is also possibly one of the less recognised and researched ones, too.

Reviewed by Hugh Norriss, director of policy and development, Mental Health Foundation

sustainable4 March 2015

Sustainable Happiness: Live simply, live well, make a difference

Edited by Sarah Van Gelder and YES! magazine staff

“To lead a more meaningful and fulfilling existence, simple living is not about abandoning luxury, but discovering it in new places.”

I describe this book as a “wholesome” read; it’s fabulous for self reflection and finding sustaining happiness.

The personal stories and theories about mental health helped me acknowledge and appreciate how we used to behave and live in a society, and how things have changed – for the worse.

The book’s contention is that consumerism, growth of a profit-driven economy, greed and inverted perspectives have led us to live in a world where happiness is infrequent and non-sustainable.

Although some of the suggestions seem unrealistic, there is a logical basis to what is being said. For example, the encouragement to find work you love isn’t financially possible for many people, but the principle argued is that money doesn’t buy happiness!

For years, many people have been able to achieve sustainable happiness simply by living off of the bare minimum, the authors suggest. To accomplish this, we figure out where our values and talents meet and finding the things that work for us as individuals. The bottom-line, for the betterment of your mental health and happiness, is ‘take the plunge, follow your calling’, even if it scares you.

Nevertheless, the book comes with a good dose of reality; it advises readers not to plan immense moves and reminds us that over-thinking things can sway us in the wrong direction.

I recommend this book for anyone who has fallen victim to the profit-driven economy and advertising pressures of today.

Reviewed by Ellie David, communications intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

spirited25 February 2015

Spirited Ageing

Batten, J. (2013) Ishtar Books

Like many people, I have not looked forward to ageing but I am retiring and it is important for me to make the most of this later stage of my life. I want to do ageing well and Spirited Ageing is just the book I needed to set me on the right course.

If you think successful ageing means sky-diving or running a marathon in your 80s, you’re going to have to think again. The core message of the book is that if you recognise you are more than just a body you can accept your physical decline while you expand your spirit and live a rich and satisfying life.

Spirituality not necessarily religious

Spirituality is not defined in religious terms but rather as "connecting with the pulse of life through nature, creativity, love or spiritual practices". Accessing this power enables you to stay alive on the inside regardless of what is happening in the body.

Spirituality is just one aspect of the book. It also outlines the steps you can take when you are young-old (60s to mid-late 70s) such as taking better care of your body, practising mindfulness, fostering relationships, clearing clutter and letting go of attachment to things. There’s plenty of practical advice such as deciding where to live, changing negative thoughts and appointing an attorney. Each chapter includes exercises to help with these tasks and suggests topics for reflection and there are useful templates in the appendices.

Making a graceful exit

The final chapters address the aspects of ageing that are most feared such as dementia, pain and loneliness, and then discuss ways in which you can prepare to make a graceful exit.

As part of her research, Juliet Batten questioned many people, mostly New Zealanders in their 60s and 70s, and their responses are used as quotes throughout the book. I found this made the examples real and the advice particularly meaningful.

Despite tackling the hard issues the tone of the book is entirely positive and uplifting and, when I had finished reading, I felt energised and enthusiastic about the years ahead. I intend to buy my own copy so that I can refer to it as I go along.

Reviewed by Jo Beck, information officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

 18 February 2015

Families & Mental Illness – Speaking From Experience

Produced by Real Time Health and SANE Australia.

The Families & Mental Illness – Speaking From Experience DVD tells the story of people living with mental illness and their carers. They openly talk about their lives, coming to terms with illness, finding a balance, self acceptance and awareness, preparation, finding support and looking ahead.

The DVD looks shows how mental illness not only the affects the individual, but also those around them. It draws on real-life experiences that would be helpful for people who care for those who live with mental illness.

Although this DVD reports on those affected by bipolar and schizophrenia, it would be useful for anyone who is caring for someone with any mental health condition. Parents, siblings, partners or friends find that they take on a huge amount of responsibility when caring for someone experiencing a mental illness. Often they put so much time into looking after someone else that they forget to care for themselves.

Carers take time out

One of the core messages of the DVD is that it is essential that carers are able to take time for themselves and constructively express their emotions, through, for example, drawing, playing the guitar, writing, or cooking, or any other activity that can help the individual rediscover or strengthen a positive mindset. Practicality and real-life experience is what makes this programme credible.

The accompanying booklet goes into more detail. Advice, stories and services* with a specific focus on different types of carers are presented throughout the booklet, with reference to what is introduced in the DVD. It is a well-thought out and informative package for carers.

*Please note the services listed are for Australian residents. For New Zealand services, please refer to the Get Help section of the Mental Health Foundation website.

Reviewed by Ellie David, communications intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

challenging11 February 2015

Challenging the Stigma of Mental Illness: Lessons for therapists and advocates

Corrigan, P.W., Roe, D., and Hector W H Tsang, H.W.T. (2011) Wiley-Blackwell

Challenging the Stigma of Mental Illness is a call to action that arms you with the information and resources to address a wide range of situations from, stigmatising media reports to the self-stigma of people with lived experience.

It contains example worksheet and links you to resources for evaluation and planning of projects. This book won’t be the only resource you will need to create an anti-stigma project but I think offers a good grounding to decide what is an appropriate approach to make the best impact. The authors also provide lists of other resources, research and further readings.

Stigma is "venomous, poisonous and criminal"

Challenging the Stigma of Mental Illness is a comprehensive introduction of how to challenge stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. From the beginning they remind the reader why stigma is an issue that must be addressed and are unapologetic in their language describing stigma as "venomous, poisonous and criminal". This strong language, alongside real stories, and the findings of research in to stigma ensures the reader is in no doubt there is an enemy to fight, and just like racism and sexism, it is all of our responsibility to challenge.

Sadly, the authors do get some facts wrong about the New Zealand's own Like Minds, Like Mine campaign not realising it has been going 18 years now and in the resources section listed the project under Australia! But I will forgive them for these small slips as I got so much from this book.

Good straight talking

Even for those of us currently working in anti-stigma work I think the straight talking about the personal nature of stigma and the explicit description of stigma as a social injustice reinvigorates our work.

Simply having current approaches reaffirmed as effective is useful but the books also provokes discussions on the complex nature of creating attitude and behaviour change and have the opportunity to think about alternative methods.

I had some ‘aha’ moments reflecting on what I was reading and some current issues I am working on. I will be holding on to the book to work through some of these ideas and want to discuss further with other anti-stigma workers. This is a good one to keep on your bookshelf – or at least borrow a copy take some good notes!

Reviewed by Lisa Ducat, mental health promoter with the Mental Health Foundation.

thrive4 February 2015

Thrive: The power of evidenced-based psychological therapies

Layard, R. & Clark, D.M. (2014) Allen Lane

When I heard Richard Layard (aka Professor Lord Layard) had written another book after his 2005 game-changer Happiness: Lessons from a new science, I was understandably eager to learn what would be the new leading edge of thought around mental health and wellbeing from one of the world’s eminent experts.

Layard, a labour economist by trade, has for the last 10 years teamed up with David Clark, a clinical psychologist from Oxford, to form the "dream team of British social science" according to Martin Seligman. They have effectively lobbied the British government to implement what has become the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, which the book describes in detail.

Common sense

The central thesis of the book is both compellingly simple and extraordinarily powerful: Too many people suffer from entirely treatable mental illnesses and there is no reason why this injustice cannot be remedied. Layard and Clark point out that the overwhelming majority of people with physical illness receive high quality treatment, and yet comparatively few sufferers of mental illness do. While 90% of diabetes sufferers receive treatment for their condition, under a third of all adults with diagnosable mental illness do. Worst of all, mental ill-health causes more of the suffering in our society than physical illness, poverty or unemployment. The authors then set out the science supporting the effectiveness of evidenced-based, modern day talking therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and others, and to my view argue successfully that access to gold standard therapy should be a citizen’s guaranteed right.

Economic sense

While the comparison to physical treatment standards should be enough to convince most people that access to mental illness treatment should be made more easily available, the authors use their expertise to build a compelling case based on rational economics as well. The cost of delivering a course of gold standard psychological therapy (usually about 10 sessions) is more than made-up for in recouped public welfare and health costs: Pay for psychological therapy with public money and it will cost you nothing in the long run because of the savings in associated physical healthcare alone. Additionally, Layard and Clark speak to the tremendous quality of life improvements and subsequent return to society of citizens more able to contribute fully to the economic system. While Thrive does not dwell for long on a hard economic argument, it is made well for the penny-pinchers in the readership.

Time for change

The key message of Thrive is for parity of treatment for people who are physically and mentally ill. Layard and Clark suggest society will reflect back in 25 years’ time and marvel that it took us so long to widely introduce easy access to such good quality, scientifically validated therapies. The book does a very good job of interspersing short excerpts from letters written directly to Lord Layard describing not only the acute suffering of those who have experienced anxiety, depression, and other illnesses, but also of the life-changing turn-arounds that CBT and other therapies gave those who had felt there was previously no hope.

Thrive argues for nothing less than a revolution in our attitudes towards treating mental illness and offers an alternative to the current system to make the world a happier and mentally healthier place.

Reviewed by Carsten Grimm, mental health promoter with the Mental Health Foundation.

 28 January 2015

How to be a happier fish

Review of mobile app: ACT Companion: The Acceptance Commitment Therapy Training app

While thinking about writing this review, I had a vision of a fish floundering in the water, which is how I feel sometimes in my busy life as a working mum.

Then I realised The ACT Companion, or Acceptance Commitment Therapy app, is useful because it gives me a chance to get present, quickly work out what’s important to me, get unstuck from unhelpful thinking, and to work out the best action to take.

The app first caught my eye because it focuses not only on mindfulness, but also gently encourages staying open to what is going on in life, while at the same time remaining true to your own values.

The app is produced by Australian psychologist Anthony Berrick, who has a particular interest in behavioural psychology and mindfulness-based interventions. It has also received high praise from Russ Harris, an acclaimed ACT trainer and author of The Reality Slap. Dr Harris says the app is the most impressive ACT or mindfulness app he's seen yet.

Put ACT into action, with three simple steps

The ACT Companion provides three simple steps to help you get present through mindfulness exercises, open up using acceptance exercises, and engage with commitment exercises.

As with any therapy or tool, it’s dependent on you to make an effort to reap the rewards. The app is easy and rewarding to use, keeps explanations simple, can be personalised and offers many insights. Whatismore, using an app is just way easier to use than lugging a book or journal around.

The app has the option to set reminders to finish exercises, and you receive a weekly check-in alert where you can assess if your recent responses to life's challenges reflected your core values.

Visual cues to remember what's important

I particularly liked the treasure chest feature where you can attach a photo to represent a personal value, eg, a photo of my son to remind me to stop, to play and have fun more often.

I like the immediacy of it, when you are out and about you can use life examples as they happen, or carry on with an exercise if fresh inspiration hits. There’s also a user guide for health professionals to use during your therapy sessions.

With ACT Companion: The Acceptance Commitment Therapy Training app, I’m now perhaps less of a flapping fish and working towards being a happier fish swimming in a pond that sustains me.

Reviewed by Kim Higginson, information officer at the Mental Health Foundation.

Mindfulness21 January 2015

Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world

Williams, M. & Penman, D. (2011). Piatkus

Mindfulness is the awareness of our physical and mental surroundings, both within and around us. After taking up a bit of amateur mindfulness myself I was eager to give this book a read. From the first page I was able to relate to it greatly; as would anyone who has experienced stress.

The book is written in a friendly, conversational style, but what really swayed me to delve deeper into its pages was the way the authors altered my understanding of mindfulness. Mindfulness illustrated that clearing your mind is not the singular focal point of the task, it can ultimately do much more than that.

Real life stories

The guide has been written for people who have stress in their lives, acknowledging and relating to them well. The authors use real life stories to help the reader see that everyone (no matter how busy you think you are) has the ability to be mindful.

Although I found this guide to be quite repetitive, in respect to the information and examples it provides, the exercises and the structure of the programme are easy to understand and apply to everyday life.

Chocolate meditation

One of my favourite exercises is chocolate meditation. This is the very first task of the programme and one I am sure you will enjoy too. Who would have thought that being mindful about eating a piece of chocolate could make that chocolate taste so much better than before?

I liked the use of metaphor in the book, finding it helped me understand why mindfulness is so good for you. For example: “When unhappiness or stress hover overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift pass.”

Only having enough time to try the first week of meditation, I very much look forward to taking on the next seven weeks of the programme. I would recommend this book for anyone, of any age, who is feeling anxious, stressed or depressed. It is a really good practical guide to finding mindfulness in a chaotic life.

Reviewed by Ellie David, communications intern at the Mental Health Foundation.

How to be17 December 2014

How to be an explorer of the world

Smith, K. (2008). Perigee Trade

An appealing but, for me, potentially dangerous book! Immediately it promises to be neither tedious nor difficult. The book's quarto size and 13mm thickness of strong, flexible leaves and cover are pleasant to handle.

The 208 black, white, grey and orange pages, many illustrated, and its fieldwork recording sheets are visually enticing. The text of handwritten capitals, even to the page numbers, ditto. I am interested, challenged.

Read in any order, adapt and interpret

Instructions are to read the book in any order, starting with whatever arouses a twinge of excitement. There are suggestions, not rules, and every exercise can be adapted, is open to interpretation and to be seen as an experiment. Many exercises involve using the senses to notice the world in more detail, perhaps even suspending usual frameworks of experience – do you recognise mindfulness, originally a Buddhist meditation practice now increasingly used in therapy?

Fail-safe tasks that need little energy

So far a helpful book for depression: fail-safe tasks that need little energy, but require the assertive act of choice and a reaching out to the world beyond self. Many exercises ask for a walk outdoors, in itself therapeutic but often very difficult to achieve, I find. But even at the low point of being curled up in a foetal position under the bed, hiding from life, I could still listen for different sounds, notice smells or think of all the different materials surrounding me. Certainly a useful adjunct or approach to journaling, which I’ve stopped.

On page 109, author Keri Smith quotes John Cage: “[The residual purpose of art is] purposeless play... This play, however, is an affirmation of life... a way of waking up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent... ”

I find depression to be a serious, life-denying, self-denying experience, so what a boon to have a book telling me to play! Smith also quotes Charles Eames: “Who is to say that pleasure is useless?”

In my rarer episodes of elevated mood I would definitely need to stay away from the book. In fact if I had the book, using it daily might be an early warning sign that my mood was heading upwards.

What to trade for this book?

I am, by nature, a collector and hoarder. As a child I had collections of books, shells, postage stamps, fizzy bottle labels, rock samples, cacti; today it’s newspaper articles, yarn, fabric pieces, zips, buttons, card and paper, reels of thread, knitting patterns, books and cacti again. I collect for knowledge, because I love analysing and classifying, and to have resources for creating. Especially as my husband is the same if not more so, I don’t need this book’s encouragement to collect objects though collecting descriptions might pass muster. I even collect projects and having many on the go may be a sign of a high on its way.

I’m supposed to be decluttering. If I buy How to be an Explorer of the World for $23.40 from the University Bookshop I must cull a book in exchange. I could also make art from bits of my clutter and hold an art show – helpful advice on how to is just before the glossary, bibliography and thanks – and might sell enough to buy storage containers and folders.

Lastly the imagination exercise on pages 144 and 145: What if I had the power of invisibility? If all my neighbours had secret lives? If the newspaper held all the secrets of the universe in some kind of code? If all leaves had secret messages embedded into them? And what would it be like to travel on a beam of light? Wouldn’t a psychiatrist be interested in hearing about this!

Keri Smith has written other books and has a great website: www.kerismith.com

Reviewed by Marion Beamish.

building 210 December 2014

Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to cultivate inner strength in children

Lantieri, L (2014) Boulder: Sounds True.

In 2013 I was fortunate to attend the Melbourne-based Happiness & Its Causes conference. At this conference I heard author Linda Lantieri as one of the keynote speakers and attended a half-day workshop. Hearing Lantieri truly brought the book to life and although it speaks mainly to parents, it is just as useful in the school setting.

As Lantieri showed us, her work in this field was heightened greatly by the events of 11 September 2001. It was the actions of teachers and children as they fled this disaster that led her to a deeper understanding: "that the real tests of life can come a child’s way at any moment and that we as adults cannot protect our children from circumstances beyond our control." Mindfulness then is the central theme of this work and looking into ways of being that help in moments of stress.

Lantieri a pioneer in her field

In Daniel Goleman’s words, who is also a foremost thinker in the field of emotional intelligence, "Lantieri has continued to be a pioneer in the movement to integrate social and emotional learning into schools throughout the world."

The three main areas of this work which resonate in my role promoting health and wellbeing are:

  1. The importance of the role of teachers being a caring and supportive adult believing in their students.
  2. The role of social and emotional learning supporting the development of cognitive skills and knowledge.
  3. The importance of developing mindfulness into everyday life both within the home and in the school setting.

Increasingly schools are becoming busy environments unhelpfully obsessed with academic learning outcomes with constant testing, assessment and reporting on a variety of levels. As Lantieri shows by quoting Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence (1995), "One of psychology’s open secrets is the relative inability of grades... to predict unerringly who will succeed in life… There are widespread exceptions to the rule that IQ predicts success - many (or more) exceptions than cases that fit the rule. At best, IQ contributes about 20% to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80% to other forces."

An untapped area of learning

It is this largely untapped area of learning which Lantieri presents for parents and teachers to consider, and in our schooling system a high level of interaction between each setting (home and school) is encouraged and expected. The set of five basic skills or competencies which can be systematically cultivated are explained clearly in Chapter Two: Preparing to teach children exercises to calm the body and focus the mind. The guiding principles for these are very easy to grasp as teachers and parents guide children in understanding themselves and their responses to life’s events.

This book offers two different tools to manage stress effectively developing deep breathing exercises (diaphragmatic breathing). The second tool teaches how to progressively relax the body’s muscles. Once people become used to these routines there is a CD with age-graded activities and helpful directions to manage. Teachers and parents helping children to manage themselves, their relationships and their responses to everyday life is critical to setting up more positive, successful futures. And of course in becoming more mindful of their children, of their students, both parents and teachers stand to gain in their own lives.

Mindfulness in academic outcomes

Finally, this book has the enormous potential to assist schools to develop their awareness of the role of mindfulness in the academic outcomes they wish for their students. The Education Review Office in its Wellbeing for Success: Draft Evaluation Indicators for Student Wellbeing 2013 is asking the same questions which Lantieri poses:

Do we systematically and purposefully teach the skills needed for students to develop social awareness, relationship skills, self-confidence, self-management and responsible decision-making?
To what extent are the principles of health and physical education curriculum (hauora, attitudes and values, socio-ecological perspective and health promotion) known, understood and integrated into all curriculum areas?
How well are the achievement objectives set out in health and physical education integrated across the implementation of the curriculum?
Therefore I am encouraging anyone who reads this to take the time to explore Lantieri’s work, read her publications, listen to her presentations and support others to develop a more mindful approach to their lives.

Review by Richard Wisnesky, a Health Promoting Schools Adviser in the community and public health a division of the Canterbury District Health Board.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

how to3 December 2014

How to have Creative Ideas: 62 exercises to develop the mind

de Bono, E. (2008) US: Vermilion.

This book is small in size but large in punch - the majority of its contents consisting of word games designed to enhance one’s ability to think creatively.

As author Edward de Bono says: “The emphasis in on the creativity of ‘what can be’ rather than the usual education emphasis on ‘what is’.”

Creativity is strongly linked with achievement - in any sphere of life.

De Bono maintains that creativity is a skill that can be learned, and is necessary to learn if we are to achieve success, give our business a competitive edge, or enable us to stand above the crowd in academic and work environments.

Possibility is the key to creativity

The brain training exercises (or games) are designed to help develop mental skill and mental habits which promote possibility rather than certainty in our work and lives. As he states - possibility is the key to creativity.

The word games are meant to be used as physical exercise is - daily, increasing in intensity as one’s strength develops.

The games can be used in teams, in work groups or alone. They are not about intelligence, but about enhancing one’s ability to make connections, see what is possible, instead of being rational, logical or limited.

De Bono entreats his readers to “Have fun. But it is serious fun. Creativity is a very serious skill… you can have fun while you develop this skill.”

Review by Miriam Millson, part of the team at Beth-Shean Trust respite.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

How to 226 November 2014

How to have a Beautiful Mind

De Bono, E. (2004) Ebury Press

An arresting title, a colourful, enticing cover, a respected and interesting author; all this makes an easy choice for my book review. The back cover blurb entreats readers to “use the power of creative thinking to become more attractive with a makeover for your mind!”

Edward De Bono speaks of beauty as being “something that can be appreciated by others”, and sets about showing the reader using simple concepts, and clear writing in bite-sized chunks, how working on conversational skills can make us appear more interesting and attractive.

From conversation to problem-solving

The chapters range across basic conversational skills - how to listen, how to respond, how to agree or disagree - through the use of concepts or values in conversation, to looking at the range of attitudes commonly encountered when interacting with others.

De Bono also touches on lateral thinking and six hats problem-solving - concepts on which he has written at length elsewhere, but which contribute to developing a beautiful mind.

Everyone can learn something here

You may think: what is new in this? I have heard this before! Some of it, yes, no doubt you have.

Maybe your conversations are seasoned with these ideas, in which case people probably already enjoy discussions with you.

I am convinced however, that even the most confident conversationalist can learn something of value from this book.

Those who lack confidence in social settings, who doubt their ability to hold a conversation, or who feel that they have little to offer will find themselves willing to test some of these skills in meetings or social situations.

Great skills to learn

Here are a few gems:

Being interesting is more important than winning an argument.
Feelings can control perception. But without feelings we would not be interested in perceiving anything at all.
You can be using a concept without being aware of the concept you are using.
A really skilled conversationalist can create interest from any topic whatsoever.
You bother to make your appearance attractive. Why not bother to make your conversation attractive?

So, does this little book live up to its promise? If you believe that for a mind to be beautiful it ought also to be a thoughtful mind, an enquiring mind, an others-focussed mind, a creative mind - then yes, reading this book will help you on your way to having a more beautiful mind. I heartily recommend it, and am off to buy my own copy.

Review by Miriam Millson, part of the team at Beth-Shean Trust respite.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section.

curious19 November 2014

Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it

Leslie, I. (2014) Quercus

This book sets curiosity in the history of the world. For example, Leonardo da Vinci’s curiosity was far ranging and well documented. Ian Leslie describes how curiosity can develop and flower in each of our lives, given the right conditions. He lists ways that we can keep it alive or revive it in our minds today.

How does the internet affect our curiosity? Possibly for better, possibly for worse. It is a powerful learning tool which is too often used for recreation such as playing games and looking at cute cat videos!

An interesting distinction is made between puzzles, which have a “pat” answer, and mysteries about which we will wonder, be curious about, until our dying day.

The power of the question

A large section is devoted to the power of the question. How do we encourage children to ask the right sort of question? Why is this so important? How does having a database of knowledge enable us to make more penetrating enquiries?

The author illustrates the book with anecdotes about ordinary people exercising their curiosity (or not, as the case may be) and tells stories about how never flagging curiosity was an essential ingredient in the success of people like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

If this book has a weakness, it is that the author has not specified exactly the research which he describes. It would have been good to be able to see where and when the research was carried out so that a curious reader would be able to easily access it.

Review by Fay Weatherly, a member of U3A.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section

learning by doing12 November 2014

Learning by Doing: Community-led change in Aotearoa NZ

Inspiring Communities Trust (2013)

Learning by Doing unpacks what authors refer to as Community-Led Change (CLC) and Community-Led Development (CLD) in this country.

Inspiring Communities, who produced the report, is a charitable trust funded by a four-year grant from the Tindall Foundation. Learning by Doing is essentially a summary of their findings 2008–2012.

Nine organisations practicing a broad range of CLC interpretations were tracked across the four-year period and feature in case studies scattered throughout the book and then expanded upon in the appendices. These case studies are the doing the report’s title refers to.

New terms unknown to many

I read this document as someone who has been involved with a lot of doing in Christchurch in the post-quake environment.

My experience in community development has been predominantly limited to the last four years with my organisation, so I do not profess to be an expert in the field, but realise I have a valid interpretation of Learning by Doing.

CLD or CLC are not terms that I have as yet used day-to-day, but after reading I can see that it’s part of what we do. There must be many, many people out there doing this work who may not be aware that it is referred to in this way.

Very North Island-centric

I did notice that there is very little reference to Christchurch and the quakes in the report. Admittedly, the work was underway before the quakes but only minimal references have been made throughout. Perhaps this was out of sensitivity and a desire to give the quake-torn city some space before rushing in to analyse it or bother struggling organisations. But I do feel the need to venture a critique that Learning by Doing is very North Island-centric.

Place, process, reflections and lessons

The report takes a step-by-step approach across place, process (engagement, leadership, activation/sustenance) and finally, reflections and lessons.

Within the first part of the report, the role of place and the importance of good facilitation in making things happen are considered as well as new models of governance.

The involvement of tangata whenua and the resulting culturally-driven considerations are unpacked with some depth.

Community resilience is given consideration and this is where Christchurch’s situation is discussed, albeit briefly.

Impact on the community

In my view, the most important section of the report is chapter six where the authors reflect on the impact this sort of activity is having in the community and its associated challenges.

They acknowledge that CLC is an iterative process often done on the fly. They muse that the best place for CLD practices to have impact is with neighbourhoods, small towns or suburban groups.

The authors reflect on the Inspiring Communities team’s learning that CLC groups sometimes lack the desire, often motivated by a lack of time, to run adequate reflective processes when undertaking their work.

Inspiring Communities, noticing this lack, then supported their nine case-study organisations to do a greater amount of reflection during the time in which this project was taking place.

Journey more important than destination

Furthermore, I found it pleasing and a relief to read (as it concurred with own experience) that the Inspiring Communities team recognised how important the process was in CLC and as such, how often the impacts it may have are in fact difficult to see or pinpoint physically.

The process or the journey can be more important that what you get at the other end. Networks, new ways of thinking, community connectedness, desires and priority shifts are difficult to see but they are still outcomes.

Many funders and government bodies are often product or outcome oriented and one would hope this report can help to increase awareness about different ways of working here. A broader understanding of good outcomes in CLD and an acceptance of its inherent messiness or complexity would be a good outcome from this report.

Permission to empower change

Something that I reflected on as I read this report was that I felt it is almost trying to give people permission to undertake or support/empower community-led change.

It’s a sad indictment on New Zealand society this sort of thing still needs to be legitimised.

It says a lot about how pervasive our permit culture is; created as a result of over-bureaucratisation and risk-aversion. On page 94, the report talks about the need to regenerate the Kiwi ‘can-do’ spirit; that Number 8 Wire mentality we love to claim when we do things well. We’ve had a wonderful run of that in Christchurch post-quake just getting on and doing things without waiting for permission.

For the next version of Learning by Doing, perhaps if there is a follow-up, I’d like to see lessons from Christchurch shared more widely with the rest of the country. In a post-disaster situation the normal way of working gets discarded and people get on and do things out of necessity.

The big challenge is not reverting back to old ways if, in fact, new ways are working better! How do we take the good lessons forward for long-term change both here and elsewhere?

Review by Coralie Winn, Director and Co-Founder of urban regeneration initiative, Gap Filler in Christchurch.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section

community5 November 2014

Community Capacity Building: Lessons from adult learning in Australia

Edited by Postle, G.,D., Burton, L.,J., and Danaher, P.,A., (2014) National Institute of Adult Continuing Education

Community Capacity Building recalls the Community for Community (C4C) partnership between the University of Southern Queensland and the communities in Toowoomba, Australia, as well as focusing on capacity building and university engagement.

Community initiatives bring a cohesive nature back to communities and improve social issues, the book says. Divided into three sections, the text discusses perspectives related to universities and their place in community capacity building. The second section outlines seven case studies of the C4C initiatives demonstrating the success of the collaborative projects. The third section elaborates on issues within the case studies and implications of future development.

Collaboratively written

This text is collaboratively written by university academics and community members working together and has a strong academic focus with many references to theory and discussions from the community development arena.

Two specific community initiatives are closely explored: the Older Men’s Network, a self-help group for older men at risk, and the Flexi School, which brings alienated youth back into social connection, alongside other related projects. It is this section of the book that brings life to the initiatives through the narratives of those concerned.

Building capacity takes time

The book emphasises that community capacity building takes time and is based on open, trusting relationships and gives guidance about what's been learnt in relation to these aspects.

Community Capacity Building is an important contribution to the dialogue regarding community development. But note the text is academic; it takes some concentration and focus to digest its density but its messages are of significance.

For anyone wanting to gain greater understanding of the complex nature of community capacity building and to have some models to establishing successful community capacity development projects this book will provide that guidance.

Review by Juliana Korzon

Julia is a Senior Lecturer in mental health studies and a programme coordinator at Whitireia Polytechnic, working primarily with mental health and addiction nurses in their first year of nursing practice and training Department of Corrections nurses in primary mental healthcare.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section

empowerment29 October 2014

Empowerment, Lifelong Learning and Recovery in Mental Health: Towards a new paradigm

By Ryan, P., Ramon, S., & Greacen, T. (2012) Palgrave Macmillan

Don't get put off by the bland cover of this text or the wordy title: Empowerment, Lifelong Learning and Recovery in Mental Health: Towards a new paradigm. This academic text actually contains some very interesting and thought provoking essays written by a range of service users and clinicians working in mental health.

I suppose the benefit of having such a long title, is that it certainly spells out what the book is about. As the introduction states, the thesis of the book is that the four concepts of empowerment, lifelong learning, social inclusion and recovery are closely connected and “that together they contribute to a new paradigm in mental health, one that locates the service user as the central driver of their own life”.

What's new with this concept? Plenty!

I couldn’t agree more, so, as arrogant as it sounds, I wondered at first what new things the authors could tell me about this concept. As it turned out – a lot! The book is divided into three chapters – recovery, social inclusion and employment, empowerment and lifelong learning, and there are a series of essays per chapter.

My favourite section was the recovery section, and the accounts written in first person.

I personally think many an academic text would be livened up by authors only being allowed to write in first person!

Highlights for me were Helen Glover’s thoughtful and challenging essay where she asks, is it a new paradigm or old paradigm dressed in sheep’s clothing? Are we just simply repackaging the same system? The language may change, but the values don’t. However, rather than leaving the reader in a cynical slump, she provides some excellent service assessment tools to help practitioners determine how enabling their service actually is.

Recovery from professional stigma

Another highlight was clinical social worker Robert Surber’s honest account of his recovery from his own professional stigma. He acknowledges the insidiousness of professional stigma and bravely outlines his shocked realisation that he did not know how to relate to people with mental illnesses as equals. He is now committed to ensuring service users are fully integrated as professionals and provides best practice suggestions on how to do this.

I didn’t find the other two chapters as interesting, however chapter two is a recommended read if you want to discover more about international employment initiatives such as the Trieste project and the IPS model.

As is chapter three if you want to read in detail about the importance of lifelong learning and in particular the EU project EMILIA. I will leave this project tantalizingly unexplained.

In summary, this book is a useful resource to have on hand at your local library. I would particularly recommend chapter one for people who have an interest in reducing stigma within the mental health sector and are excited by the idea (as I am) that we are shifting towards a brave new paradigm.

Reviewed by Philippa Coyle, Business Development Manager and Like Minds Health Promoter at Mind and Body Learning and Development and Mind and Body Consultants.

Philippa has worked in the mental health and social services sector for more than a decade. She has an MA in English Literature from the University of Auckland and holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Management Studies (Mental Health) from the University of Waikato.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section

focus22 October 2014

Focus: The hidden driver of excellence

Goleman, D. (2013) Bloomsbury

Being a practitioner of mindfulness (personally and professionally) I was looking forward to reading Daniel Goleman’s book to gain further insights into its application and effectiveness.

While I finished the book with a tinge of disappointment, this was due I believe to my initial misreading of the audience the book targets.

Focus is essentially about business and leadership psychology which incorporates the more recent research findings on mindfulness and its effective use within organisations. At least it ends up with this focus.

Bottom-up and top-down circuitry

Goleman starts by comparing the neuroscience that has helped to differentiate the bottom-up (our more automatic and reactive processes eg fight-flight) and top-down circuitry (reasoning and decision-making processes e.g. deliberation and planning) of our brain.

He uses this differentiation throughout the book to highlight research that further confirms the effectiveness of being able to combine the gut ‘I’ and the rational ‘me’ for more effective action and behaviour.

I could go through the different brain areas that he identifies as producing our different types of awareness (of our own body, others and the world around us) but suffice to say that the prefrontal cortex is vital to integrating many of these various functions into meaningful and purpose-driven action.

Mindfulness as an activator

This is where mindfulness comes in. Research shows mindfulness activates crucial areas of this part of the brain and helps to create new and enhanced neural connections with a variety of other areas of the brain.

Goleman talks about the tripod of awareness; inner, other and outer and he sites numerous examples of research that confirm the positive impacts of mindfulness on all of these at a time when many of us live in a culture of information overload.

Goleman’s key point is that in this world of social media and rapid technological change we struggle to focus appropriately on the things that make a difference in our own lives and those around us. He calls it a poverty of attention because for him our current focus becomes our reality.

Enjoyable mindfulness discussion

I particularly enjoyed his discussion on teaching mindfulness skills to children, even pre-schoolers, through programmes and activities like breathing buddies, peace corners, traffic light imaging and social and emotional learning.

Research shows disadvantaged kids who learn to self-regulate their emotions learn better and go on to attain similar earnings and health outcomes as those from higher socio-economic groups (these latest findings coming from our very own Dunedin Multidisciplinary study).

In summary, Focus was an interesting read and while my interests lie in the application of focused attending and a more open awareness toward experience Goleman did cover this but not in the depth I personally would have liked.

However, his application to the business world is still extremely relevant and the insights he offers, while not ground-breaking, make sense because of the importance of self-awareness to how we relate to others and the world around us.

Review by Dr Brian Tuck, Programme Coordinator, Mental Health, Whanganui UCOL

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section

How children succeed15 October 2014

How Children Succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character

Tough, P. (2013) Mariner Books

The recommendations on the back of How Children Succeed suggest the audience for the book is parents. For example, "in his personal, thought-provoking and timely book, Paul Tough offers a clarion call to parents who are seeking to unlock their child’s true potential – and ensure they really succeed". And maybe for the publishers, this is just the audience they wish to attract; parents with money to spend on self-help books. And, true, understanding the science and economic arguments Tough so clearly and carefully uses as well as the real life examples drawn from his meticulous research probably will inform middle-class parents and strengthen the skills many of them already have in ensuring success for their offspring.

But the real purpose and strength of this book, I believe, is the clarion call to educators, social workers, health professionals, policy makers and, particularly, politicians who have the passion to make a difference for those most at risk of failure in society; those living in poverty.

A beautifully crafted book

This beautifully crafted book argues the life chances of those most at risk of poor outcomes can be changed, especially in the first 15 years of their lives. The main message – in the right conditions, character can be taught and learned. Character, Tough defines as skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control. It is one of the most convincing arguments I have read that IQ is a myth; that we can change both how we think and how we behave under certain productive conditions.

The author presents an argument that builds from early life experiences through childhood and adolescence bringing together examples from (among others) health, psychology, chess and education to demonstrate why character matters, what it means, and how this might be achieved, particularly for those most at risk of failure.

Tough structures an argument for changing social outcomes through integrated health initiatives, parenting, social policy AND education. He convincingly argues why it is not raising achievement levels that will save both individuals and economies (although that is one enticing outcome of this argument), but rather through addressing the character development of our children. This is not an easy-to-read self-help book. This means those most likely to buy and read it are probably those least likely to need it!

Reviewed by Dr Mary F. Hill

Mary Hill is an associate professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Auckland. Her research and teaching addresses educational assessment, particularly teacher classroom assessment practices. Currently her main research concern is preparing teachers who can teach children from all backgrounds and cultures how to take responsibility for their own learning by using assessment for learning.

This review first appeared on the Mental Health Awareness Week website's Good Reads section

Stand by me8 October 2014

Stand By Me: Helping your teen through tough times

Kirwan, J. (2014) Penguin

Sir John Kirwan’s latest book is a great addition to his first, and one I will add to my bookshelf as a quick “hands on” reference to help with my teenage stepson.

It’s not that my stepson is, as far as I know, experiencing mental illness, but he’s 14 and the grunting has started – so how do I really know?

And that’s the beauty of Stand By Me – it isn’t just for parents who have children in the throes of mental distress, it’s relevant and extremely helpful for all parents wanting to do a better job bringing up and listening to their teens.

It digs down into the ways and reasons that teenagers hide their feelings and what you can do to gently bring them out of themselves and support them unconditionally when they tell you something you may not want to hear.

The book is factual in that it has statistics and best practice for identifying and managing mental illness in youth, practical in that it has so many wonderful and generous comments from teens and their parents about how to do, and how not to do, things, and compassionate with JK’s warmth and frankness about his own mental health and natural everyday concerns for his three teens.

Like All Blacks Don’t Cry, this new book is a page turner. The chapters are short and to the point, which makes for easy digestion, and usually hold at least one pearl of wisdom.

Anxiety – give your fear a cuddle

My favourite is John’s idea that anxiety, or fear, should be cuddled, rather than run away from or hidden.

“The last thing that ugly creature wants is a cuddle. So grab hold of it and give it a cuddle – this breaks it down a bit and take the fear out of it,” JK says (page 51).

This makes me giggle, and I’ll remember it next time I need to exercise some self-management.

Chapters include topics such as teen anxiety and depression, the teenage brain, getting out of it, self-harm, eating disorders and suicide, warning signs – when to worry, how involved should parents be, loving the real child, hope, resilience (excellent) and wellbeing.

Advice and information from psychologists Elliot Bell and Kirsty Louden-Bell are necessary I think to give the book more professional weight than just having JK’s voice alone, as entertaining and valuable as that may be.

Depression is like a tree in winter

The occasional comments here and there from psychiatrist Lyndy Matthews are refreshingly down to earth and strategically placed by freelance writer Margie Thomson, who, in John’s own words, did much of the heavy lifting in the writing of Stand by Me. Lyndy’s description of how nerve cells affected by depression are like a tree in winter (page 114) is a beautiful and easily understood concept.

The only annoyances the book held for me were that Elliot’s information tended toward the impenetrable (what is an objective circumstance, for instance?) and could certainly have been more user friendly; the summaries at the end of each chapter were often unwieldy and difficult to read: grey text in grey boxes. And I would have liked a photograph of the psychologists, and Lyndy, to relate better to who had been talking to me.

Otherwise, bravo, an awesome resource for Kiwi parents and caregivers bringing up teens with or without experience of mental illness.

Reviewed by Susie Hill, Website Consultant with the Mental Health Foundation.

live and laugh1 October 2014

Live and laugh with dementia: The essential guide to maximising quality of life

Low, L.F, (2014) Exisle Publishing

Lee-Fay Low is a leading researcher in the field of dementia in Australia. What this book acknowledges is that her grandmother had vascular dementia and it is therefore a human story of those living with dementia as well as their carers, families and friends.

Her introduction reminds us that, although she is an expert on dementia in general, the best expert on the person with dementia you are looking after is you, the carer. You are asked to add two key ingredients to the book: your knowledge about the person with dementia and your creativity in selecting and modifying activities.

Piecing together a life story

The components of the life history of the person with dementia are the first step. Where they were born; where they spent their childhood; where they lived; places that are special to them and why. Who are or were the important people in their life, what was the relationship like and what is it currently like?

Activities, such as their jobs, what they did in their spare time and, of particular interest, what they still do in their spare time, are important in maintaining their activities. If they are able to contribute personally, it is possible for them to share their past and present and also talk about things they have always wanted to do. There is a life history worksheet for activity planning, as well as four case studies which are invaluable when the carer follows their lives and activities.

Although laughter would not be associated with dementia in many people’s minds, as I read this book I recalled attending one carers’ meeting where a woman said she went to them regularly and laughed out loud, rather than staying at home and crying alone.

Asking the right questions

The book also contains tips for people with mild or moderate dementia, who can think back through their lives and re-experience the feelings associated with the past. Those memories can be aroused frequently if carers find that they bring smiles and laughter to the one they care for by asking just the right questions.

One of the case histories is of a woman who enjoyed singing. The family found ways of connecting with her through popular songs from the past, nursery rhymes, Christmas carols, traditional songs, hymns and classical music. A collection of her favourites gave her many pleasurable hours, even when she was alone.

There is so much wisdom, based on research and life experience in this book, that I intend to buy my own copy before I need to begin seeking help for myself or others close to me, to maximise quality of life for as long as the years allow.

Reviewed by Marie Hull-Brown, Mental Health Promoter with a special interest in older people, at the Mental Health Foundation.

EI24 September 2014

Emotional Intelligence

Goleman, D. (2006) Bantam Books

Daniel Goleman is an academic, psychologist, science journalist and author of more than 10 books on psychology, education, science, the ecological crisis, and leadership.

He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and a contributor to the Greater Good magazine from the Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley.

Goleman has pursued a life-long interest in how people develop empathy to help each other. Many of the values and actions he promotes have a lot in common with those of the Mental Health Foundation.

A dense academic text

Emotional Intelligence covers subjects such as the emotional brain; looking at the physical make-up of the brain with the inter-relationship between the cortex and the limbic system.

Goleman portrays emotional intelligence as the moderation of primitive emotional impulses by a person’s rational mind.

He then goes on to look at the relationship between IQ and emotional intelligence as well as focusing on disturbances where the emotional intelligence is unrestrained and there is consequential anger or depression.

Being emotionally intelligent

Emotionally intelligent people who practice self-awareness, empathy and can articulate their feelings achieve greater success across life.

Goleman discusses different situations where a person’s emotional responses are shaped such as traumatic situations, early child development and parenting styles as well as temperament.

He puts forward education programmes which have been shown to improve a person’s emotional intelligence.

Influential, watershed book

So is this a book you need to read? Emotional Intelligence is an influential, watershed and best-selling book that changed people’s ideas about the importance of emotions in everyday life and therefore it is well worth reading.

It comes from a scientific base and I agree it is important to promote evidence-based solutions to social and emotional issues.

I think it appeals to a wide-ranging audience interested in psychology, education, child development and self-development.

However, not everyone will enjoy it. I found it was not written in an easily accessible style and it felt old-fashioned and American in its focus.

There is now a range of more easily read literature available on emotional growth and regulation which is also mirrored in the therapy field with the development of DBT and other approaches.

However it needs emphasising that Goleman’s amazing piece of scholarship outlined in Emotional Intelligence has been influential in initiating and progressing this whole field of work.

Reviewed by Dale Little, Mental Health Promoter with the Mental Health Foundation.

loving someone17 September 2014

Loving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder: How to keep out-of-control emotions from destroying your relationship

Manning, S.Y. (2011) Guilford Press

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a psychiatric diagnosis associated with serious forms of self-harm.

It can also manifest as angry outbursts and verbal abuse, binging/purging , drug/alcohol abuse, and suicidal behaviour.

Because of their extreme emotional sensitivity and reactivity, people with BPD often have intense and tumultuous relationships with those around them.

Borderline behaviour can be particularly hard to understand and friends and family can often feel frustrated, overwhelmed and confused.

A compassionate insight

This book provides those close to someone with BPD a compassionate insight into their loved one’s out-of-control emotions.

Author Shari Y. Manning, PhD, offers practical, step-by-step strategies for readers to help their loved one and themselves.

Due to the nature of BPD, well-meaning partners, family and friends can find that their own responses to the disorder are often ineffective and can even be harmful.

Readers are shown what they can do differently to support someone with BPD, while caring for their own mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

Easy to understand concepts

One of the most effective treatments for BPD is Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT).

Manning, a clinician, is a proponent of leading BPD expert and DBT originator Marsha Linehan.

Manning has focused on the treatment of people with BPD since 1993.This is the first book written specifically for friends and family that is grounded in DBT techniques.

This is not a clinical text and Manning outlines the concepts of DBT in a way that a lay-person can understand.

Validating emotional distress

Some of the DBT skills discussed include mindfulness, emotional regulation, crisis survival, reality acceptance and interpersonal skills.

Another important technique highlighted is the importance of validating someone with BPD’s emotional distress.

Acknowledging that they are upset or feeling bad can help to reduce the intensity of their emotions. It also counters with what NOT to do, such as telling the person to calm down thereby invalidating how they feel which is likely to make their emotional arousal go up instead of down.

Other unhelpful responses include telling the person how they should be feeling; jumping in to problem solve without being asked, and saying that you understand how they feel when you don’t.

Responding to a crisis

How to respond to crisis situations, such as suicidal behaviour are also addressed.

Helpful techniques include: telling your loved one how much their suicide would affect you; acknowledging that the person’s pain is real and expressing that you have hope for the person even if they currently feel hopeless themselves.

BPD can occur in different degrees on a spectrum, with some people appearing quite high functioning and competent in many areas of their life.

Some readers with a lesser degree of BPD may not be able to relate to some of the behaviours described in the book.

On the other hand, the book doesn’t provide advice on how to manage more extreme behaviours such as rage and physical attacks.

The book’s advice on interpersonal skills and techniques such as validation, would benefit many people interested in improving their communication skills, not just those with BPD in their lives.

It provides an easy to understand overview of DBT and a compassionate and empathic insight into Borderline Personality Disorder.

Reviewed by Karen Issell, volunteer for the Information Service at the Mental Health Foundation.

capturing10 September 2014

Capturing Mindfulness: A guide to becoming present through photography

Johnstone, M, (2013) Pan Macmillan

When Capturing Mindfulness needed reviewing I was intrigued. I have been taking the opportunity to learn about mindfulness and I am also an avid photographer. The book has sat next to me for a while and I have enjoyed flicking through looking at the pictures however, it has taken a reminder the book review is due to get me to read it!

The first section of the book is about becoming mindful, illustrated by some beautiful photographs.

Author Matthew Johnstone, of I had a black dog fame, explains mindfulness "as the act of paying close attention to what we are doing, where we are and what we're thinking; all without judgement or self-criticism, all with a slow and gentle intention."

The reader is guided through the mindful process. I could not help being drawn in and start relaxing; having meditated for a number of years I found this quite easy to do.

Choose photo shoot locations carefully

Johnstone then goes on to explain how to become present through taking photographs, bringing attention to the present moment; by using photography to look at the world as though seeing it for the first time.

I grabbed my camera and headed into the garden to take pictures of blue flowers. I noticed the bees and the tuis playing in the garden and tried to photograph them, this was frustrating so I went back to my flowers and noticed the weeds.

Perhaps next time I will go to the botanic gardens or the beach; somewhere where I won’t be reminded of chores to be done!

This is a beautiful book that I have enjoyed flicking through. I will definitely be trying to spend more time with my camera and focusing on the present.

Reviewed by Michelle Hull, Mental Health Promoter with the Mental Health Foundation.

manging depression3 September 2014

Managing Depression Growing Older: A guide for professionals and carers

Eyers, K., Parker, G., & Brodaty, H. (2012) Routledge

“Age is something that catches us by surprise” begins this small but comprehensive book.

With increased life expectancy and the bumper crop of baby boomers now reaching retirement age, this new publication from the Australian Black Dog Institute is a timely addition to our understanding of depression in later years.

The world is getting older, but as the editors of Managing Depression Growing Older point out, ageing itself is not a disease. And depression, while no stranger to old age, is not an inevitable companion either.

Current world rates of clinical depression are said to be no higher for older people than for other age groups. Though these rates may reflect the fact many older people are reluctant to seek treatment, are misdiagnosed, or not referred for treatment in the first place.

The statistics may also reflect the stigma remaining around “admitting weakness” or about having a psychiatric illness.

That said, the risk of suicide climbs steeply with age, especially among men, and older people who experience chronic pain or illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, as well as those in residential care who experience high rates of clinical depression.

Dual perspectives

This book is intended for professionals and carers involved with older people and for people who themselves experience, or have experienced depression.

Its point of difference from other similar texts is that it includes perspectives from both those who experience depression or its impact, as well a series of case studies, from international psychogeriatric (will someone please come up with a better word!?) experts.

The stories of experience of depression from older people, their children and those who care for them, come from the Black Dog Institute’s writing competition in 2010. The stories are insightful and many readers will be able to empathise with the writers, or perhaps think about someone in their lives in a whole new light.

Despite the somewhat gloomy topic, the stories are immensely readable. Here’s a quote from Alistair: “The black dog comes to you. Never whistled, never welcome and never leaving until good and ready. What kind of reward is that for someone finishing nearly 50 years in the workforce?”

Refreshing honesty

The clinicians/experts too, write with a refreshing honesty about the puzzle that depression can be, not only because it is such a diffuse term, but also because in older people it can manifest differently.

For example, depression will often present via physical symptoms that can camouflage underlying emotional issues in older people. Often GPs don’t think, or are not trained, to ask the emotional questions.

This inside out and outside in format is interspersed with chapters on the types of depression, (the Black Dog Institute uses a hierarchical and more comprehensive model of depression than some clinical models); therapies and the role of therapists; managing severe depression; caring for carers, and, particularly useful, how to go about persuading an older loved one or friend to seek an assessment for depression.

There is also a section on self-efficacy in older age and strategies for maintaining a positive outlook, such as connection to communities, exercise, good nutrition etc. I particularly liked the advice to, “figure out your signature strengths… and then try and find avenues in life to exercise them.”

Typeface needs work

The construction of this book may sound a bit messy, but it allows the reader to dip in and out of what otherwise might be quite a dense read.

One technical niggle, hard on those of us who are sight-challenged, is that on almost every page the typeface runs together in some places so that wordsonthepageappearjoinedtogetherlikethis. Initially I thought I was going cross-eyed.

The book’s main message is that depression is treatable, and that support should be sought as early as possible. Publication of this book is a step in the direction of, as is the editors’ expressed wish, reducing the double stigma of ageism and mental illness.

Reviewed by Katherine Findlay, writer and editor

jemimas journey cover27 August 2014

Jemma’s Journey

Peters, J. (2013). Wakkajak Publishers New Zealand

Several copies of Janet Peters’ lovely children’s book, Jemma’s Journey, landed on my desk a few weeks ago, generously donated to us by a kind benefactor.

We were given so many that we decided to give some away on Facebook, and asked people to tell us why they or their organisation would like a copy.

The responses were lovely, and really drove home the need for resources explaining mental health and mental distress to young children whose parents are unwell. A few examples:

“What an amazing sounding book. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 21 years ago and have a 6.5 year old. He's an incredible kid but very sensitive. I'm in good health but have times when things are tough. This would be a great way to explain it to him.”

“I 'need' a copy for my wonderful 7-year-old son. He's so kind and loving, writes me love notes and makes me things out of coloured card when I'm not doing too well But I don't know how to explain in an effective way what is wrong and it really hurts me for him to see me 'not well'.”

“I work in an acute adult mental health inpatient service and whilst we have some awesome people and services we can refer to we have very limited resources on the unit for children whose parent/caregiver is in crisis. I would love a copy!”

Aimed at very young children, Jemma’s Journey tells the story of Jemma, a little girl whose mother “has mental health problems” and sometimes “would cry, be suspicious, and say weird things”.

Author Janet Peters is a registered psychologist who, as a child, had a parent with mental health issues. She clearly knows what children worry about when they know their parents are ill – is it my fault? Will I get sick, too? Will mum ever come home from hospital?

Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully written, this little gem is a great resource for parents who want to start a conversation with their children about mental health. It subtly guides parents about how to reassure worried children and lets young readers know they are loved and cared for no matter what. I loved this little book and I think you will too.

Reviewed by Sophia Graham, Communications & Marketing Manager at the Mental Health Foundation.

ƒ17 J