Tuesday 25 April 2017

High Shelves, Low Shelves: Our Book in Libraries around the World

UPDATED: Last updated November 2017, to add Columbus Metropolitan Library (Ohio, USA) and MaineHealth Learning Resource Center Lending Libraries (Maine, USA).

As authors, Fran and I naturally want our book to sell. But more importantly we want it in the hands of people who are keen to read it, whose lives might be enriched and changed by it. That means having it in libraries where it can be borrowed by people interested in it, without necessarily wanting or needing to purchase a copy.

As a friend of ours, David W. Jones, recently put it: “Getting your book in local libraries may or may not gain buyers, but it does gain eyeballs and it helps folks who may otherwise be unable to just buy a copy right off.”

We are happy to share a number of libraries where can find our book. There are more all the time—let us know if you find another to add to our list!

Newcastle City Library (Tyne & Wear, England)

Library website | Online catalogue

I contacted my city library here in Newcastle upon Tyne as soon as our book was published, asking if they had a procedure for local authors. I received a reply by return, asking me to take in a print copy for them to look at, which I was happy to do. Within a few weeks they emailed to say they would be happy to purchase our book (from Amazon as it was apparently not on their usual supplier’s system) for their Health and Wellbeing collection. They returned the sample I had taken in, which became my personal copy (it was returned in perfect condition but I would not sell a used copy to anyone else).

It took a couple of weeks for the book to appear in the online catalogue, and several more before it was on the shelves. I visited the library each week to check—and it was a very proud moment when I spotted it there! At the time of writing, High Tide, Low Tide is out on loan. It’s a great feeling!

Recovery College Collective (Newcastle, England)

Recovery College website

Martin recently enrolled as a student at the Newcastle Recovery College Collective (ReCoCo) and will be taking several of their mental health related courses. We are proud to donate a copy of our book to the college library for the benefit of students, volunteers and staff.

Read more about what ReCoCo means to us here.

Happy Cafe Ely (Ely, England)

Cafe website

We are proud to support the Happy Cafe Ely, part of the Happy Cafe Network. High Tide, Low Tide is available to users of the cafe, alongside great titles by authors including mental health writer and speaker Rachel Kelly.

Warwick Public Library (Rhode Island, USA)

Library website | Online catalogue

A great friend of ours, Stacey Lehrer, bought High Tide, Low Tide to read herself, and then generously donated it to her local library in Warwick, Rhode Island. As she told us:

I’m excited for more people to see the book. All the libraries in Rhode Island are connected in one system so it would be available statewide.

Stacey’s belief in our book appears well-founded: it has been borrowed at least once since it was added to the collection.

Portland Library, Peaks Island Branch (Maine, USA)

Library website | Online catalogue

High Tide, Low Tide is not yet in the city library in Portland, Maine, but there is a copy in the Peaks Island branch thanks to another friend generously donating a copy. Fran was a resident of Peaks Island for many years, and was living there when we first met. It means a great deal to us that our book is available to island residents and visitors.

Maine Health Learning Resource Center Lending Libraries (Maine, USA)

Library website | Online catalogue

Copies are held at both the Falmouth and Scarborough resource centers.

Rapid City Library (South Dakota, USA)

Library website | Online catalogue

Another recent library addition is in Rapid City, South Dakota, thanks to a dear friend, Jennifer Evans. Jennifer mentioned our book to a colleague, who requested it at the library. The library ordered a copy for their Health & Fitness Collection.

Lawrence Public Library (Kansas, USA)

Library website | Online catalogue

Columbus Metropolitan Library (Ohio, USA)

Library website | Online catalogue

Six copies have been added to the collection at various branches within the Columbus Metropolitan Library area.

Royal Society of Medicine Library (London, England)

Library website | Online catalogue

How to Request Our Book for Your Library

If you would like to ask your local library to stock our book (thank you!) here are the details:

Title: High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder
Authors: Martin Baker and Fran Houston
Publisher: Nordland Publishing
Date of publication: September 11, 2016
ISBN-10: 8283310216
ISBN-13: 978-8283310214
Library Classification: 616.895

Amazon: www.amazon.com/High-Tide-Low-Friends-Disorder/dp/8283310216
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/High-Tide-Low-Friends-Disorder/dp/8283310216
B&N: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/high-tide-low-tide-martin-baker/1124632815


Wednesday 19 April 2017

I Have a Mental Illness

“I have a mental illness”, is not a phrase people say lightly. It certainly shouldn’t be. But the reasons in today’s world are not that mental illness can be horrifying and life threatening, but rather that there is an incredible weight of stigma in the world. If a terrorist attack happens “that person must be crazy”. If a politician does something we disapprove of “he must be crazy”.

So, what about all those people in the world who have real, sometimes harrowing, mental illness? Should they just “pick themselves up, and get better”? Is it really that easy? My answer is no, it is not. Mental illnesses are often complex and confusing and there is much more to it than just “deciding to be better”. Mental Illness can in many cases originate from a person’s past and how the mind deals with that, perhaps it is ingrained trauma, perhaps something from childhood, perhaps it is reactive and stems from stress at work—everyone is different. It is something that should always be taken on a case-by-case basis. Never though, have I heard of people “deciding to be better” and just magically they are better.

On the other hand, once you have decided you want to be better, is there help available? There are plenty of charities and spoke-people calling for people to “speak up” to have a conversation, to reach out, to start somewhere—Time to Talk and Heads Together come to mind. But in reality, the help is spread thin, underfunded and hard to get. One goes to their GP, who may or may not refer them to their local community mental health team (CMHT), who may or may not take you on, depending on their case-load and how much threat they view you to be in. That is if the GP takes you seriously in the first place.

I have had experiences along both lines—I have been faced with a GP who bluntly told me I did not have depression and I have also been put under the care of the CMHT. It varies, but whatever level it is at, it has to be pushed for, chased and to be honest when you have a mental illness the last thing you have energy for is chasing down your own self-care. In my current house, I waited over a year to be referred from my GP to the CMHT. I am now back with my GP only, and fear the day I am next in crisis and need to be referred again. Will the wait be as long? Will it be too little, too late?

I am lucky, I have had therapy with a lovely therapist who through a combination of mindfulness and immersion therapy got me to reassess how I viewed the essence of my mental health and how it manifests for me. (In my case, my depression and anxiety manifest as hallucinations of Ghosts and Monsters). To realize that it was my body’s way of saying “you are not coping well right now” rather than that I needed to die, imminently. To slowly learn to be compassionate to myself and realize that I am actually a nice person, even if I have a deeply ingrained belief that I shouldn’t be here. That part hasn’t changed yet and my therapist has left the service before my therapy was truly over or had dealt with everything it set out to—but I am still better than I was. I can progress from here.

Some people do not even have the choice of therapy. Or medication. Or help at all. Because stigma shuts the door on them and they either never ask for help, fearing the consequence or they ask for help and are denied. I am on medication, and have recently changed from one antidepressant to another; something my GP is guiding me through. I am lucky to have a caring and understanding GP at present. I can’t believe the contrast between previous GPs who just did not get or want to get mental health, and my current GP who tells me I can go there whenever I feel I need help.

I believe medication is needed in my case: it provides the foundation from which I can build my recovery. Without it, I am too at risk to even consider recovery. I do not believe medication is the be-all and end-all of treatment. I am a strong believer in attacking this illness from all angles and therefore therapy is just as important as medication. That is my point, though—mental illness is exactly that. It is an illness and should be treated as such, with just as much respect as physical illnesses.

If someone comes to you with a broken leg, you do not tell them to “get over it” or “pull yourself together”. You get them to see a doctor, to have an X-ray, to get a cast—which many people will happily sign with their hopes for quick healing. So why do we not yet have this for mental health? Why do people shy away from it as though it is taboo?

Yes, stigma has a lot to answer for, but the infrastructure and systems of GPs, CMHT, Accident and Emergency and other services needs an overhaul, and a lot more money put into it. It is suffering from years of budget cuts and the cultural view that it should somehow hide away at the back of the hospital out of sight (as it was, literally, in my old town).

This is illness at its hardest to face in today’s society. It is time people took a stand against that and said simply: enough is enough. We need parity of esteem, and now, not tomorrow. It is time mental illness is seen as just that: illness, which is mental.

About the Author

You can find Roiben on Twitter (@roiben).

Illustration by Zhang Xiao Bai.


Tuesday 11 April 2017

Lifting the Curtain: Brightness, Joy, and Vigilance

As I write this, Fran is heading out to a gallery opening in Portland, and then to a classical guitar concert. Before she left, she said to me:

i feel so good.. it’s really strange.. my mind is thinking thoughts that are good.. and it’s effortless..

After months, first of depression and then debilitating fatigue, it is still early days, but something does seem to have shifted—or rather, to be shifting.

It is wonderful to see the light in her eyes again. To sense hope again. To witness the transition from darkness into light once more.

We are both aware of the need for vigilance. Bipolar is like that. Any brightness, any momentary joy, each lifting of the curtain, is suspect, and may be the prelude to mania. But as I told Fran today:

You are doing well, and it feels wholesome to me. We will be vigilant. But don’t be scared to have a nice time, to smile, to find ease and enjoyment. These things are your right. You are worthy of them; of goodness, of living life fully.


[January, 2013]