Friday, 15 March 2013

Psychiatric Tales - a graphic novel by Darryl Cunningham

This book made me cry and on the back is described as harrowing so perhaps it has the same effect on others. You know that thing where an unexpected kindness can hit you quite hard, that is how it got to me.

As you might guess from the title the book is about mental illness - both from the perspective of the author's experiences as a psychiatric nurse and then later his own struggles. It is written with deep compassion and humanity. Simply told, each sentence is carefully crafted with drawings that powerfully reinforce the text.

I guess that whether or how this book might affect you will depend on your life experiences.

In October last year one of my cousins committed suicide. We are a family that stays in contact - I regularly receive news from or about everyone through to second or third cousins and beyond.

However I did not know this cousin particularly well. He was very close to a couple of family members but was reserved with most of the rest of us and had lived overseas for many years.

At the time it was difficult to explain how deeply his suicide affected me and I ended up feeling that I did not have the right to be upset. But then I read this sentence in Psychiatric Tales "the effects of suicide ripple outwards" and it goes on to describe how it intimately affects others - friends, family and strangers. It felt like I had been given permission to feel bad and I think this is something I needed to do.

As you can see the chapter on suicide affected me the most but all of the chapters are powerful and moving. It is an honest and compassionate book, I think that many people would benefit from reading it. It is also a wonderful example of the art of the graphic novel, I think part of its power lies in its form.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your cousin - it's so true that events ripple outwards, and pain more so. The art on the cover is striking in its simplicity and yet full of emotion, the looming shadow, the tilted head. I'm not sure if I'm in the emotional space to surrender to such a book at the moment though!

    1. Hi Candy, yes I'd wait if I were you. It is a beautiful book in many ways but it does get under your skin a bit.