Back From The Brink book review from Medical Library Association

Graeme Cowandepression

CAPHIS, the Consumer and Patient Health Information Section, is a section of the Medical Library Association, an association of health information professionals with more than 5,000 individual and institution members. MLA fosters excellence in the professional achievement and leadership of health sciences library and information professionals to enhance the quality of health care, education, and research.



Cowan, Graeme. Back from the Brink: True Stories & Practical Help for Overcoming Depression & Bipolar Disorder. New Harbinger Publications, 2013. 312p. ISBN 978-1-60882-856-2. $16.95.

Living with depression or bipolar disorder often means dealing with stigma and isolation on top of living with a chronic medical condition. Author Graeme Cowan comes to the subject with first-hand knowledge of these issues, as a survivor of clinical depression and a mental health advocate.

The heart of the book is a series of interviews with people who have struggled with depression or bipolar disorder. The interview subjects are predominately high-profile people, but the struggles they face and the coping strategies they use will be familiar to any reader who has dealt with mental illness. Their stories serve as hopeful examples of how a fulfilling life is possible for those with depression or bipolar disorder, as well as powerful reminders that mental illness can and does affect people from all walks of life.

Cowan also includes chapters focused on practical advice for overcoming mental illness, calling on both his own experiences and the responses he has gathered from surveying other patients. Although he writes extensively about personal empowerment and lifestyle changes, he is also a strong advocate of professional therapies and the use of medication.  The result is a balanced and patient-centered attitude towards mental health care.

Back from the Brink is written in easy-to-understand, approachable language that will appeal to many patients, whether they are newly diagnosed or dealing with life-long struggles. Family members and friends of those with mental illnesses can also gain valuable insights and hope from the first-hand stories of the interview subjects.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Kaari, University Hospital, Newark, NJ