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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

This Is Not How It Ends by Jehan Casinader

As an award-winning broadcast journalist, Jehan Casinader told other people's stories - until he lost control of his own. Severely depressed, he tried everything; from mindfulness to massage; Prozac to Pilates.

This Is Not How It Ends chronicles Casinader's four-year battle with depression, and how the power of storytelling helped him to survive. He argues that many of us think our brains are broken, but in fact, our stories are broken.

This deeply personal memoir was gritty and gripping. I powered through it in one night, absolutely hooked on Casinader's writing and story.

It hit me hard for two reasons. One; I too am a journalist and over the past year or so I have been thinking about how the stories I cover impacts my mental health.

Journalists, love them or loathe them, are often overlooked in times of horror, but we are so often there as first-hand witnesses. As Casinader writes, "when a disaster strikes, most people run away - but journalists run towards it". Combining that with deadlines, a highly competitive industry, and increasing public scrutiny, journalism can deal a heavy blow to mental health. Casinader put into words exactly what I've been mulling over for a while, so the book was relevant and interesting to me.

The second reason is because we all, whether personally or through friends and family, have experience with mental health concerns. Casinader challenges readers' understanding of mental distress, as well as giving them the tools to reshape their stories. He uses not just his own story but that of both well-known and everyday New Zealanders too; people like Rob Mokaraka, who attempted suicide-by-cop and went on to become an actor. Their experiences are used as examples for Casinader's theory that we are responsible for our own stories.

The book is broken up into five sections, offering an almost step-by-step way that others can address mental health. But Casinader does it in a non-preachy, approachable way. He doesn't claim he is going to fix you, or that he has all the answers. He acknowledges that it may not be for everyone, but there are nuggets of pure gold in the book, regardless of whether you believe his theory is right or not.

He includes the story of his best friend, Tommy, who helped Casinader through some of his darkest moments. I love that he included actual messages that Tommy sent him. Too often we don't know what to say or do when faced with a loved one in mental distress. Casinader shares deeply personal, yet practical and important messages that you can use.

The book also begins with a list of places where people in New Zealand and Australia can turn to for help. A story guide at the end includes questions that will help readers explore their own story.

This Is Not How It Ends is an incredibly personal and important book of healing and hope.

Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell

HarperCollins, RRP $35


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