Book Review: Reasons to Stay Alive

Today, I am going to write my first ever book review! This book really stuck with me, I read it for the first time at the start of 2019 and it constantly resonates with me. I have lent it out to family and friends who are having trouble understanding someone else's experiences of depression or anxiety.

Matt Haig really does take you inside his mind and helps you to understand his experiences of depression and anxiety not from a medical point of view but from a personal point of view. Matt is an accomplished novelist and journalist, writing for both adults and children, and managing to share his mental health message.

Matt has written 14 novels and 6 non-fiction books, and counting! However he is still probably best known for his 2015 memoir-slash-self-help book Reasons to Stay Alive, which was in the Top 10 Bestseller list for nearly a year!

What I Love About The Book

Reasons To Stay Alive reads like you are talking to an actual person or listening to a podcast. And, after years of reading text books and research articles, this was a very refreshing change. I absolutely love when I can read a book and hear the person's voice (even better if I know what their voice sounds like from Ted Talks, podcasts, or television!). Even though I had never heard Matt speak before, I felt like I was having a conversation with someone, and that is definitely something that keeps me turning the pages.

The book doesn't just tell you what depression and anxiety are (don't get me wrong, we need books that do that too), but it literally takes you inside the mind of someone who has experienced them. Even down to the lengths of the chapters - some are literally one page long while others are the more traditional length - gives you an insight into the mind of someone with depression and anxiety. Not every day is the same, some days you have more energy and optimism, and other days you can't muster the energy to leave your bed.

I've only found one other book so far in my reading that really takes you into the mind of the person with the mental health issue and that is "The Shock of the Fall" by Nathan Filer. Both that book and this really help you to understand the experience of the sufferer, the confusion, the hopelessness, the feeling of being an outsider, the despair that the individual is feeling. Most books on mental health give you a good understanding of the disorder by it always feels like you are the observer rather than really understanding the experience.


I have a section in my phone where I save quotes from books that resonate with me, that I think will resonate with others, and that just generally impact me and being hugely insightful. As it so happens, I think Reasons to Stay Alive, possible features the most in this list, hence me choosing it for this article! So, I thought I would share some of these insights here!

"Being good feels good because it makes us remember that we are not the only person that matters in this world."

Haig goes on to note that being kind is the easiest way to see the bigger picture, to see that we are all going through life together. It is the easiest way to zoom out and see those around us, see the suffering and the beauty in the world and in doing so, we are able to pull the focus off ourselves and our own suffering, if only for a little while.

"We cannot save ourselves from suffering by buying an iPhone. That doesn't mean we shouldn't buy one, it just means we should know such things are not ends in themselves."

This quote really hit home for me. I am a comfort shopper. When I am upset or stressed or anxious, I will buy things, or at the very least go window shopping, and I internally berate myself for it because I know and understand that this is going to fix absolutely nothing. What this quote said to me is that it is okay to buy something when we feel upset as long as we understand that it is not a long-term fix - it is not going to fix the problem but it might make us feel better for a little while. There is no point in punishing ourselves and making ourselves feel even worse, especially if this is the only way that we have right now to make ourselves feel better. We can buy the new pair of shoes or the new sofa cushion or succulent, as long as we also look at other ways of dealing with the hurt that we are feeling.

"Perfect your idleness . Make it mindful."

This was in the context of lessening the guilt that people feel about being idle or lazy. Haig notes that more harm is often done through work than through idleness, but that it is important to design our idleness rather than to let it overrun us.

Take Home

The take home message for me from this book was that there is always something to live for. Matt has expounded this message through his use of social media recently with the quote "Stay alive for other people. The people you'll meet. The people you will become."

When things feel completely hopeless, and it feels like you have nothing left to give or to live for, live for your future self. This is such a beautiful message that I don't think gets talked about enough. Often, in therapy, we look for protective factors when someone mentions suicide or wanting to end their own life. Protective factors can include things like children, parents, religious beliefs, and so on. But something that we don't focus on is the idea of the future self.

There is a lovely moment in Reason to Stay Alive, where Matt Haig has a conversation between his 'now me' and his 'then me'. The two selves talk about the fact that the 'then me' feels like giving up and that there is nothing left, and the now me is telling him all of the things that he has accomplished in life, all the things that the 'then me' has lying ahead of him.

I think this is a really beautiful message of hope and possibility for anyone who is experiencing their own depression or suicidal thoughts.

As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at

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