Book Review: Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me

book cover: Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me: Depression in the First Person is written by journalist Anna Mehler Paperny, and is both a story of her own personal experiences of suicidality and an in-depth journalistic exploration of depression and suicide.

The author has done her research well.  The book contains information gleaned from interviews with quite a number of experts in fields relating to the topic.

The first section of the book is focused on the author’s personal experiences.  She provided detailed descriptions of multiple suicide attempts.  My personal preference is for a less is more approach to details about suicide methods, but I can accept that she was trying to be totally open.

Regarding her experience on an inpatient ward after a suicide attempt, she writes:

“Surely, few groups of patients are as unpleasant by definition as those whose disease targets their brains.  If it’s weird waking to find yourself in a different stranger’s care each morning, it can’t be much more pleasant to be charged with caring for a cycle of erratic nutbars with sub-optimal hygiene practices.”

She explains that she found herself wishing she had succeeded because everything that caused her to hate herself before the attempt hadn’t gone away.  I’ve written about this before, and I think it’s really important to accept the reality that some people feel regret about not dying rather than regret about the attempt itself.

There were some lines that I quite liked, such as: “No one wants this crap illness that masquerades as personal failing.”  Some quirky analogies made an appearance, such as likening being unable to act out suicidal thoughts to “blue balls, but for death.”

There were also some lines that just didn’t sit with me that well.  Regarding drinking paint thinner as a suicide method: “I tried paint thinner.  Don’t try paint thinner.”  I can see the benefit of bringing a lighthearted tone to serious subjects, but for me this started to cross over into cavalier territory.

The author also observed that: “The DSM’s authors boil down diagnosis of mental illness to something resembling an online quiz: Which Disney Princess Mental Disorder Are You?”  I’m not really sure how that’s useful for anything.

Paperny outlines her own experiences of treatment before moving into the more journalistic part of the book, in which she examines what science has to tells us about depression and suicide.  There are descriptions of medications, psychotherapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), deep brain stimulation, etamine, psilocybin, and more.

The last section of the book examines a number of different social issues that come into play, including lack of coverage for therapy, the influence of race and culture, the role of police, and involuntary committal.  The author also writes about bad experiences in hospital being a major deterrent to seeking out help for suicidal ideation; this is something I see as a huge issue.

She had a bit of a different take on stigma:

“I am so tired of the word ‘stigma.’  Perhaps it once had resonance.  Maybe its utterance once conjured a concrete, clearly delineated concept.  But repetition has rendered it meaningless, the way a surfeit of swearing robs cuss words of their sting.”  But stigma is “gross and profoundly damaging.”

What I found most challenging about this book was the length.  The paperback is around 350 pages, and I would have liked to see it trimmed down a bit.  The length was also an issue with the paragraphs, the sections, and some of the chapters.  It’s not necessarily a major flaw in the book overall, but depression has not been kind to my concentration, and for me this was a tough read.  It wasn’t that the content was hard to read; it just wasn’t chunked well enough for me.

Overall, though, I think this book offers an interesting perspective, and we certainly need to get more people talking about suicide and what we can do about it.

 

I received a reviewer copy of this book from www.netgalley.com.

You can find my other book reviews here.

 

My new book Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis, with contributions from members of the mental health blogging community, will be released on September 9.  My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple, is available on Amazon and other ebook retailers.

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16 thoughts on “Book Review: Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me

  1. Luftmentsch says:

    I wouldn’t normally mention typos, but in the fourth paragraph you have “now dying” instead of “not dying” (I assume), which changes the meaning of the sentence.

  2. Meg says:

    I like the part where she discusses loads of different treatment options for depression, because I haven’t heard of all of them!

    “She provided detailed descriptions of multiple suicides. My personal preference is for a less is more approach to details about suicide methods, but I can accept that she was trying to be totally open.”

    I kind of agree with you that different suicide methods should be kept very hush-hush (for many different reasons). Paint thinner is a scary thought! I think one good method of suicide prevention (for lack of a better term) is to not spread ideas for succeeding at it. It’s one topic where ignorance is power. We’re all better off not knowing the most effective ways to end our lives!

  3. lifeasweknowit says:

    I am dealing with this myself, my life was horrible before the suicide attempt and now it just seems to be worse! I fight thoughts daily! And the sad thing is most people can’t afford help! It’s sad addicts get free help but the stigma on mental illness just doesn’t allow it!

  4. Hannah Celeste says:

    This sounds like a fascinating book! I feel like books are increasingly addressing the concept of “mental health,” but I like that this one addresses suicide specifically.

  5. The Inquisitive Mind says:

    Thanks for taking the time to review this book. People struggling with depression is a very real issue, and I commend Anna Paperny for sharing her personal experiences. Due to my background in psychology, I am aware that there are many factors that play into people’s depression, including biological, psychological, and sociological factors. I have also had very close friends affected by depression, and I wish I could help them much more. This review is very helpful by describing how difficult it is to live with a stigma that someone struggles with very much, which is useful for people to know. Thank you for writing this review. It gave me a sense of what to expect in Anna’s writings and how it can be eye-opening to learn about a personal struggle. Keep up the good work!

  6. Sarah says:

    That’s an important concept people don’t think about – dealing with the aftermath of suicide when you have an attempt and survive (as was the case for me). I had a worse set of circumstances to deal with because my problems and depression still existed, along with the pain I caused my loved ones. It’s a complex experience that people don’t talk about enough, so thanks for shining a light on it.

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