In a world where technology is changing the way we live our lives, its becoming more and more important to take care of our own mental well being, according to author Matt Haig.

The Reverend Richard Holloway introduces Matt Haig at the Edinburgh International Book Festival by describing his “wise and witty non-fiction which explores the joy and pain of the human experience.” Discussing his most recent work, Notes on a Nervous Planet, Haig and Holloway create an atmosphere of warmth,  welcome and inclusion; a literal safe space for honest discussion about challenges to our mental health.

” I started this book with no answers and loads of questions” explains Haig. “I had a full blown breakdown about twenty years ago, not knowing how I’d got into that mess in the first place.” He speaks about his lack of understanding of how his bad feelings are exacerbated by how we live today. We know that our physical health can be influenced by lifestyle, but muses “We’re not used to really thinking about our mental health in the same way.”

“I’m cynical about self help books; they have a certain arrogance. I don’t have all the answers. The only reader I had in mind was my 24 year old self. I was trying to write a book that would keep that person in the world.” Indeed, this is not an academic work. There are no references or evidence based recommendations, and neither does it have the painfully compelling narrative of his pervious work Reasons to Stay Alive. This is reflected in the nature of the discussion. He encourages each of us in society to consider how culture in modern society may be impacting our mental well being. Holloway describes Haig as a ‘wounded healer’.  He is by no means a mental health professional, but his personal experiences and advice to “Be kind to yourself” are honest and well meaning.

The discussion relates Haig’s panic disorder and catastrophising and how he has worked to overcome these. “Life is full of pain, but I believe optimism is a more authentic force. I was cynical about happiness, but time proves that being optimistic is a better way to live. Pessimism is not useful, or realistic.”