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Through the Dark Woods – A young woman’s journey out of depression

Monarch Books
RRP $19.95

In Through the Dark Woods, Jo Swinney shares her experiences as a sufferer of depression and offers insights from a Christian perspective.

Her intention is to help fellow sufferers and the people who care for them. She considers the causes of depression, the symptoms, its effects on relationships, work and faith, and the sensitive issue of suicide. She also describes strategies and tips that have helped her cope.

She highlights the stigma still attached to depression and is honest about the difficulties associated with attending church, owing to the mistaken (but sadly widespread) notion that Christians shouldn’t get depressed and the unspoken pressure to be ‘joyful’.

She addresses the place of counseling and medication in treatment, from the standpoint of someone who was vehemently opposed to both.

Swinney also offers advice for people close to those with depression, including what not to do. (I especially appreciated her point that people who tell the depressed to ‘look on the bright side’ are in fact exhibiting their inability/unwillingness to cope with the situation.) She is frank about just how difficult it is to care for a depressed person, stressing that those who do need support themselves.

Swinney’s style is colourful, humorous and thoughtful, if somewhat naïve.

She is generally sensitive in handling her topic, however she mentions depression ‘resulting directly from sin’, and includes a quote which calls suicide ‘sinful’.

While she clearly doesn’t want to duck the theological implications of depression (whatever they may be), I question the wisdom of including this in a book intended for those currently depressed.

Such comments pile guilt onto the hopelessness already felt.

Overall, though, this book is an encouraging and honest exploration of a prevalent and debilitating illness, a valuable starting point for sufferers and their loved ones alike.

This UK published book lists UK support services. Support in Australia can be found at www.beyondblue.org.au, www.blackdoginstitute.org.au and http://www.reachout.com.au (particularly for young people).

Reviewed by Renee England