The ground-breaking ABC documentary, Changing Minds – The Inside Story, gave Australians a unique insight into the Mental Health Unit of Liverpool Hospital; bringing the conversation on mental illness to the mainstream through stories of the patients and doctors who support them.
Leading psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross, who featured in the documentary series, once again brings to light the misconceptions around mental illness in Australians with his new book, Changing minds: The go-to guide to mental health for you, family and friends. Co-authored with researcher Dr Catherine Hanrahan, the two present a practical guide on all things mental health that really speaks to an Australian audience. It’s light-hearted while remaining engaging and informative.
Dr Cross has worked in South Africa and the UK and, in the past decade, in Australia as the senior psychiatrist at Campbelltown Hospital’s Mental Health Youth Ward. He is the winner of the 2015 Meritorious Service Award for his continuous work and improvement of mental health in NSW.
Drawing on his 25 years of expertise and first-hand experience in dealing with patients and their families, he discusses perceived dark and taboo topics in a conversational manner, highlighting the different mental health problems that impact our society. The book acts as a guide by providing specific information on where you can find assistance and tailored resources in Australia, including links to WayAhead’s Understanding Anxiety website, which details access to support groups in NSW and treatment programs.
Giving Australians access to trustworthy information is the premise of the book, creating a common knowledge in hopes of normalising mental health and the discussion around it.
Dr Cross also explains how to manage the illness at different stages, teaching patients and families to live with a mental illness successfully without impacting on their quality of life.
The book dedicates each chapter to a single illness or disorder and covers psychosis, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, sexual disorders, suicide, as well as eating disorders and substance abuse. As people can often suffer from more than one illness at a time Dr Cross has made it simple and easy to gain all the necessary information for many illnesses without losing the reader with convoluted and scientific jargon.
In Dr Cross’ interview with ABC’s Conversation with Richard Fidler, he discusses the idea of bringing his patients to a point of ‘insight’ about their illness and the issues that come along with it.
This philosophy is evident in his book where he aims to bring his readers to the same point, in the hope that they not only gain knowledge but a new outlook on mental health and those affected. He also stresses the importance of having a solid support network for patients and, as was apparent in the TV series, he successfully guides families and friends on how to help their loved one through one of the most difficult times in their life.
As mental illness affects one in every four Australians, the chances are that you or somebody you know, at some stage in life, will need a guide like this to help through the journey.
In highlighting real-life stories of the people who live with a mental illness, Dr Cross gives a voice to those who have been made quiet by stigmas and misconceptions. This is a book every Australian should read, from family members to carers to employers and even just the curious, because, only then, can the stigma and barriers that Dr Cross tries to break down be achieved.