THE University of Dundee's Bonar Hall played host to an illuminating, humorous and inspiring event on Friday evening as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. 'Reasons to Stay Alive' was a chance to hear the acclaimed author Matt Haig discuss his bestselling book, of the same name, and read some thought-provoking excerpts from it.

Matt was joined by Jo Clifford, a highly-respected playwright who discussed her moving experiences of being a transgendered woman. Rounding off the panel, excellently moderated by Sasha de Buyl-Pisco of the Scottish Book Trust, was the wonderfully talented singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni, who treated the audience to a couple of clever, haunting and beautifully performed songs. 

The book is a change of pace for Haig as it's his first autobiographical work, and tackles his battles with mental health, namely depression. His first reading focussed on the incredible levels of anxiety he would experience whilst venturing out to a nearby shop for milk, detailing the manic second-by-second thoughts that would flood his brain. Ms Clifford talked of her confusing experiences as a young boy, including an incident where she stole a doll and had to hide away to have any chance of playing with and enjoying it.

The discussion weaved through several of the issues prevalent to mental illness and the LGBT community, and perhaps inevitably the subject of stigma was raised, and thoroughly discussed. 

“We can't change the illness. But depression's symptoms can be made worse by stigma. Stigma costs lives. We can't be silent.
Matt Haig


The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival runs until 31st October. The event also formed part of the Dundee Literary Festival.