Source- Review copy
Publisher- Allen & Unwin
Publication date- 2 July 2012
Synopsis- A frank and inspiring guide to living a happy, fulfilling life with the challenge of a mental health issue.
A Better Life is a rich blend of Craig Hamilton’s own amazing story of how as a busy broadcaster, dad, husband and mental health campaigner, he lives with bipolar. Craig also shares the experiences of others in the public eye who are dealing with mental illness, including powerful and practical material from Andrew Johns ( bipolar disorder), Garry McDonald ( anxiety and depression), Jessica Rowe ( postnatal depression) and Wally Lewis (depression). Craig’s authentic, practical and reassuring advice is underpinned by a wicked sense of humour that lifts the darker aspects of his story and makes for a truly compelling read.
Review- As a psychologist working in mental health, I often find myself tuning into media headlines that address these issues. I must admit, sometimes I get a bit frustrated by claims of ‘mental illness’ by men in the television/ film industry or sport who use these labels to justify domestic violence or other antisocial behaviour. So, when I received a copy of A Better Life by sports commentator, Craig Hamilton I was a little sceptical.
Thankfully, Craig’s memoir is an honest account about his battle with the serious mental illness, Bipolar Disorder and not for one second did I question his authenticity. Diagnosed twelve years ago, this label has been a welcome relief to Craig- as it provided an explanation for his odd behaviour and marked highs and lows.
Craig also talks about what he terms ‘blokedom’ and the phenomenon of men being reluctant to admit they have a problem and seek help.
“As Australian males, we’re taught by our families to be resilient and tough. To avoid showing our emotions under any circumstances. We have been conditioned to think it’s a sign of weakness if we do.” (pg. 74).
He also talks about the impact his mental illness has had on his family, as well as his wife Louise.
“I very much doubt that as a little girl she dreamed of finding a handsome prince she’d end up having to repeatedly take to a psychiatric ward.” (page 155). Louise and Craig’s psychiatrist also provide their viewpoints in their own chapter of the book.
A Better Life is not an autobiography, rather it provides snippets of Craig’s life regarding his mental illness- how he manages it and the ambassador work he now does with Beyond Blue to publicly share his experience. It felt very much like a self-help book and Craig’s passion for mental illness promotion and education absolutely shines through. I think the courage Craig shows in writing A Better Life provides a fantastic opportunity to reach men and anyone else in the community who has a mental illness (undiagnosed or diagnosed) or knows someone who has. His no-nonsense approach is enthusing and optimistic and I can see many readers feeling empowered by his story and encouraged to seek help for themselves.
A quick, easy read- A Better Life is a great self-help companion.
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About the author: CRAIG HAMILTON is a sports commentator on ABC’s weekly Grandstand program. He’s been an Ambassador for Beyond Blue since 2005 and does many presentations around the country for them. Craig speaks regularly at conferences, including the Comcare National Conference twice, Community Forums, workplaces and schools. Workplace requests for Craig to talk are increasing as more information is sought about depression, anxiety and all the work/life balance issues that go with the busy pace of life today. Last year, Craig gave the Grace Groom Oration at the Canberra Press Club to commemorate the former CEO of the Mental Health Council of Australia. WILL SWANTON has been a sports writer for a decade. He is the author of two previous books published by Allen + Unwin: Some Day and Murder Ball.