Radical Compassion

Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness by Darryl Cunningham. Bloomsbury, 2011. 9781608192786.

After picking up Challenger Deep, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite books on mental illness, Psychiatric Tales. It was the first book by Cunningham, and was several years in the making. His art and storytelling are still developing, but his talent absolutely shines through. He writes about his experiences as a psychiatric nurse, each tale dealing with a person with a different type of mental illness — the symptoms, the effects on people’s outlook, and how their lives are changed. He especially highlights how stigma can make the experience far more difficult. His compassion and kindness tint his straightforward tellings, and then in a final chapter he talks about how he, too, dealt with mental health issues that changed his career plans. A bittersweet aspect of the book for me is that since Cunningham is in the UK, all of the people he works with are getting medical care, no matter their income or background. This is not a given for people in the US, especially for those with mental illness and dementia.