The graphic novel format works brilliantly - with Korkut Öztekin's illustrations allowing
Brent Williams' words to resonate deeply.
The book describes the inner world of someone who is clinically depressed with extraordinary vividness. The influence of a toxic past, self-defeating perfectionism in the present, and despair about ever feeling well again in the future will be horribly familiar both to sufferers and to their families.
What Brent shows so painfully clearly is the way depression refuses to let go: how, time and again, it creates its own reasons to give up, putting up ‘convincing' barriers to try and prevent the journey to recovery. His story bears witness to the truth that a person may need to persist in exploring different methods to find a way through it all, but that the effort will bear fruit.
If one person's unique story is told really well, it becomes universal. This book does
just that - and will give courage and faith to many many sufferers.
– Professor Mark Williams
Co-author of The Mindul Way Through Depression
Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology
University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry
The artwork is superb and the text clear and inspirational. The fact that it is conveyed in pictures means that sufferers can actually have access to the crucial messages in this book when they need them most, when they are in the pits of depression and unable to concentrate for long enough to read pages of text.
I strongly recommend that anyone suffering from depressive illness should read this book first. A great contribution to the global effort to overcome Major Depression.”
– Dr. Tim Cantopher
Author of Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong
– Professor Robert Sapolsky
Professor of Biology
Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences
Professor of Neurosurgery,
Author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers
– A Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping
I found it easy to read and I was drawn into the narrative. Brent shares some personal and powerful messages and I am guessing he must have put a lot of thought into deciding what/how much to tell.
With my psychologist hat on, I really appreciated the clear references to signs and symptoms to look out for, as well as the message that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment.
I appreciate that Brent talks about persisting to find an approach or combination that works for the individual, the importance of addressing sleep (nice clear messages), the value of making a number of consistent, small changes over the pursuit of one big ‘fix all’/magic wand.
The book captures so many messages in an accessible, accurate and balanced way (mindfulness, acceptance, behavioural activation etc.). I especially appreciate that this is potentially a great resource for other men –both young, middle and older.”
– Bronwyn Sweeney, PhD, MClinPsych
Sleep/Wake Research Centre | Massey University
I was enthralled and hooked from the first few pages. A chill went down my spine on seeing the blackness of the space Brent occupied when most depressed. His story drew me in and I was unable to put Out of the Woods down. I felt compelled to read it from start to finish to discover what happened and whether or not Brent came through the horrible depths of his depression.
Out of the Woods tells a journey through key aspects of Brent’s life. The beauty of the illustrations combined with sparse poetic narrative is sufficient reason to read it alone. However, Out of the Woods also educates on depression. It provides a deep understanding of the nature of depression and the ups of downs of treatment.
It is ultimately a journey of redemption, growth, and hope that could provide an invaluable lifeline to those experiencing depression, and those at a loss to understand what their loved ones are going through. It can also serve as a powerful tool for medical students, counsellors, and GPs wanting to supplement textbook knowledge with a personalised yet accurate account of depression.
The illustrations tell a story on their own with masterful use of colour and facial expression to document the journey through depression Brent has taken. Illustrator Korkut Öztekin creates allegorical spaces of dark foreboding and spiritual enlightenment that demonstrate the highs and lows of Brent’s journey. Complex concepts such as panic attacks and the neurobiology of depression are encapsulated by his drawings.
Read it, share it. That’s all I have to say. ”
– Ben Beaglehole
Psychiatrist, Senior Lecturer Otago Medical School, Christchurch
BJPsych Bulletin (Royal College of Psychiatrists UK) 2019
Out of the Woods: A Journey Through Depression and Anxiety
This is an insightful and extremely valuable book depicting a man’s journey through depression and anxiety. It is based on Brent Williams’ experiences and is a deeply personal account, but is also based on sound medical science. Williams’ personal experiences and the unusual graphic novel format make the book very accessible, allowing the reader to understand the experience of depression and anxiety. It is beautifully illustrated by Korkut Öztekin, with pictures which often ‘say’ so much more than words in terms of evoking the atmosphere and man’s mood.
We journey with the man from a period of deep depres- sion to recovery, passing through multiple steps on the way–including trying to recover alone, resisting help and later becoming open to help. The book offers an explanation as to how and why one might be feeling depressed and anxious, as well as enabling the reader to learn about the symptoms of
depression and anxiety.
Importantly, the story shows the reader how to take the steps towards recovery. The man is told, ‘[y]ou need to break the downward spiral . . . by doing lots of small and manageable things’. The reader is exposed to breathing techniques, mind- fulness and the importance of nature, learning, human contact and exercise amongst other practical steps which help
The book also demonstrates a realistic recovery path with the ups and downs which are so typical. Most significantly, by charting the man’s recovery it offers hope and demonstrates a way forward which will be helpful and comforting to those with similar problems. There are elements of the narrative which are perhaps a little alien to the National Health Service culture. Nevertheless, this is a much-needed book which will be very useful to patients and their families/friends as well as a great help to general practitioners by
supporting the messages we give.
Dr Rebecca Smith, Pallant Medical Chambers West Kent, Forum House, Stirling Road, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 7DN, UK.
Those who suffer from serious depression and anxiety, who don’t respond well to medication, can get lost in self defeating thoughts as they sort though a confusing array of conventional and complementary treatments.
Brent Williams gives a realistic account of the many disappointments he encountered until he finally found the breathing practices, the lifestyle changes, and the right therapist to help balance his emotions and resolve the past experiences that lay beneath his depression.
Within this graphic novel are valuable keys to better understand and cope with depression for those who suffer from the disorder, and for their families and friends.
Healthcare professionals will also enrich their understanding of depression through the eyes of a patient.
Highly recommended for anyone living with depression. ”
– Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD
Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, New York Medical College
Co-author of The Healing Power of the Breath
Extract from the Australasian Psychiatry Journal – 2018
Out of the Woods is a graphic novel describing Brent Williams’ personal journey through depression. However, this is not a sterile clinical vignette. Rather, this is a compelling tale with depth of character and drama that captures the reader’s attention until the end. Part movie, part series of paintings, part novel; the synergy of prose and picture is a powerful combination.
As a graphic novel, Out of the Woods deserves reading in its own right. It also serves other purposes. For readers with personal experience of depression, Out of the Woods lets you know that you are not alone. It serves as a beacon for recovery. The description of psychotherapy is spot on and the presence of a General Practitioner reminds readers that medicine is much more than the prescription of antidepressants.
Out of the Woods also has a role in educating others about depression. Family members, the public, doctors of all types and health care providers will all benefit from it. Out of the Woods is ideally suited for registrars, particularly if the meaning of depression has been lost in waves of morbidity and repeated presentations. It has the capacity to trans- form understanding of depression from a stereotyped clinical entity to a nuanced, powerful, affliction. Out of the Woods also informs about neurobiology, behavioural activation, mindfulness, psychodynamic therapy and much more. An accurate and comprehensive overview of depression is embedded within the graphic novel without the sterility of a textbook.
Out of the Woods exceeds expectations on so many levels. I endorse it heartily.
Dr Ben Beaglehole Christchurch, NZ
Extract from Psychotherapy Politics International - 2018
I would highly recommend that psychotherapists and mental health professionals at any level read this book. Its graphic novel style makes it accessible yet impactful. It was a refreshing respite for me as a psychotherapy student who often finds herself buried in large volumes of theory; Out of the Woods put me right back to the first day I decided to embark on this journey towards being a therapist. As Williams's life burst into full colour, so did my own weary student's mind, limping as I was towards the Christmas break in my first semester when I read the book. We must ourselves be careful—especially in training, when the process can feel so very overwhelming—not to get lost in the “theoretical woods” and to keep the client, the real human being in front of us, front and centre.
I felt privileged to have had this glimpse into the author's journey, which no doubt has still more subtleties, twists and turns than either he or the illustrator were able to fit into the book—perhaps a reminder that we must remain aware as therapists of what we do not, and possibly cannot, know another's experience. Out of the Woods is a powerful reminder that real people's stories, real journeys, and real transformations are every bit as important as the theories that shape and inform our practice.
Elizabeth Smith University of Leeds, UK
Out of the Woods – 2018 Benjamin Franklin Award Winner - Judges’ comments
“This book is a really, really moving authentic and touching look at what it feels like to be depressed. It puts the reader in the sufferer’s shoes. The reader develops empathy and takes a profound journey with the protagonist. I can give this graphic novel a 10 for the writing. Even though I am familiar with the effects of depression on several loved ones this book taught me quite a few things. I learned more about the way that therapy and medication work together to fight the depression. I like the way that the author put it. I also learned about the social and emotional cost of depression and how depression comes in troughs and waves. The well-done graphics set the mood and the tone for the book. They also subtly reinforce the fact that depression has a biological source. I loved the way that the trees mimicked the shape of lungs on page 66 and 67. I also liked the way that the brain dendrites were featured in the background on page 76. The drawings were very well done. Reading this graphic novel made me take a second look at my attitudes about depression. Instead of dismissing people’s symptoms and cutting them off when they mentioned depression, I can now respond with more insight. It is similar to Darkness Visible by William Styron because it also maps one man’s journey through depression in a very memorable and affecting way. Both works also open up discussions about mental illness.”
“What a creative way to tell a memoir. The images really enhanced the story. Out of the Woods is a handsome graphic-novel-structured memoir. The interior is a gorgeous marriage of illustration and story text—a brilliant and accessible way to engage the topic of depression. I love the treatment on the inside front and inside back covers, too. The visual content makes the book a special pleasure to read and engage. It is a wonderful, hopeful publication.”
“The writing is clean and clear. It blends seamlessly with the illustrations to give a clear picture of the author’s descent into depression and his voyage out of the woods. The book meets the author’s objectives in a subtle, encouraging manner. Usually, I am not a fan of graphic novels. However, I found this to be a treasure. It tackles a difficult topic in a sensitive, compelling manner. The illustrations perfectly capture the tone of the book.”
“This was a surprising book! I was stunned that such an emotional and powerful message could be written and illustrated in a “comic” style. The writing was unusual; the repetition and limited vocabulary fit well with the presentation. The author did a good job of making the story personal without being maudlin and sappy. The story could offer hope and direction to others who feel trapped in depression. The story also allowed the character to have multiple occurrences of depressive feelings, the ability to change therapists, and to take care of his physical and emotional needs. This would be an excellent resource book for therapists and therapeutic groups.”
Extract from 'Ata' Journal of Psychotherapy Aotearoa NZ - 2018
“This is an intensely personal and deeply emotional story of the author’s journey through depression, anxiety, life traumas and challenges. While some may critique the style of this story as an unusual one for this kind of content, and not an overtly academic one, I am of the opinion that it provides an openness of expression, an accessibility not easily achieved by writing alone, and offers the reader a tangible sense of the possible impact and suffering experienced through the illness of depression and anxiety, as well as plenty of information and inspiration.
I would recommend this beautifully presented graphic novel to Ata readers, as well as a general audience, including clients.”