It’s difficult enough explaining an illness of one parent or another family member to a child. It’s even more difficult if the illness is depression and it’s harder to ‘see’.
This is the basis of Sharon McGuinness’ book, written through the eyes of her daughter about their husband and father, Greg.
“Greg and I had always tried to be honest with our kids, but depression is a very difficult concept to explain. It wasn’t like he had a broken leg or a cold - these were the types of things they understood,” Sharon explains.
But it was much more difficult to explain why Greg was unhappy and spent so much time in hospital when he didn’t look sick.
“After a period of hospitalisation for Greg, I began to write a story from the perspective of my daughter and these first writings eventually became the basis of the book.”
Coming Home is written through the eyes of a girl called Gemma, in language that a child can understand. It creates the feelings they experience and uses imagery to illustrate the confusion and complexity of what they’re going through. It doesn’t try to give a reason for the depression experienced by Gemma’s dad but shows that key to recovery is support.
“I feel that Coming Home personifies the emotions and confusion experienced by children when their parents disappear into the shadows of their black dog.”
The book has a happy ending.
“Sadly, we didn’t,” says Sharon. “Greg lost his battle with depression and took his life in 2010.
“My children and I are still grieving his loss but I hope this book will help others in a similar situation and encourage people who need it to seek professional help.”
The royalties from the book are being donated by Sharon and her children to the Black Dog Institute in appreciation of the support they received.
“In a world where depression and suicide are fiercely ‘taboo’ subjects of discussion, the support and education we received from the Black Dog Institute enabled us to understand and accept Greg’s illness.
“We want to help others have access to this kind of care.”
Coming Home is available in good bookstores or online at Wombat Books.
If you need help now, please call:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Men’s Line Australia on 1300 78 99 78
Kids Help Line on 1800 55 1800