Former Journal editor talks mental health in memoir

Anna Mehler Paperny’s Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me asks and answers questions about learning to live with depression

Anna Mehler Paperny’s Hello I want to die please fix me.
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Former Queen’s Journal editor in chief Anna Mehler Paperny’s debut memoir is a deep dive into depression and the way our society fails to address it effectively.  

Her book, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me: Depression in the First Person, guides the reader through her personal experience with depression, suicidal thoughts, attempts at suicide, and time spent in various hospitals.

Mehler Paperny, a reporter for Reuters, shares everything in her book, from her lowest lows to her being diagnosed with depression, as well as learning how to live with it.

She sat down to write this book years after her diagnosis, but before doing so, she sought to learn everything she possibly could about her depression. She chased it like a story, putting her journalistic mind to work.

Crediting The Journal as the reason she pursued journalism as a career, Mehler Paperny says the campus newspaper taught her what she needed to know to get her start.

The Journal taught me how to do interviews, how to craft and chase stories, how to edit, which is still helpful even though I’m not an editor anymore,” says Mehler Paperny. “But the skills I learned at The Journal helped me make stories better. The Journal was seminal in my entering and getting a job in journalism.”

It’s no surprise that when Mehler Paperny decided to tackle the massive project of writing a memoir about a very personal and challenging time in her life, she handled it like any other investigative piece.

“It was very similar to how I chase stories for articles. The biggest difference was scale and scope, both in terms of time frame and in terms of story.”

When writing the memoir, her process started with asking the same basic questions that she turns to before researching and writing an article. “I would start by figuring out what I wanted to say, what questions were unanswered, and then figure out who had the answers and try to track them down,” she explained.

In Mehler Paperny’s memoir, she recalls speaking with her grandmother on the phone while in the hospitalMuch later, she remembered her grandmother telling her to write about what she was going through.

“I was a bit of a mess when she told me this and wasn’t really thinking about the book; I wasn’t thinking about writing anything down. It was just something that I had filed away and came back to later,” Mehler Paperny told The Journal.

It wasn’t until much later that she found herself keeping notes of her experiences.

This habit of writing down her experiences sparked Mehler Paperny’s journalistic mind. She began wondering about depression, suicide and mental illness in a deeper sense.

“I realized as well that this was something that people needed to talk more about. The current discourse was not adequate in its approach, so all those things made me realize that I might have a story here that was for public consumption,” says Mehler Paperny. “Then as I kept going, I realized that it might be a book.”

Her research process brought her to some of the mental health field’s most prominent researchers and practitionerslike Elliot Goldner, the former director of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction—and she started to get some answers.

Mehler Paperny wrote a memoir, but it reads like an investigative report. She shares her findings with the reader by intertwining it with her own life experiences. It’s informative, but easy to grasp.

Though she put in years of hard work and research, Mehler Paperny had reservations about whether or not she wanted to share her full story.

“I think anybody writing this would hesitate or would ask themselves if they wanted to do this. I think it really hit home for me that I was writing this for an audience when we started editing,” says Mehler Paperny.

By sharing her story without holding back any details, Mehler Paperny makes a solid argument for the need to share similar stories and with those, information about resources and tools to live with depression.

Mehler Paperny’s bare-all, honest tone in this book is a new take on the mental health dialogue. Her investigation sheds light on this often-avoided topic for all those who read it.

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