Rise Above

30 August 2023

Rise Above: Surviving Depressing and Living a Better Life
by John Melnick
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Toby A. Welch
$19.99 ISBN 9781990863110

I truly feel that someone who hasn’t been touched by depression wouldn’t have been able to write this book with as much heart as John Melnick. He has struggled with the mental illness for decades and that experience comes through in every page of Rise Above. In 2002, in the depths of a severe clinical depression, Melnick swam into a fast-flowing river to end the pain in his life. Thankfully his desire to live prevailed. He shares his story and enlightens the rest of us about depression, a devastating mental illness. 

Melnick shares openly about the family dynamics he has lived with all his life, relationships that may or may not have contributed to his depression. I found those details fascinating and appreciated how forthcoming he was; that helped clarify his experiences. 

One chapter shares the point of view of Melnick’s wife and another of Melnick’s niece. They cover what the ladies went through when Melnick tried to commit suicide and their perspective on things. Depression doesn’t just affect the person afflicted with it; it touches everyone in that person’s life. Hearing from different sides of the situation is eye-opening.

Each chapter in this book ends with encouragement to get help if needed and where to reach out for that support; it can be help for yourself or for a loved one who is at a crisis point. It is invaluable information. 

Melnick shares what worked for him as he learned to live with his depression. Journaling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and getting a tattoo of his motto – carpe diem – are just three of his strategies. He encourages others to find what works for them and to ‘rise above’ whatever they need to get past. 

This book came into my life at the perfect time. A dear friend recently disclosed that she has suffered with depression for years and has recently started taking medication to help her cope. I was clueless as to what she was going through or how to help but Rise Above has enabled me to become a more empathetic friend. As well, I just watched the Mark Cavendish Netflix documentary, Never Enough. In it, we hear about Cavendish’s depression diagnosis. Rise Above helped me grasp what the world-renowned cyclist may have been struggling with. 

I love what Melnick is attempting with Rise Above, to try and remove the embarrassment and stigma attached to depression. He has spent the last twenty years educating people about mental health and encouraging others to talk about their experiences. Such a powerful calling! After all, as Melnick points out, one in five people in Canada are affected by mental illness. If you or someone you know has depression, snag a copy of this enlightening book. 


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