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Back from the Brink: True Stories and Practical Help for Overcoming Depression and Bipolar Disorder Paperback – January 2, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“This is a brave book that will certainly help remove stigma, and provides real hope and practical help.”
Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

“Depression is deeply personal and intense in a way that others may find difficult to comprehend. That’s why individual stories are crucial if we are to educate and combat public stigma. Back from the Brink does just that.”
Geoffrey Gallop, DPhil, professor and director of the graduate school of Government at the University of Sydney and former Premier of Western Australia

“Depression and bipolar disorder are serious illnesses, but they can be safely and effectively treated. The incredible personal stories in Cowan's book show that people suffering from these illnesses are not alone, and that recovery is possible. The practical advice contained in this book will provide a path to recovery, as well as hope that a fulfilling life is within everyone's reach.”
—C. Edward Coffey, MD, vice president of Henry Ford Health System; CEO of Behavioral Health Services; and Kathleen and Earl Ward Chair of Psychiatry, Henry Ford Hospital

Back from the Brink is an extraordinary collection of interviews with famous and not-so-famous individuals who have lived through the experience of depression and bipolar disorder. It provides invaluable insights and practical advice. It also sends the message, ‘You are not alone,’ to anyone struggling with mental illness, and reminds families and friends how much a difference their support can make in the journey toward recovery.”
Michael J. Fitzpatrick, MSW, executive director at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

“Too many books about depression and bipolar disorder share only one person’s thoughts and journey in dealing with one of these disorders. But in Back from the Brink, Graeme Cowan provides insightful and heartfelt interviews with eight others who’ve made the journey and come out the better for it. Cowan’s engaging interview style and thoughtful questions make it easy to take away inspiration and hope from the book. Friends, family, and anyone who’s grappled with depression or bipolar disorder will appreciate the worth of Cowan’s valuable contribution.”
John M. Grohol, PsyD, founder of, the leading online mental health network, and coauthor of Self-Help That Works

“Powerful personal testimonies from those of us who have experienced mental health problems can inspire as well as shift public perceptions. As we know from anti-stigma work at Time to Change, personal disclosure can dissolve stereotypes and support recovery. This amazing book really puts people in the driving seat of their own recovery and is helpful, hopeful, and empowering.”
Sue Baker, director of Time to Change

About the Author

Graeme Cowan lived through a five-year episode of depression that his psychiatrist described as the worst he had ever treated. This fueled his desire to prevent others from going through the same thing. Through this horrific experience, and his own extensive research, he has guided, taught, and inspired countless people through his books, keynote presentations, and media appearances.
Foreword writer Glenn Close is an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award-winning actress who made her feature film debut in The World According to Garp. Her performance earned Close her first Academy Award nomination. She was subsequently Oscar-nominated for her performances in The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and most recently, Albert Nobbs, which she also cowrote and produced. Among her television credits is the highly-acclaimed TV legal drama, Damages, for which she has won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe as Best Actress.
In 2009, Close participated in the launch of Bring Change 2 Mind, a non-profit organization working to end the stigma, misunderstanding, and discrimination surrounding mental illness. The idea for this movement evolved out of her first-hand observation of battles with mental illness within her family. Her sister, Jessie, lives with bipolar disorder and Jessie’s son, Calen, is living with schizoaffective disorder.
Afterword writer Allen Doederlein is president of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), the nation’s largest consumer-led mental health organization focusing on mood disorders, and a proud member of the advocacy committee of the International Society of Bipolar Disorders.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: New Harbinger Publications; 1 edition (January 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608828565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608828562
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Graeme Cowan worked in senior leadership positions with Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Morgan and Banks, and AT Kearney. In 2000 he went through a 5 year episode of depression that his psychiatrist described as the worst he had ever treated.

He emerged from this crisis with a different view about how we can build our own resilience and mental fitness to thrive through change. This lead to him becoming an author, keynote speaker, coach, and consultant.

His second book "BACK FROM THE BRINK TOO: Helping your loved one overcome depression" was awarded SANE Australia's 2009 Book of the Year.

His third book, "BACK FROM THE BRINK:true stories and practical help for overcoming depression and bipolar disorder", is being released in the US in January 2014, with a Foreword written by the actress Glenn Close, and a testimonial from former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The book includes an extensive interview with Patrick Kennedy about coping with the highs and lows of being part of Kennedy dynasty.

The book also contains the results of a 4000+ person survey asking them, of everything they tried, what worked best in their recovery. A free copy of an excerpt from the book that contains the research results can be obtained from

Graeme is a columnist for PsychCentral and Psychology Today and authored the report "The Elephant in the Boardroom: getting mentally fit for work" ( He also helped Gavin Larkin create and launch R U OK? Day ( and is on the Board of Directors.

He lives in Sydney Australia adjoining a national park with his wife Karen, and has two grown up children. He is passionate about meditation,travel, music, learning, gardening, Vietnamese and Thai food, wine, movies, and walking in nature.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Peter Saad on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I connected to this book from the get go. The stories of 10 different people. Each life different, each suffered in similar ways to what I have. The authors understanding of what its like to be in depression and what's its like to recover also helped me connect with him.

The book also gives great hope that there is a way out of this awful pain and anguish. Again through sharing 10 other lives who have suffered, (some a lot worse than I did), kept me thinking "if they can, there's hope for me".

Feeling understood and believing there is hope is a godsend when you're in hell. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is the road map out of it.

The chapter titled "Depression Treatments That Work" has coincided with my experience of what works.

Depression and anxiety tore up many years of my life. I almost lost my wife of 20 years, my relationship with my three children and I lost all my possessions - I was hanging on by a very thin thread and was in emotional agony. I believed there was no more hope for me and deeply ashamed.

Around 3 years ago, through the love of my family, I decided to try anything to get well again, despite not believing I could.

I consulted with many therapists and tried many things, including medication.

As I improved a little, I started reading a lot, dozens of books on depression, self -esteem and personal development.

I now have a very close connection with my wife and children, I have restarted my business and am doing well. I have never felt better than I do now! I am more resilient, compassionate and authentic than I have ever been also (I'm now 45 yo).
Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jenny on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
Once again Graeme Cowan has endeavoured courageously and succinctly in helping people with depression and/or bi-polar disorder. This book has great personal stories from many prominant people, mostly from America, yet although I'm not American I found the accounts fascinating. We come to learn how different and sometimes how similar peoples' experiences of mental illness can be. By sharing his own story too we discover the power of tenacity,of never giving up when it seems like the cards are stacked up against us and we have given up on ourselves.
What did I learn-1.Almost everyone interviewed had a problem with alcohol as a young person. Most probably they had anxiety problems for which they self medicated.
2.Lifestyle and an alternative approach is just as important as medication and counselling
3.There is no one size-fits-all treatment, trial and error does seem to be the norm-so stick at it!!It's normal.
4. Getting professional help early is vital and valuable to limit the damage to health and relationships.
I think this book should be required reading for everyone,sufferers, carers, health workers, teenagers,family, co-workers. It will reduce stigma and increase understandng of mental illness, which is so very sorely needed even today, 2014.
The websites at the end of the book are extremely helpful. As a health professional and family member/carer, I commend this book to you if you are at all interested in the human condition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kathy on January 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I received a review copy of this book. This book is wonderful because it is like being at a well-run support group with a bunch of famous people.

It turns out, famous people have problems too, and those problems are not that different from those the rest of us living with mental illness experience. However, while they may have resources (like money) that we don't have, they bear the additional burden of learning to cope with their illness while being in the public eye.

Guess what - many of the coping mechanisms they use are the same ones that people who come to my support group use. I think that is what I found most fascinating about this book. In story after story, despite individual differences, there were common threads - and this has been my personal experience in my years of mental health advocacy and recovery from my own illness.

More of us need to share our stories, now more than ever. I thank all of the people who opened up their life experiences to us, and I thank Graeme for organizing this book in such a useful way.

I loved the way that at the end of each person's story he summarized in a box (literally) what that person found most useful in managing his or her illness. If you turn to those pages alone you will learn a lot - but you should read the rest of the book too.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tutt P on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
An important and revealing mental health resource. I applaud Graeme Cowan and his high profile I interviewees for their bravery and candour in presenting their stories and the strategies they've adopted to combat depression. Especially useful are the structured summaries of what worked for each interviewee. Read together these summaries identify common strategies that worked for all interviewees. Finally, Graeme's own elaboration on how he beat depression and the final chapter on proven treatments provides a hands on and detailed handbook on options available to alleviate depression. Well worth reading for anyone battling periods of darkness as well as their support network.

Tatiana Paipetis, PhD
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