I’m a writer, university lecturer and broadcaster with a special interest in mental health, having previously worked as a mental health nurse. I will now list my professional achievements (because there isn’t enough room for my personal failings).
My debut novel, The Shock of the Fall (2013), tells the story of a young man trying to navigate psychiatric services following the death of his brother. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and translated into thirty languages. It won the Costa Book of the Year, the Betty Trask Prize, the National Book Award for Popular Fiction and the Writers’ Guild Award for Best First Novel.
I’ve written essays and articles for the Guardian, New York Times, HuffPost and Asylum Magazine. My BBC Radio documentary The Mind in the Media (2017), which explored portrayals of mental illness in fiction and journalism, was shortlisted for a Mind Media Award. My poetry has been broadcast on radio and TV, and I’m a previous winner of the BBC Best New Filmmaker Award.
My book of non-fiction, The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia, also published as This Book Will Change Your Mind About Mental Health (2019), was a Sunday Times Book of the Year and was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, awarded for the finest work of literature, regardless of form, to be published in the English language. The charity Rethink Mental Illness named it as one of their best books of the decade.
Why Do I Feel? (2021) is my podcast series exploring human emotions through stories and expert testimony. It was a Financial Times Top 10 Podcast of 2021 and won a Silver Medal at the 2022 Radio Academy ARIAS awards in the ‘Best Independent Podcast’ category.
I have talked about books, mental health, or some combination of both on the BBC Radio 2 Book Club, BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking and BBC Radio 4’s Open Book, Front Row, All in the Mind, Word of Mouth, A Good Read and the Today Programme.
In 2023, I completed a ‘PhD by Publication’ in Creative Writing. My thesis is entitled Lives Lived at the Edges: on storytelling that honours the complexity of mental illness and trauma. I’m a recipient of The Big Anxiety Prize, awarded in association with the University of New South Wales for ‘a creative thinker advancing the discussion of mental health’. I also hold an Honorary Doctorate in Liberal Arts from Abertay University, conferred in recognition of my role in raising awareness of mental health issues through literature.
I am a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, where I also co-direct the Research Centre for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Creativity.
My hobbies include pacing around feeling nervous about stuff, and having arguments with people in my head. Before I know it, it’s time to pick the kids up from school.