"I just wanted an absence of the pain I was feeling." Twenty years ago Matt Haig was severely depressed. It led to him to question how it could ever be possible to find happiness in such a stressful world.

"Life is so infinitely hard," said Haig. Rates of mental illness have been increasing drastically since the '90s, and there remains a tremendous amount of stigma surrounding depression and anxiety.

Tabloids, TV and social media have had a detrimental effect on how we view ourselves, and the world. There are ideals of how we should look that are "completely fabricated", he said. "We're raising a generation that doesn't like their natural selves".

When the subject of mental health arises, it often comes with negative associations. There is still the belief among certain people that it shows weakness, that we should all "man up". 

Haig said, "The solution isn't adding something, it's taking something away". His key advice on "how to be happy" was to resist comparing yourself to other people.

A successful author of children's and adult fiction, Haig has now added two insightful books on mental illness to his collection – the first was Reasons to Stay Alive.

 Picture by Sam Hardwick

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