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“Important and compelling reading’

Review of Transformation: Turning tragedy into triumph (Dr Tim Sharp, ed) by Annette Marfording, Radio 2bbb FM

On 24 May the ABC evening news reported the shocking new statistics about youth suicide, with deaths from suicide surpassing road deaths in many regions of Australia. In this context, the new book Transformation: Turning Tragedy into Triumph makes for important and compelling reading. The book is a collection of twelve personal stories of tragedy and trauma suffered by their authors, and importantly, of how the writers managed to turn their lives around and now spend their lives motivating others to do so, too.

Dr Tim Sharp

Dr Tim Sharp, editor, Transformation: Turning Tragedy into Triumph

Some of the contributors’ names will be known to you, others will not, but each of their stories is profoundly moving, informative and inspiring. At the end of each, editor and Director of the Happiness Institute Dr Tim Sharp analyses and lists what can be learned from it.

Contributors include Lana Penrose, who overcame extreme depression and whose book The Happiness Quest I reviewed on this program about a year ago; Ingrid Poulson, whose estranged husband killed her father and her two children before killing himself; Jean Paul Bell, one of the founders of the Clown Doctors; Wiradjuri man Joe Williams, a former rugby league player for South Sydney, Penrith and Canterbury and now a professional boxer, who overcame his problem of alcoholism and drug addiction rooted in depression; and Dr Tim Sharp, the editor of the book and Director of the Happiness Institute, who for the first time in his life reveals his own struggles with depression.

The stories of three contributors struck a particular chord with me:

Sam Cawthorn was the Young Australian of the Year in 2015. His life was profoundly changed when a major car accident left him Sam Cawthorn quoteclose to death, without his right arm and with a permanent disability in his right leg. He begins his contribution with the words ‘Pain is inevitable; misery is optional.’ A very important guideline for living, albeit one many of us don’t think about often enough. Here are another two important passages from his contribution, which I found very thought-provoking [read out from middle p 11 and p 12].

Petrea King is the founder of the Quest for Life Foundation, which offers support for people living with cancer, depression and other traumas. In her essay, she tells of how her life came unstuck while in Assisi, suffering from leukaemia which the doctors had told her she would soon die from. And here is the passage which was central to me: [read bottom p 36-7].

Finally the story of Allan Sparkes, a former police officer based in Coffs Harbour, recipient of the Cross of Valour, the highest award for bravery, and of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. He writes about central incident