Author Karen Tyrrell on Using Writing to Recover and Break the Stigma of Mental Illness

About 1 in 5 people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetimes and according to research by psychiatrist and researcher, Sam Harvey, mental illness is now the main reason for incapacitation in Australian workers.  Some of the leading causes for the onset of mental illness come from work-related stress and anxiety, something we are all at risk of, and award winning Logan author Karen Tyrell knows this intimately.

Karen initially coped with her experiences of harassment and bullying by one of her students and their parents on her own, keeping her climbing anxiety to herself for fear of worrying those she cared about. Unfortunately, keeping her ordeal to herself as many people do, led to her insomnia and mental illness.

The stigma surrounding mental illness is something Karen is acutely aware of. In many cases, it can result in symptoms being ignored which in turn affects recovery and quality of life. People can feel embarrassed, misunderstood and marginalised. Karen was lucky to have the support of her husband and family when she needed it most.

Another major factor in her recovery was her writing. She says, “I experienced an OCD compulsion to express what was happening to me and ask why I became mentally ill and how I could become well again. In the psychiatric hospital, I interviewed doctors, nurses and patients to find out answers. When I left hospital, I joined Queensland Writers Centre and enlisted into many writing courses to hone my writing craft.”

For her, the act of creating was and still is part of the therapeutic process.

“Writing was comforting and cathartic for me. It was a way to solve my inner personal struggles and connect with my raw emotions. When I write, I connect with my true self and to my reader.”

It is easy to see how Karen’s strength and her passion for sharing her story go hand in hand. Her first award-winning book, Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness is the story of how the manic and psychotic part of her personality began to take over and the beginning of her road to recovery.


Me And Her-Cover-K Tyrrell

Me & Her: A Memoir of Madness

“In 2005, my mad half was born.’

ME ─ wife, mother, writer and teacher.
HER ─ manic, psychic, healer to the living, telepathic to the dead … and I was very psychotic.

At my yearly meeting with my psychiatrist, my husband revealed he had kept secrets from me for over six years. What?

‘On that fateful blue-sky day, my life as I knew it fell apart.’

Her second award-winning book Me & Him: A Guide to recovery shares how her husband influenced her recovery.


Me And Him-Cover-KTyrrell

Me & Him: A Guide to Recovery

Steve’s revelations changed my perceptions. The sequel Me & Him: A Guide to Recovery was written in two parts. Part 1: a memoir revealing Steve’s secrets. For Part 2: I wrote a self-help manual sharing my recovery and coping skills. The same ones to keep you happy, healthy and mentally balanced. Including tips on how to stress less, sleep better, how to stop negative triggers, develop a wellness plan, how to meditate, stop panic attacks, beat depression, and overcome anxiety.

Karen’s passion for helping the community didn’t stop there. She has since written five more books, this time for children. Her commitment to tackling the stigma of mental illness by keeping the conversation going and sharing easy to relate to stories, is heart-warming and brave.

“I dream my resilience books will make a difference in people’s lives. That my empowering messages will reach every man, woman and child. So they can create positive wellness plans to keep themselves happy, healthy and mentally balanced. Prevention is much better than cure.”


Her children’s books, Bailey Beats the BLAH, STOP the Bully, Harry Helps Grandpa Remember, Jo-Kin Battles the IT and Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra use fun, relatable and compelling characters to empower kids and break the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“I wanted to empower children with resilience strategies so I wrote Bailey Beats the Blah to help prevent anxiety and depression. I wrote STOP the Bully to teach bully prevention through humor and action adventure.”


Bailey Beats the Blah Book Cover

Bailey Beats the BLAH

This picture book empowers kids to beat depression (sad days) and anxiety (worry thoughts) and lift their mood with pro-active coping skills.

‘Bailey HATES his new school. His tummy aches. He has no friends. His dog Fuzzy slobbers all over him. BLAH! How can Bailey change his BLAH to HA-HA-HA?’

Endorsed by Kids Helpline and aligned with Kids Matter school curriculum.




Stop the Bully cover - KTyrrell

STOP the Bully      

STOP the Bully shares bully prevention skills in an action-packed humorous adventure.

‘Eleven year old Brian is hiding something. Can Brian STOP the Bully without revealing his secret?’

Endorsed by Kids Helpline and aligned with Kids Matter school curriculum.






Harry Helps Grandpa Remember    

Harry will do ANYTHING to help his grandpa, who has Alzheimer’s. Grandpa couldn’t remember Harry’s name. So Harry decides to discover and invent clever ways to boost Grandpa’s memory. Guaranteed to make you giggle, touch your heart … and raise HOPE.  Harry shares coping skills to improve memory. Winner of a RADF grant.





Jo-Kin Battles the It Book Cover small


Jo-Kin Battles the It 

Jo-Kin is a hilarious space adventure for kids 7-12, illustrated by Trevor Salter…

Jo-Kin (aka Josh Atkins) and the Super Space Kids battle the It to save captain Astra and the galaxy. ‘Action-packed, creative, brilliant’






Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra

Reluctant hero, Jo-Kin never wanted to be a Super Space Kid. Not until Lord Terra kidnaps his Commander’s little sister and starts destroying the galaxy. Jo-Kin reunites the mighty Super Space Kids for an inter-planetary hunt for Lord Terra, finally meeting in a legendary winner takes all battle on Planet Deelish-us.

Can Jo-Kin defeat the all-powerful Lord Terra face to face?

Blast off with gadgets, robots and funky food in a hilarious outer space adventure that enlightens readers with the power of teamwork, problem solving, and resilience.


There is no doubt that Karen’s writing has been integral to her recovery and she admits even today, “I write in my journal every day to keep in touch with my emotions, moods and stay balanced.”

“Writing empowers me to keep well and stay focused on my mind, body and spirit and on my true happiness. Writing helps me to focus on what I need to do to keep healthy.”


Karen Tyrrell accurately calls herself a ‘Resilience Author’ but she is much more than that. She is an award-winning author, an experienced teacher, a motivational speaker, writing tutor and pantomime performer. She is a survivor of parent-teacher bullying and mental illness who uses her books to break the stigma around mental illness.

Karen’s resilience books are entertaining page turners showing how to live strong, be resilient, and ways to cope with life stress including the power of humour. This year she will publish yet another children’s book with super hero and space themes to empower kids to connect with their inner super hero. Get along to her latest book launch at the Logan North Library at 10:30am this Saturday the 14th May. Get more info from the Facebook event here:

Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra Book Launch

Read a recent article about Karen on SheBrisbane here

Karen Tyrrell TERRA Promo

Download FREE resources and kids activities from  and pick up Karen’s books from Angus & Robertson: Victoria Point, Riverlinks and Capalaba Park; The Really Good Book Shop, Hillcrest and more HERE.

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5 Comments on “Author Karen Tyrrell on Using Writing to Recover and Break the Stigma of Mental Illness

May 11, 2016 at 12:09 pm

WOW!! Thanks Alison and Fringe Art Culture for interviewing me on mental illness, my recovery and how and why I write my books … Karen Tyrrell Author

May 15, 2016 at 1:58 am

Thanks for doing what you do, Karen. It is amazing to see you work. 🙂

Steve tyrrell
May 12, 2016 at 6:24 am

Insightful story

Karen Tyrrell
May 14, 2016 at 7:28 am

Thanks for being part of my recovery journey 🙂

May 15, 2016 at 1:59 am

Thanks Steve, I’m glad you liked it. She’s an inspiring woman your wife! We are honoured to be able to share your story Karen.

Comments are closed.