Meander Valley Gazette

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Stop Suicide

Heather’s stories are for the heart and health

Feature, Arts and ReviewsJoanne EisemannComment

MARCH 2018 | Elizabeth Douglass

OVER HER long career as a nurse, Heather Donaldson has nurtured her memories of a Tasmanian childhood.

Heather’s stories of an era when kids ran wild between school and mealtimes are now gathered together in her new book, There be Dragons.

The stories of Danny Crawford’s dragons and the chook on a string will be enjoyed by nostalgic adults. But these are also stories for children - a depiction of childhood imagination, where dragons could be heard but not seen. It’s a world ‘full of scares and dares’.

Heather’s long career means that this is not her first foray into writing.

In the 1990s, a number of teenage suicides in the Meander Valley had a huge impact on the local community.

As a health professional and concerned parent, Heather was struck by how little advice was directly aimed at young people in words they could relate to, and this led her to create a little book called Stop Suicide Words to Hang On To.

Full of simple sayings, gathered from families, friends and affected teens, the book uses the words people wish they had said or would have wanted to hear.

Launched by the then Premier Jim Bacon, distributed across Tasmania and the mainland, this little book is still in great demand.

Heather has produced other similar books of humour and compassionate advice for dealing with drug and gambling addictions, diagnoses of cancer and (more lighthearted) for Growing Old Disgracefully.

As a health group coordinator across the northwest, Heather also introduced laughter groups into Tasmania — bringing together people suffering from chronic pain and related health issues to share and discuss management of the health problems. Using real, unfeigned laughter to alleviate pain and stress, the price of admission was a joke or cartoon.

Heather’s research into the healing effects of hope and laughter were first triggered by the writings of Norman Cousins. Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit is just one of his many well-known texts..

Now living in Westbury again, Heather was instrumental in setting up Westbury Community Health Centre and was a founding creator of the Irish Festival.

With more books waiting to be written, it looks as though her contribution to the health and culture of the valley has only just begun!

Photo | Mike Moores