BASED in Hartlepool, end-of-life NHS district nurse Cher Graiden has released a hard-hitting book that tackles mental health issues head-on, with a frank and powerful story.

It might seem quite a shift from nursing, to write a book of any kind, let alone one of this ilk, but Cher has drawn on personal experiences and those of people around her, to produce something which grips the reader from page one.

MINT covers the story of a suicidal man who is on the brink of taking that final step when a total stranger happens across him and does all she can to keep him talking.

The book touches on the serious side of suicide but also shows you what can come from talking to someone who is completely outside of the situation that brought you to contemplate such an act, touching on sensitive subjects like IVF, miscarriage and mental health.

But Cher’s story doesn’t begin with nursing. Rewind a couple of decades and she was a young single mum who left school with only one qualification – an O-Level in art.

She wanted more for her children and for herself and following a work experience placement at a local hospital while still in education, she decided nursing could be her calling.

Cher said: “I had loved the work placement, and when it came to an end the ward clerk handed me a box of chocolates and told me I was ‘nice’. It got me thinking – but I didn’t have the right qualifications to become a nurse, and I couldn’t attend night school regularly with the children on my own, so I had to teach myself what I needed to know to get to university in the first place.

“I passed those qualifications and got into Teesside University to do my diploma, which came with additional challenges since there was only a small bursary available, so I still needed to provide for myself and my children. I worked as a cleaner and in a pub, often completing my studying during quieter periods at the end of the bar while the lady next door to me babysat.”

On qualifying, Cher became a ward nurse and undertook additional training to further herself, moving into a community role to enable her to be home for her children.

She fostered and later adopted another three children, and worked as a sister for seven years before moving to her current role, which involves helping end of life patients to spend their final days in the comfort of their own home, assisting with washing, dressing, medication and pain management.

But according to Cher, all that she has achieved and all that she continues to do is just ‘normal’, and she feels honoured to be able to help patients in this way.

Working full-time throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Cher has had her hands full, to say the least. Her personal downtime outside of working has been filled with writing several children’s books and three adult fiction books, self-publishing three in just one month, and after turning 50 last year there is no stopping her.

Her first children’s book, Eldon the Owl launched on the popular website Mumsnet in December, swiftly followed by Harry Hotdog – inspired by her children and grandchildren. Cher has written stories that have helped her ever-growing family understand that anything is possible if you just dream it.

Harry Hotdog was written to help her foster son connect with her husband through bedtime stories when he was being bullied at school. Her son found it easier to talk to her husband through the book, giving them a better understanding of things that were troubling him.

Eldon the Owl came about when one of Cher’s twin granddaughters, Lola was born prematurely and with special needs. Cher wanted her to feel that no matter what her disabilities were, she could achieve anything she wanted.

Cher said: “It’s so important that we talk about these issues and make talking about them ‘normal’ – just like you would a physical injury or illness.

“There is such a stigma around mental health as a whole and suicide in particular, but equally there is a general avoidance of emotional subjects like IVF, isolating many people who are in greatest need of support.

“Mental health issues affect one in four people in the UK, with a life being lost to suicide every 90 minutes – something needs to change. This is one of the reasons I wrote the book, it sheds light on a myriad of reasons a person might find themselves in that painful situation, with stories overlapping and interweaving from start to finish.”

Books are available to purchase from the following online outlets: