“I’m just Josh.” At first, you would think that statement not quite accurate. Joshua Cunniffe is more than just a Creative Writing and Advertising student at Curtin – he’s also published a book and speaks regularly on mental health issues and depression.
Josh was hit pretty hard as a teenager by a family tragedy and two years later he realised he was suffering from depression. He noticed that he was moody more often, more agitated and irritable and would doubt himself constantly.
“I couldn’t talk to anyone in my family about it,” he says. “But luckily I had a good friend who, though he knew nothing about depression, actually listened to me and asked me why I felt the way I did.”
So he did what he usually did to cope – he started to write.
“I thought it would help me,” he says. “Then I thought it would help others because then they would know that they weren’t alone in experiencing this and I didn’t want to feel alone.”
It took six months to write the first draft of Behind The Smile and then eight months to get it published after it was sent to Allan Watson, the editor at Roundhouse Press.
“When the manuscript of Behind The Smile landed on my desk (so to speak) I had to wonder if it would turn out to be a dog’s breakfast of an ego trip or both,” Mr Watson says. “I was quickly reassured on both counts, as I found a well-conceived and well-constructed tale that I found very moving.”
After the philanthropist Ros Wellington read the manuscript, Josh was asked to be a speaker on Lifeline WA’s Help Me campaign and to contribute a chapter to their book A Glimmer of Hope. Roundhouse Press then published 1000 copies of Behind The Smile in 2011 and it sold out.
Lifeline WA has now put in part of the funding required to print another 1000 copies to distribute to all high schools.
Josh is now working on a second book – a novella titled Apologies And All. He is constantly writing, carrying a notebook around with him to catch his thoughts in.
“It helps calms me,” he says.
During Curtin’s Mental Health Week this year, Josh will be up on a stage, talking about his experience.
“Sometimes that’s what people need – someone to stand up there and say ‘I went through this and it got better so it can get better for you too’,” he says. “And I can do that – because I am just Josh.”