Today's story from the Advertiser's archives goes back 15 years to an interview with a Helensburgh woman whose book about her manic depression made her a critically-acclaimed author.

Here's how we reported Suzy Johnston's story in the Advertiser on September 2, 2004...

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AS far as 18 months go, the last year-and-a-half has been interesting for Suzy Johnston.

At the tail end of March last year, the Helensburgh woman was a number. A statistic. Just another of the one in four people in Scotland suffering at the cold and uncaring hands of mental illness.

Her sometimes unbearable manic depression, which caused horrific hallucinations and severe self harm, was a secret kept from just about everyone, with the exception of doctors, nurses and her supportive family.

Fast forward to today and Suzy is now a critically acclaimed author and an emerging voice in the often misunderstood world of mental health.

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Her autobiography, The Naked Bird Watcher, has since become a handbook on the mindset of the mentally ill, giving psychiatrists and medical staff the level of insight that had only been touched upon before.

Now, after the book was withdrawn from her previous publisher, Suzy, along with her mum Jean, is relaunching The Naked Bird Watcher through her own newly set up publishing house The Cairn.

“It has been a steep learning curve for myself and my mum,” said Suzy. “We now have a website even though I had only really used computers for essays at school and mum had never used a computer before.

“In the book I have changed the epilogue, and added things like how I have worked with the Scottish Association for Mental Health, so there are differences.”

Spreading the good word and opening eyes on mental health issues has always been the main reason behind Suzy’s work — she hasn’t earned a penny from her writing — so receiving support from and working with some of the biggest guns in the game has made it worthwhile.

READ MORE: 'Jean's Bothy' opens as new mental health hub in Helensburgh

The mental health division of the Scottish Executive, Renfrewshire Association for Mental Health and the highly publicised ‘SeeMe’ campaign are just some of the organisations which have worked with Suzy and given her their blessing.

She said: “I am keeping a lot better, which is great, and it has enabled me to get involved in other projects.

“The amount of support and encouragement I have received has been fantastic. I have been immensely flattered by the amount of interest that has been shown in the book, and greatly touched by the letters, cards and messages.

“Sometimes people come up to me in the street and say that they read the book and loved it, and feel that they know everything about me, but I know nothing about them, which is slightly strange.

“But I hope that I have given them something to relate to, and that at 4am in the dead of night, when they are feeling down, my book will be there for them to prove that there is someone who went through what they are going through, and that they can learn from that.”

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The book has not just helped others but, after reading it for the first time in more than a year, has helped Suzy as well – and made her focus on the next step in her career.

“The book was really cathartic and realised that it has helped me a lot,” she said.

“It was difficult as there were parts that were secrets for a long time but I had to be open and frank.”

“I’m now writing a novel about a manic depressive girl’s relationship with her family and friends.

“It is different this time as the first chapter of The Naked Bird Watcher was an exercise which I wrote and planned to keep for myself. I didn’t expect it to turn into a book.”