Category Archives: Book Review

A Beautiful Mind (2001/film)

I categorised this post under “book review”, though there is a book under this same title, I’m writing about the 2001 film, directed by Ron Howard.

The book/film is based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel prize winner in Economic sciences, who was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia, with delusions and hallucinations.

I started to watch the film without knowing it has anything to do with mental illnesses, just thought it’s just another biographical film (like one that I just watched last week, “The man who knew infinity”, based on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematical genius).

It is a film portraying paranoid schizophrenia well, so well that when we, as audience see things through the eyes of Russel Crowe (John Nash), we might not even realise that those are all delusions and hallucinations, and couldn’t differentiate that those are not even reality.

The film also emphasises the importance of family supports and continuation of medication (which according to some sources of the web, is not based on what John Nash really did). During the later part of his life, he got on without taking any medicine, would still hallucinate but just do not respond to them. This is the part that I personally like in particular, sometimes medicine may not stop all the hallucinations completely, but when you’re aware which is reality and which aren’t, you can carry on with life, with them being there. There was a scene when a man approached him, and he had to ask his student who walked past, “Can you see him?”, to make sure that the man was real, not his hallucination!

I’d recommend it to family and friends of those who are diagnosed as schizophrenia, it does help understanding the illness better to quite an extent, and of course for those who’d like to understand the illness better.

Introducing “Recovered Grace: Schizophrenia”

by Harris Ng Yoke Meng

This book was bought from MPH at RM38 many years ago. It is now no longer available in most of the major bookstores in Malaysia, but I believe it’s possible to order it at MPH or Kinokuniya.

The book serves as an inspirational story to sufferers of mental illness and their caregivers, and for me, more importantly and personally as a mental health professional, it helps us to care for the mentally ill more sensitively and effectively.

I remember Harris talked about revealing his illness to his then 3 month girl friend Violet, on a Valentine’s day, how she was shocked and then willingly going to see his psychiatrist together. This reminds me a lot about the patients in our clinic, who sometimes bring their new partner to see us, wanting their partner to understand their illness better and sometimes planning their future based on that. You might guess that experience like this would scare them off, but no, quite often, those partners are just like Violet in the book, having deep love and attachment for the patient that they can also accept this part of them.

Towards the end of the book there was also some discussions on the media’s portrayals of the mentally ill committing crimes, which often end in homicide, murder or suicide.

Such bizarre stories, though real, often stigmatise the sickness. Although there are hundreds of thousands of mental health cases, perhaps only one in a thousand end up in such a mess. The press much provide follow-up reports. What happened after that? … Should society continue to view mental illness with deadly fear?

What to do when one who suffers from mental illness committed crimes due to his mental states?

Introducing “The Quiet Room”

By Lori Schiller

By Lori Schiller

It is brilliant book, very informative, from the views of different persons (the patient herself, parents, brother, close friend/housemate during the onset, attending psychiatrist etc). It gave me a feeling that I could go into her head and understand, for example, why certain patients who clearly do hear voices denied it so strongly; how one might interpret those voices, so differently from practitioners’ way. In addition, it suggests the insight of how immediate family members handle the fact that their closed one is a “schizophrenic”, and not just pretending, manipulating or attention seeking.

Also here’s a great quote from her psychiatrist,

A long time ago I realized that, as psychiatrists, we had to have a healthy respect for our own humanness, and our own smallness in the face of what we were dealing with. If a person got better, we could appreciate that we had done a great job, but we also needed to realize that God – or luck – was on our side. If the person got worse, we had to keep ourselves from feeling that we hadn’t done enough. For the truth is, we were powerless in so many of these situations. We did what we could, but sometimes the illness was just bigger than we were.

And from the mother,

How many times over the past few years had I wondered why we had fought so hard to keep Lori alive. She was so miserable. She was so unhappy. She was only staying alive to please us. …

介绍书:<善生>

问了几间大众书局分行才买到的这本书,售价RM28 (可凭书局会员获得10%折扣)。看过作者在脸书分享读者的读后感,外加朋友也介绍,所以想看看。

一直以来也觉得自己很缺乏这方面的助人经验(严格上来说,自己的亲身体验更是缺乏)。还记得回马后刚开始上班的三、四个月,就有一名我有份参与治疗的患者自杀过世,一年多后,也有一名电话追踪了几个月的抑郁患者放弃自己的生命(我曾两次以这个个案为例撰写文章**)。我一直没有很仔细去体验这些悲伤与失落,只是轻描淡写让它过去,继续生活,继续工作,继续吃喝,继续玩乐,偶尔想起,默默、轻轻地哀伤。

只是后来我也意识到自己对临终关怀、丧亲者陪伴方面的知识缺乏,去听了苏绚慧和冯以量的讲座,再看了他们的一些书,慢慢多了一些体会和理解。而这本书,文字不多,都是些真实的小故事,说些陪伴丧亲者、在生命的结束延续与亡者的关系、允许悲伤失落、悲而不痛的真实小故事。确实真实,细腻,却不做作。尤其对于不爱看满页文字的人更是适合。

作者冯以量

作者冯以量

 

**两篇关于这名已故病人的文章:

Depression & ECT

Can we allow a severely depressed patient to make the decision?

Introducing “David & Goliath” (2013)

“We would like to know who the person or persons [who killed our daughter] are, so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives”

The full story about this quote is in the non-fiction, “David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell. This is the second time I’m reading his book (the first was “Outliers: The story of Success“), which was also a Christmas present from the UK.

Of course it’s not just about one true story, but this one mentioned above in particular strikes me a little more. His book is again, thought-provoking, counter-intuitive, entertaining, intriguing, based on scientific evidence and real stories. I can’t say better words for it. Do get a copy and read it. (I happen to have two copies as my friend sent it to me two years in a row, so if you’d like a free copy just get it from me).

By Malcolm Gladwell

By Malcolm Gladwell

Introducing “Outliers”

By Malcolm Gladwell

By Malcolm Gladwell

This book is a Christmas present from a friend in the UK. It’d been lying in my shelf for at least 2 or 3 years till i picked it up. And guess what, I’ve really enjoyed it. I don’t understand how i could have not heard about this author all these years. Malcolm Gladwell, one of the Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2005.

“OUTLIERS – the story of success”. There are a lot of interesting research findings in it, it doesn’t just tell you how to be successful, not at all (in fact in a lot of cases it’s telling you you can’t be the extraordinary one because of …). But he really helps to make sense of many things…

Now i know why in my class there are always more students born in the first half of the year, and what we might do to change this; how certain people become so successful not due to their “gifted talent” but they’ve worked more than 10,000 hours before they reached where they’re today; why certain airlines of certain social psychologists defined cultures are more likely to crash; why maths of children from certain regions of Asia are better than the rest of the world and it has nothing to do with their “IQ” or “inherited abilities”; how children are brought up matters a lot – parenting styles, what they do during summers, social classes too! Rich students learnt more in the summer term than throughout the whole school year! Etc etc.

I don’t want to spoil the book. But I’m going to read another of his book. It’s not so much clinical psychology, but psychology in general. Anyone can read, anyone! And I’d particularly recommend it to parents and parents-to-be.

“Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them”