Reading “The Other Side of Silence”, by Linda Gask, is like listening to a confession- raw, honest, personal and at times almost uncomfortable. But if books are meant to say what we think but do not dare to express, then this one fulfills its role perfectly.
The book is written by a trained psychiatrist who is also a psychiatric patient, having suffered from depression for most of her life. Her insight into her condition coming from both clinical and personal perspectives, which are merged in her life, is the greatest strength of the book. She combines her own experience with the stories of her patients and the psychiatrists treating her, weaving all the narratives into one multifaceted tale of what it is like to live with a mental health condition.
With separate chapters dedicated to depression, OCD, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions it makes an excellent revision material. However, this book is more than that. It is a tale of a life in which depression is only one of the many plot lines. Probably many of us medical students will be able to identify with the narrator at one point or another, especially in the parts dedicated to her time at medical school, whether we ever struggled with our mental health or not. Scary consultants, exam stress, distress when a patient’s problem hits too close to home, even wondering whether medicine is the right choice after all. Any of this ring a bell? It also gives insight into her family history, childhood and subsequent life events, as well as the thought patterns which lead to her depression. The best example of the multifactorial causes of depression that I have ever come across.
Aside from all the messages we can take away from it as medics, this is simply a good novel. It tells a compelling story with interesting characters, a rollercoaster of emotions and the occasional plot twist. As a reader I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next and may have nearly overslept for placement a few times as a consequence! Although large chunks are dedicated to tales of distress, suffering and suicide, it is not a sad book. Underpinning it is a silver lining and a perspective of hope.
I would recommend this book not only to people who are interested in psychiatry, but to anybody who has ever loved and cared about somebody suffering from depression, which considering the prevalence of the condition means nearly everybody.
The Other Side of Silence
by Linda Gask