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[Book Review] Till the Break of Day

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World Health Mental Day 2016 was on the 10th of October and it was an important and significant day to reflect on the importance of mental health in our lives. The theme for this year includes “psychological first aid”, which is concerned with highlighting the importance of provision of psychological support by everyday people with the capacity to help others. This is emphasized so anyone who is suffering from a crisis can receive speedy and well-needed support from the people around them. 

Mental health is fundamental to us as it includes our psychological, emotional and social health, which can then affect the way we behave. A person with good mental health is able to handle stress, his or her social environment and make rational choices. Mental health is important to everyone, and should be taken seriously by the sufferer as well as the people surrounding the victim of mental illness.

Till the Break of Day, a book by Ng Beng Yeong, Head and Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at the Singapore General Hospital, is a historical document of psychiatry in Singapore. It reflects the changing perception of how mental health is diagnosed and treated. It also reveals the many advances in which Singapore has made in the treatment of mental illness. This book gives a thorough understanding into the stigmatized side of healthcare, and the importance of mental health in our society.

I was very intrigued not just by the statistics quoted of people in mental institutes, but also by other social issues that contributed to the rise in mental cases. These issues are often linked to physical health ailments and one’s social environment at a particular time point, like World War II. While this book may be historical in nature, it is still very accessible. There is a clear chronology of events which makes reading this book easy to comprehend. The multitude of documentation, tables, pictures and maps offer a riveting lens that the reader can use to have a clearer understanding of our past.

In my opinion, it is important to have an update for this book because it only follows the field of psychiatry from 1841 till 1993. There may be significant milestones or changes that have occurred since then, which would definitely be worthwhile to look into. With that said, the book still provides a very comprehensive insight into understanding mental health in Singapore.

Mental health is deemed a taboo topic in Singapore but it is crucial to talk about it. It could potentially affect many of us and the people we love. If you are a healthcare professional, have a relative that is suffering from mental illness and you want to know more about it, or simply someone keen to explore the world of psychiatry, this book may just turn out to be very helpful.

Find this book in NUS Press Singapore, for $38.

If you are unable to cope with an issue and would like to talk to someone, or you know of someone who may require help, please do not hesitate to contact the NUS University Health Centre Counselling & Psychological Services:

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Photo credit: NUS Press Singapore