Singapore Shelf: A Look at a Suicidal Spirit in A Good Day To Die, Arts News & Top Stories

In this monthly article, The Sunday Times features five brand new home books that readers can delve into.

1. A good day to die

By Mahita Vas
Non-fiction / Marshall Cavendish / Paperback / 175 pages / $ 19.99 /Available here

Throughout his adult life, Vas thought about suicide. Once she decided to go all the way by overdosing on sleeping pills. It was pure coincidence that her pilot husband arrived home after her flight an hour earlier than expected and took her to the hospital on time.

Vas, 58, talks about living with suicidal thoughts in her latest book, A Good Day To Die.

She started writing it during the pandemic in August last year, after reading a report from the Samaritans in Singapore. The statistics on the suicides of people aged 10 to 29 have shaken her deeply, she said.

“At that point, I had been feeling suicidal for a few months, grappling with the restrictions related to the pandemic,” she says in an email interview from Britain, where she spends time with her daughter. and her husband’s family.

“I decided to tell my story, in the hopes of helping people understand why some of us choose suicide.”

Vas, a former flight attendant who went on to work in advertising, was diagnosed with type 1 bipolar disorder in 2005 after battling mood swings and suicidal thoughts for more than 20 years.

She first wrote candidly about her sanity in the 2012 book Praying To The Goddess Of Mercy. She is also the author of the novels Rain Tree (2016) and It Happened On Scrabble Sunday (2018).

A Good Day To Die was agonizing to write, she says, but she seeks to demystify suicide, even if it involved recalling her own painful memories.

“Since I didn’t want the book to be repetitive, depressing, or read like a textbook on suicide, I chose to mention a few events – which most people can relate to – that led to strong suicidal thoughts. “

These can range from the stress of working long hours to the refusal of neighbors upstairs to reduce noise. “They show how little it takes for a suicidal person to reach the edge and why it can be so difficult to stay alive.”

Yet she was also brought back from the brink by the smallest things. She once was about to lock herself in a room with a spare kitchen gas tank when she was interrupted by a delivery man arriving with a package. By the time it took him the buzz, his suicidal urge dissipated.

Vas, who has twin daughters in her late 20s, says she oscillates between contemplating and even planning suicide and finding a reason to live.

Sometimes she spends months between two suicidal days. In last year’s breaker, the gap was only a few weeks.

She believes the pandemic has drawn more attention to mental health issues, although she believes the conversations remain largely superficial. “But at the same time, I understand that it is difficult and unpleasant to talk about mental health.

“I think people are afraid to talk openly and honestly about their struggles because of what other people might think of them. Or maybe they don’t want to alarm family and friends. Or maybe that suicide is their goal and they don’t want anyone to intervene. “

She hopes her book will help convince people not to condemn and reject as weak those who commit suicide, and to help others face their struggles and realize that there is no shame in asking for help. ‘aid.

“Thoughts of suicide don’t mean you have to die. See your doctor, get help, and go on living.”

2. Grandma’s attic, Mom’s HDB, my wallpaper

PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICOLE

By Heng Siok Tian
Poetry / Historical books / Paperback / 96 pages / $ 19.90 /Available here

Heng’s sixth collection of poems, her first in 10 years, explores personal memory and family relationships, as well as still life snapshots from Singapore and the stories of those interned in Changi Prison during WWII .

3. Blue Sky Mansion


PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICOLE

By HY Yeang
Fiction / Epigram books / Paperback / 320 pages / $ 26.64 /Available here

This debut album by Malaysian author Yeang, shortlisted by the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, is set at the turn of the 20th century and looks at mui tsai, girls from poor Chinese families sold as servants to wealthy households.

Before his sixth birthday, Tang Mei Choon was sold by his mother to the wealthy P’an family in Chongqing, China. Her path will take her from snowy Harbin to the Blue Sky Mansion, a luxury brothel in Penang.

4. Mist-Bound: How to Reattach Grandpa


PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICOLE

By Daryl Kho
Children / Penguin Random House Southeast Asia / Paperback / 346 pages / $ 15.94 /Available here

This first fantastic film tackles the real problem of dementia and the care of the elderly.

When Alexis’ grandfather loses her mind, she must travel to Mist Land, populated by magical creatures from her tales, and gather the ingredients for Memory Glue. But if she doesn’t do it in the spring, her memories will be lost forever.

Alexis is the name of Singapore-based, Malaysian-born author Kho’s only child, who was born shortly after Kho’s father suffered two strokes and developed vascular dementia. Kho wrote the book as a way for her daughter to “save” the grandfather she never really knew, who passed away before the book was published.

5. The yellow man


PHOTO: COURTESY OF NICOLE

By Chan Li Shan, illustrated by Weng Pixin
Children’s books / Epigram / Paperback / 32 pages / $ 15.94 /Available here

The latest in a series of picture books on notable Singaporean figures features the late artist Lee Wen, a Cultural Medallion recipient known for his iconic performance series Yellow Man, for which he covered his body in yellow paint.

The book pays a whimsical homage to the revolutionary nature of Lee’s art and life. It’s written by Chan, who was Lee’s biographer, and illustrated by comic book artist Weng, who released his first comic book Sweet Time last year.

Lee suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died in 2019 from a lung infection.


Help lines

• National helpline: 1-800-202-6868 (8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)

Mental well-being

• Institute of Mental Health Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)

• Singapore Samaritans: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) / 1-767 (24 hours)

• Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

• Singapore Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

• Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 and www.tinklefriend.sg

• Community Health Assessment Team 6493-6500 / 1 and www.chat.mentalhealth.sg

Advice

• TOUCH line (Advice): 1800-377-2252

• TOUCH Care line (for the elderly, caregivers): 6804-6555

• Care Corner Advice Center: 1800-353-5800

Online Resources

• mindline.sg

• My mental health stayprepared.sg/mymentalhealth

• Fei Yue Online Consulting Service: eC2.sg

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Daniel Lange

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