The Sound of SCH: A Mental Breakdown, A Life Journey
by Danielle Lim
Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize (Non-Fiction 2016)
Can a life weave along through the same notes and yet come to play forth different sounds?
The Sound of SCH (pronounced S-C-H) is the true story of a journey with mental illness, beautifully told by Danielle Lim from a time when she grew up witnessing her uncle's untold struggle with a crippling mental and social disease, and her mother's difficult role as caregiver. The story takes place between 1961 and 1994, backdropped by a fast-globalising Singapore where stigmatisation of persons afflicted with mental illness nevertheless remains deep-seated. Unflinchingly raw and honest in its portrayal of living with schizophrenia, The Sound of Sch is a moving account of human resiliency and sacrifice in the face of brokenness.
About the Authors
This is Danielle Lim’s first published work. It won the Singapore Literature Prize 2016 (non-fiction), and has been translated and published in Taiwan. Danielle Lim graduated from The University of Oxford. Based in Singapore, her professional experience includes 12 years in the tertiary/global education sector, and 6 years in the financial sector. As of 2016, Danielle is an Adjunct Lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic, as well as Associate Lecturer at Republic Polytechnic.
Reviews“An unflinching memoir of how mental illness rips the heart out of a family, it is as brutally honest as it is compassionate. Only a handful of books have moved me to tears. The Sound of Sch is one of them.”
- Felix Cheong, Chief judge for Singapore Literature Prize (Non-Fiction) 2016
"Danielle has skilfully woven the theme of human struggle against mental illness amidst the backdrop of Singapore's emergence as a modern city. She plunges us into an exploration of life's meaning in a poignant tale of love, courage and sacrifice. Highly recommended!"
- Dr Delvin Ng, Family Physician
"The Sound of Sch is a great read. It takes you on an engrossing journey into the unnoticed and hidden world of those living with mental illness -- the afflicted and their caregivers. Though society is becoming more accepting, mental illness still carries a stigma. And stigma never fails to bring with it loneliness and despair. Danielle's from-the-heart depiction intrigues you as you turn the pages. I am humbled by the unsung efforts, difficult sacrifices and courage of the afflicted and their caregivers as they live through each day. The life journey of Danielle's uncle and mother reminds me once again that we can find great beauty and resilience in brokenness, even if we cannot find an answer, a reason or a purpose. An impactful, moving book."
- Ms Emily Tan, Senior Medical Social Worker
"While the medical fraternity and other mental health professionals continue the search for a more effective way of reducing the debilitating effect of schizophrenia, it is heartwarming to read the moving story of this world of the schizophrenic -- his daily struggles, his torment and the dedication of his sister to care for him with the faith that no matter what happens, her caring made a difference. It has been my privilege to have met Madam Chu in the course of my work. I am touched by the sacrifice and love she has for her brother, and I believe that readers will be similarly moved."
- Dr Lim Yun Chin, Specialist in Psychiatry
"It was the thought that if I didn't come back, no one will tie your hair for school tomorrow" -- such simple words but how well they capture the sense of duty and sacrifice experienced by women in their role as mother, daughter, sister and wife. A compelling tale of duty and sacrifice set in an era of accelerated changes in Singapore -- I finished it at one sitting. Beautifully written."
- Ms Hazel Tan, working mother
"What meaning can be found in a grandmother’s suicide, an uncle’s illness and a mother’s battle to care for her sick brother? Answering that question, The Sound of Sch suggests that true meaning can only be found in moving forward where a synaptic chain of responses is released to illuminate the present- the answer is found in the response. More than a chronicle of mental illness, The Sound of Sch echoes a family’s poignant journey of responding to the lemons life throws and is deserving of a read."
- Janelle Chua, THE RIDGE team, a committee of the National University of Singapore Students’ Union.
"The Sound of Sch is a touching memoir that recollects the sacrifices of her family, especially her mother and grandmother, as they cared for him against a backdrop of social stigma and ignorance of mental illness. Through the decades that sprawl in her book, we catch short episodes of what life was like in Singapore from the 60’s to the 90’s. We accompany her as she grows: from a young girl always clinging to her mother, to the young adult lamenting the privileged elite’s vacuous concerns as she awkwardly mingles in a classy gathering for scholarship recipients. It was that scholarship which led her to study philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford, instead of literature. Yet, the nature of her remembrance and the way she communicates her finer emotions is devoid of the hard logic and rationality of philosophy, the dryness of politics, and the cold exclusionary calculation of economics. It does, however, have the touch of our most sensitive and masterful storytellers."
- Samuel Wee with Diana Rahim, Poached Mag
"The pain of loneliness, the guilt of being a burden and the helpless feeling of watching an afflicted family member wasting away, tugs heavily at the reader’s heartstrings."
- Nur Khalisah, NP Tribune
“For Lim, the importance of this work is in de-pathologization, that though some would consider her uncle a life wasted, she knows his value emerges far beyond the ominous shadow of expectations. In this reorientation, Lim teaches us much about familial bonds and the need to recognize the complex situations faced by all those touched by mental illness. ”
- Stephen Hong, Assistant Professor at University of California, Asian American Literature Fans
“This is a very life-affirming book. The underlying love of the whole family comes through clearly. One is struck also by the lack of resentment or blame, and admires this tightly-knit family that manages to come through, despite the heavy odds. ”
- Tara Dhar Hasnain, book editor for Marshall Cavendish publishing, Kitaab
Other titles on mental health:
A Philosopher's Madness by Chan Lishan
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Dimension: 130mm x 200mm