As a psychiatrist, I walk a fine line of understanding. While I can try to empathise with the people I see in my clinics and on my ward, I cannot truly know their experiences. Sometimes that helps to give me the distance of objectivity, and sometimes it leaves me lacking.
Linda Gask has a markedly different perspective. She is a psychiatrist and academic who has experienced mental health problems from both sides – that of a clinician and that of a patient.
In her book The Other Side of Silence: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir of Depression, Linda draws on both her professional knowledge and personal experience to take the reader on a “guided tour” of depression – using her own life and anecdotes about patients to illustrate the complexity of this illness and its manifestations.
What I love about The Other Side of Silence is that it sets aside the traditional, medical model of psychiatry and instead embraces a whole-person, holistic approach to the illness. It looks at depression not as a disease of neurotransmitters and recovery models and care programme approaches, but as an experience that happens to people and affects their lives. We see up-close and personal the effect it has on Linda’s life and the course it takes.
However, she also retains the perspective of the psychiatrist. The reader is left in no doubt that they are in the hands of a doctor, a professional with clinical expertise on this subject. Linda’s narrative moves effortlessly from a psychiatrist’s analysis to a patient’s point of view. She shares encounters from both sides of the table – her own work with patients and her own experiences of being tended to by professionals.
I highly recommend The Other Side of Silence if you want a real account and contemporary understanding of depression, particularly with the supporting knowledge of a medical perspective. I can also recommend it if you have a personal experience of depression and are struggling to understand it, or are already on that journey. I think it is particularly relevant to professionals and those trying to maintain or reclaim the functioning of their lives. In fact, I recommend it so highly that I have already lent my copy to a friend.
Linda Gask (MB. ChB, Msc (Psychiatry), PhD, FRCPsych, FRCGP) was born to a Scottish mother and English father and brought up on the east coast of England in Lincolnshire. She trained in Medicine in Edinburgh and is now Emerita Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry at the University of Manchester. She has worked as a consultant psychiatrist in the North of England over the last 25 years. Now semi-retired, she lives with her husband and cat in a stone house in the Pennines and also spends an increasing part of her time in Orkney. You can follow her blog at www.lindagask.com and on Twitter as @suzypuss.