Author: Hanna Alkaf
Published: 2016 by Gerakbudaya
I thought of giving books written by local authors a try when my eyes happened upon this title. The title fascinated me and the book cover conveyed exactly what the book was going to be about. Looking closely at the art, it seems to me as if the letter “I” was a needle that was going to stab the apparently tortured figure at the bottom right corner. “Gila” is a Malay word which translates to “insane” or “crazy” in the English language.
As stated on the back of the book, GILA was to be a book which compiles stories of people with mental-illnesses and how it affects their lives. Frankly, that was what pushed me to get this book apart from the fact that I thought I should give Malaysian books a try. I had always wanted to read more about mental-illnesses in Malaysia and since it’s not exactly a popular topic in this country, this book was really a rare find for me.
Apart from telling about the experiences of those living and struggling with mental-illnesses, the author also interviewed their caregivers and doctors as well. She explores the many problems and stigmas faced by those diagnosed with mental-illnesses as well as some introduction to the many different types of mental illness.
Reading this book really did open my eyes to just how many people out there in this very country who just might be struggling alone because of the lack of understanding and sympathy of society about mental-illnesses. Not only that, there was also a chapter in the book on suicide which actually frightened me, especially when I thought about a past incident where I knew someone who committed suicide. GILA made me think about the fragility of humans and how everyone needs someone to listen to and also how the society needs to be educated to not judge people with mental-illness as if they are not human when in fact they are just like us, but only struggling with certain specific problems.