“Teen suicide is one of those devastating topics that feels best kept at arm’s length. Plus, it could never happen to us, right?”
In conjunction with Suicide Prevention Week, we take a long hard look at childhood depression, mental health and youth suicide. Michaela Anchan reviews the devastating yet tender book ‘Loss Adjustment’ by Linda Collins whose daughter died from suicide in Singapore in 2014.
I have to admit, Loss Adjustment sat beside my bed for a month before I could read it. Teen suicide is one of those devastating topics that feels best kept at arm’s length. It’s too hard. Too impossible to picture. Plus, it could never happen to us, right?
In 2014, Linda Collins lost her 17-year-old daughter, Victoria to suicide. Loss Adjustment is a devastating, beautiful and tender account of that loss, by a mother completely blindsided by her daughter’s death. It is deeply introspective and leads us by the hand through one of the worst experiences a parent could have.
Loss Adjustment is about mental illness and school pressure and family and ambition and how systems can fail our children. It is about how our children can have a whole secret emotional world out of access to us. It’s about a 17-year-old girl whose ‘brain was at war with itself’.
The books opens on that day: Ground Zero. You will need a box of tissues beside you for much of the first half of this book. Linda leads us through that morning and then the minutes, hours and days that follow her daughter’s death. We feel like we are perched on Linda’s shoulder, seeing it all unfold. The emotion is so immediate that we feel it with her – the numbness, confusion, denial, shock.
Linda draws on Victoria’s journals throughout, and honours her gifted, articulate way with words. We learn that Victoria had a whole world of despair that she kept well hidden. We see the gentle guidance of Linda’s colleagues through the uniquely Singaporean wake and funeral. The cold shoulder of Victoria’s International School administration. And most of all, the deep, soul-searching grief that Linda and her husband Malcolm endure.
Loss Adjustment is an important read for all parents. It’s a hard read too, of course. I’ve shed buckets of tears for Victoria and Linda. I look at my own children, especially my 11-year-old daughter, differently now. I am more likely to dig a little deeper with her, to try to find out what’s going on beneath the shrugs and the ‘whatevers’.
Loss Adjustment was first published by Ethos Books in 2019 and is now heading into its second print run. This year it was shortlisted for Book of the Year at the Singapore Book Awards and went on to be given a rare Honourable Mention by the judges, who praised the book for ‘bravely breaking the silence on suicide’.
In August this year, Singapore-based Briton Shona Benson acquired the theatrical adaptation rights for the memoir. Benson is an actor, producer and director, best known in Singapore for her acting role as the mother in Pangdemonium’s The Son. Later this year, Awa Press in Wellington will release the New Zealand edition of Loss Adjustment. You can read an extract of Loss Adjustment in the Straits Times here.
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours)
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Institute of Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
- Care Corner Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800 (Mandarin)
- Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (for primary school-aged children, Monday to Friday 2.30pm to 5.00pm)