Taiwanese graphic novel illuminates mental illness

Pam Pam Liu’s ‘A Trip to Asylum’ gracefully explores mental health issues in Taiwan's justice system

Pam Pam's "A Trip to Asylum" offers unique insight into lives of mental health patients. 

Pam Pam's "A Trip to Asylum" offers unique insight into lives of mental health patients.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese cartoonist Pam Pam Liu (劉盼妤) on Monday (June 15) launched the sale of her latest creation, "A Trip to Asylum" (瘋人院之旅), in which she offers a unique perspective on how individuals suffering mental health issues go about their daily routine as well as fit into mainstream society.

Despite its vivid depiction of the serious challenges facing mental health patients, the comic is somehow able to retain its dark humor in telling the story of a young man who gradually uncovers his childhood trauma in the basement of an asylum. The story, set in the early '90s in Taiwan, plays with the trope of the entire world appearing as an asylum to mental health patients.

Liu also highlights the controversies of recent years surrounding mentally ill defendants in Taiwan's judicial system, forcing the reader to gain a better understanding of psychological disorders before they take sides. She gives dramatic treatment to the idea that individuals with mental illness are often the product of domestic and other forms of violence, guiding her audience to appreciate that a broad set of factors undergird these issues.

According to CNA, the creation of "A Trip to Asylum" took approximately one year, though it was based on 10 years of research. Personal experiences of Liu and those close to her also contributed material.

Veteran Taiwanese writer and translator Lin Wei-Yun (林蔚昀) described the comic book as an undecorated and undisguised introduction to the lives of the mentally ill community. Comics store Mangasick also praised Liu for handling her subject matter with calm and clarity.

An exhibition of "A Trip to Asylum" is currently being held at Mangasick in Taipei's Zhongzheng District. The book itself can be purchased online or at local bookstores.

For more information, please visit www.pampamliu.com.

"A Trip to Asylum" reflects Taiwanese society's attitudes toward mentally ill individuals. (Eslite photo)

Taiwanese cartoonist Pam Pam Liu. (Youtube screenshot)