Last year I was fortunate to see Bethany-Rose Lamont speak on a panel of women discussing Women’s Mental Health at the The Feminism in Theory and Action conference at Wadham College, Oxford. I loved the idea of a magazine discussing and focusing on Women’s Mental Health, as to my knowledge there was nothing quite like it out there. Do read on, and if you would like to buy a digital copy for £5 you can do so here.
- Hi Beth, so tell us a little bit about Doll Hospital Journal:
Doll Hospital Journal is an art and literature print journal created for and by people with mental health struggles, a space to explore mental health in all its many forms. We publish work in all lengths and mediums, because there is no ‘one’ way to talk about mental health. So often mental health narratives fall into two categories, the aspirational, inspirational TEDtalk kind, a genre of incessant positivity which does not necessarily reflect the nuances of mental health on a day to day basis, or the exploitative tell all, which often seems rather cynical and link-baity on the editor’s behalf.
I think we can do better than that, I think we can go beyond that. Mental health is such an urgent subject, that affects so many of us, but how can we ever start making changes if we can’t even tell our own stories on our terms?
- How has it been since your first issue was released?
It’s been hectic! The first issue sold out in 24 hours, which was pretty amazing in all honesty! I post all the parcels myself in my local post office, and it felt so wonderful to see all these little parcels zipping off across the world. As someone with chronic mental health stuff I often feel very lonely and isolated so to see Doll Hospital reaching so many people…well it means a lot to me.
As well as copies going to our readers through our online store, with the money raised from our Kickstarter we were also able to donate copies to various interesting institutions and community centres, such as NHS wards, rape crisis centres and even the Wellcome Collection in London. I’m so happy we were able to do that, in my first blog post on Doll Hospital I spoke about my idea of starting a print journal you could pick up in a doctor’s waiting room, and to see that realised only six months or so later is pretty magical.
- Why did you decide to start the journal?
In all honesty I started the journal because I was sick of tweeting about killing myself and all my friends were getting creeped out by it and kept asking me to stop. So I was like fine! Let’s make a different space, a sustainable space to talk about these issues openly! Initially it was just going to be a small zine type thing, but I think so many people saw a need for this space so it kind of blew up!
- What do you hope to achieve through the creation of the journal? / What do you feel it will offer that isn’t already out there?
I dunno! Like I have no idea what I’m doing half the time in all honesty, I’m just a mentally ill girl with a wi-fi connection. But I guess I just wanted to make a space where people didn’t have to front, or sugarcoat, to say they were fine when really they just wanted to self-destruct. I want people to know they don’t have to be doing ‘well’ all the time, to be over an issue to talk about the issue, that they don’t have to be a good role model, or inspire anyone, they can just be honest and that’s enough. I wrote a post on tumblr about how I couldn’t actually relate to ideas of recovery as there is no point in the foreseeable future where I’ll be over mental health, but in accepting that, and accepting my messiness and my bad days, and my ugly moment, I can embody something better than an inaccessible model of recovery I will never achieve, I can just ‘be’ I guess, and that’s okay, and kind of awesome. (In both the old and the new sense of the word).
- It’s a truth that we don’t talk about mental health enough or honestly in the UK, there’s so much stigma surrounding it that it’s become a bit of a taboo subject, it’s seemingly one of the most challenging health issues to step forward and seek help or advice on. What changes do you think need to come about for this mode of thought to shift, so that we can begin to talk about mental health more honestly and openly?
I think, first off we need to understand that mental health does not exist in a vacuum. This question applies first to stigma on mental health, as certain mental health experiences are stigmatised more than other. For instance I have anxiety and depression, but I also have psychosis, and though all three are misunderstood, it is clear that psychosis comes with a different historical baggage, a different kind of stigma. The history of mental health is tied so closely to race, class colonialism, gender and disability, it’s important not to forget the powers and perceptions that underpin it!
This brings us to how different individuals are treated and diagnosed. On one hand we have figures like Robin Williams, who following taking his own life was almost dismissed with the statement, oh ‘he had so much!’ How could he of all people be struggling?’ Which is grotesque to me! Mental health is a heavy set thing, it’s not going to go away if you wear a fancy hat or get a certain number of twitter followers. It affects us all.
However, equally we must understand that, like anything else, certain individuals are likely to be particularly underrepresented. As a woman of colour myself I’m always keen to amplify the voices of those looking to decolonize mental health, as I hate this stereotype that mental health is just like a ‘white people’ thing or something! That is just so awful and ridiculous to me!
I also believe we need to understand that certain situations and environments leave people particularly vulnerable in their mental health, so to tackle the issue of mental health it is necessary to also centre questions of unemployment, poverty, debt, racism, transmisogyny, sexual abuse and trauma. Without understanding and amplifying the experiences marginalised individuals go through we’ll never be able to get to the heart of mental health issues.
Thank you so much for your words Beth.
If you want to buy a copy of Doll Hospital Journal, you can do so here
Bethany, Founder of Doll Hospital Journal