With zines and similar publications becoming increasingly popular (something I would probably thank the Internet for, as it allows for digital – sometimes free – publications to reach a great range of people through social platforms such as Tumblr), it can be a little overwhelming to find a piece with which you truly connect and that you believe is really leaving a mark worth remembering. Luckily, a lot of writers and general creatives are using zines to discuss and explore topics which go unnoticed or are simply not covered in mainstream conversations, which means there is pretty much something for everybody. Doll Hospital, a bi-annual publication created by Bethany Rose Lamont, is one of such works.
Like many other people, Bethany suffers from mental health issues. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year, with mixed anxiety and depression the most common mental disorder in Britain. It is a very real, very widespread problem and yet most people still feel very uncomfortable opening up about their own or their loved one’s issues, and in certain tiers of society mental illness is still considered close to a taboo.
In May 2014 Bethany asked her Twitter followers whether they would be interested in submitting their own personal mental illness stories to be collected in form of a zine. She wanted to create something that would reach beyond her small community of Tumblr and Twitter, something in which anyone could express their voice, a space for people who always felt out of place.
‘I’ve had mental health struggles for over half my life now. As a result, I want to cultivate a model of mental health discussion for people who might not necessarily get better, who might have to be on meds their whole life. I don’t want to talk about recovery, I want to talk about surviving,’ she told Dazed magazine.
This zine project turned into an art and literature print journal. It is 100+ pages full colour of soothing illustrations, comic art, poetry, fiction, literary essays and real talk. It features poetry, anecdotes, illustrations and comics and it welcomes multinational, multiracial, multieverything voices and their uniquely-cut struggles.
We think it is beautiful, we think it is necessary, and we hope you do too.
This project is important because mental illness is one of those invisible topics that need to be brought up to the surface in order to make some real change happen. But not in that romantic, almost fetishised portrayal of the “sad white girl” which has been popularised in fiction: mental illness isn’t glamourous, it isn’t a fashion accessory and it shouldn’t be used to make a character more interesting because of lack of real depth. It is a struggle, it is exhausting, it is real and it isn’t pretty; which is why creating a safe, supporting and aware environment is so important.
We believe print is the best medium for this project — a refuge from toxic comment sections and constant link skipping. Something tangible to slip in your book bag and read on the bus. Something still, something quiet, something just for you.
Here you can flip through a sneak peek of issue #1, and here you can get both issue #1 and #2 in digital form (prints are currently out of stock, but they’re hoping to make some more soon). A donation of £5 is suggested, but not mandatory, as you can choose how much you want to pay for it.