I once wrote an essay on my experience of growing up amongst violence and abuse, followed, shortly after, by an all block caps email to the editor begging them not to publish it because I was scared “everyone would hate me.”
Don’t get me wrong, though. I love the Internet! (Cats! Cute cartoons! This picture of a pug dressed as Scarlett O'Hara!) But as someone with chronic mental health struggles it is not always the best platform for me to freely articulate the messiness of my own experiences with personal trauma and mental health.
After being told (on more than occasion) that I needed to stop posting on Twitter about my suicidal ideation, as it was "starting to freak people out," I posted something else instead, a call for submissions for a zine on mental health.
This zine became an art and literature journal, and that art and literature journal is what I’m here to talk about. Doll Hospital is a print journal exploring the many stories of people dealing with mental health issues.
I called it Doll Hospital because I was interested in the dislocation and objectification of imagined ideas of "mental illness" in popular media. The skinny white girl Virgin Suicides schtick that fetishized white women and alienates women of color. We can do way better than that right?
So over the summer of 2014, myself and a team of editors crafted our first issue, featuring contributions and interviews from awesome people such as Tavi Gevinson, Latoya Peterson, Esme Wang, Kate Zambreno, Mey Valdivia Rude, Kristina Wong, and Diamond J. Sharp.
It is 172 full color pages of soothing illustrations, comic art, poetry, fiction, literary essays, and real talk. We've uploaded a preview of some of the issue so you can get an idea of what we're about. We think it is beautiful, we think it is necessary, and we hope you do, too. The journal will be sold on our Tumblr beginning in February.
There isn’t one story on mental health, and our treatment and experiences are vastly influenced by intersecting subjects such as race, gender, disability and class. So it makes sense to open up the conversation to include, and acknowledge, these multitudes. It reminds me of this quote by the performance artist Kristina Wong, who was interviewed for our first issue.
“The truth is we’re not all the same. You can’t shy away from saying that certain ethnic groups or races or genders are considered to be more at risk for disease, or high-cholesterol--or in the case of Asian American women, and people of color--depression.”--Kristina Wong, "Mental Health and the Model Minority," Doll Hospital Issue One
We’re definitely not all the same. And that does not undermine our individual experiences with mental health, but rather reminds us that in opening up a wider conversation on mental health we can understand the breadth and depth of this complex subject. We could fill up a whole library with our stories--museum upon museum with our artwork--and I think this little anthology (the first of many, I hope) is a good place to start.
Cover image: Bad Day Poster by Carla Mcrae, featured in issue one of Doll Hospital.