Doll Hospital Journal and Mental Movement coexist with the same objectives in mental health, but take very different routes to express it. #MM writer Ryan Stolls links up with Dolls Hospital Journal, to discuss mental health and the way different mediums can have a great impact on removing the stigma we all face.
The Journal is fascinating, not just through the content but the creative graphical styling. However, there are also a number of different mediums in which mental health support and information is portrayed. What exactly is it that makes your work different, and your inspiration for creating the Dolls Hospital Journal?
I created Doll Hospital as I wanted to have a space to thoughtfully and creatively explore the contradictions of mental illness and mental health in all its complexities, centring intersecting oppressions and experiences beyond traditional models of Western medicine to open up broader conversations on issues around existing under oppression such as colonisation, self image, class inequality and more. I don’t see it as being different or similar to others work, I don’t see it as a competition, the more projects the better!
A lot of Mental Health support sites/groups utilise the use of community interaction, and from a personal standpoint the use of community support is a vital tool in all our own personal battles. You have cited on your homepage a disdain for using comment sections, what prompted this decision?
It’s not so much a disdain for the online, or even a disdain for comment sections, Doll Hospital wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the connections I made throught twitter and tumblr and I was keen to utlise this sense of community in a new, offline creative space. I see it as a bridge between the digital and the physical rather than a case of choosing between one or the other. I was interested in the offline as though the internet is awesome it can also be a stressful space, I liked the idea of somewhere quiet. Furthermore, as marginalised folks the publication of mental health stories in hyper-public digital spaces can be incredibly intimidating . Not everyone is in that space of security, so for me a small print publication felt a little less scary. I have published writing on my experiences of trauma for online magazines then found myself burnt out by online commeters questioning whether I was a ‘good’ survivor, a ‘respectable’ survivor, I felt so drained. I wanted to just have a space to explore complex feeling without that need for justification.
Doll Hospital has been featured in Dazed & Confused, Vice and I-D Magazine, which are great accolades. I personally believe that the more information is shared, via different mediums, the more normalised discussions about mental health will become. What else can we do, and indeed Dolls Hospital do, to make mental health a less taboo subject?
I’m not sure if the key is for mental health to be ‘normalised’ as in that attempt we can end up throwing more misunderstood mental health experiences under the bus in a clambour for respectability. But I do hope that in expanding and amplifying narratives other can feel less alone and more understood. I developed serious mental health issues when I was ten and didn’t even consider going to a doctor until I was nineteen, in hindsight if I had had access to stories like my own I may have sought help sooner.
Often I struggle to find the will to drag myself out of bed, let alone write anything. Managing a print journal is a huge commitment. How does mental health affect your day to day activities, and equally as important, what advice would you give someone to cope with their commitments alongside their mental health conditions?
I often joke that I’m too mentally ill to run a mental health journal, the ridiculous expectations on the mentally ill to TEDtalk their way through life would be hilarious if it wasn’t so exhausting. I’m so cyncial of the ‘high functioning’ model of talking about mental health, it feels like another way of trying to rebrand mental health within capitalist ideals of productivity, I don’t want people to feel their worth, as mentally ill individuals, is in their ‘productivity’ as that attitude will kill us all. I don’t think I’m in a position to give any inspirational advice as I’m a fucked up person whose just trying to make it to the end of the day. All I can say is that your mental health comes before any pre-determined bullshit ideal of what a mental health person ‘should be doing’ with their life.
You utilise the use of music, a great source of powerful emotions, alongside Doll Hospital wealth of written articles and creative nature. What other outlets do you believe are useful as a coping mechanism for mental health sufferers?
I don’t know about coping mechanisms as that’s a loaded term, but in terms of things I do to not well…die…um writing is up there? I can free write myself out of suicide at this point as I’ve had the practice I guess. Cats are cool, animals….nature in general. My cat Pickle has been a huge lifeline when dealing with suicidal ideation, he’s the best. Do what makes you feel good, you don’t need to fulfill some tortured genius sterotype or produce anything fancy or artistic to prove that happened to you, what is happening you, is significant. You don’t have to write a best selling novel to make it ‘worth’ it you can just hang out with your cat and eat pizza if that’s what works for you.