Throughout the month of May, I was Artist in Residence for Wales Arts Review, using the platform to talk about my chosen theme: Mental Health. More information about the programme can be found here, which I applied to back in August 2016, before I came on board as an Associate Editor. You can also find ALL the pieces produced by ALL the Artists in Residence here.
Although right now, I’m feeling pretty exhausted from the residency (and the months of April and May in general), I’m happy with the stuff that’s come out of it. I did question my reasons for choosing to talk about mental health as opposed to simply using the platform to shed a light and boost my own writing and myself as a writer. And in a way, I did do that too to a certain extent. But I’m glad I chose mental health. I’m glad I got to annoyingly talk about it every week and to ask other people to contribute their experiences. Glad I got to approach it from a creative point of view, as well as have different conversations with people from various backgrounds (refugee, student, BAME communities) and learn how bad mental health manifests according to factors such as social background, religion, class, gender and so on.
When this residency started, I was doubting myself a lot and questioning the significance of sharing and wondering whether I would narrow myself to a singular lens by doing so, whether I’d be romanticising this issue, asking for pity, or blowing it out of proportion. Yet now, on the other side of it, I realise how silly that seems. All the people who contributed to the residency or those I spoke to off the record, repeatedly mentioned how they had been meaning to write, to share, to reflect on their experiences of bad mental health for a long time and had been looking for the right way to do it. This gave me a kick up the butt and permission to do this. It also confirmed how writing and reflection can be a way of catharsis. How mental health is something that is very much often experienced alone – something I was experiencing alone – yet through the blogs it became a collaborative conversation.
I am well aware that more needs to be done than raising awareness through articles. Yet I think of how, not too many months ago, friends close to me suggested exercise to manage mental health and questioned my use of medication, throwing me back into silence and self-doubt. I would argue that we need to keep having these conversations, as well as having more hands-on approaches such as medication, exercise, therapy, or making sure government funding is available in the first place to provide mental health services for those who need it most. Because essentially, good mental health can only be achieved through a combination of all these things.
I’ve compiled all the pieces that went up for my residency into a list below. I still have one more to develop, on art psychotherapy, that will be published at a later date as I wasn’t able to develop it now due to time and other technical constraints, so I’ll link to that when it goes live.
- Artist in Residence: An Introduction – an introduction to me, my writing, aims, interests, and a short extract.
- ‘Surviving or Thriving?’ Through Bibliotherapy – on Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, use of bibliotherapy and writing in mental health.
- Poetry: ‘I Wanted To Tell You’ – a recording of me reading my poem on mental health with a link to the originally published poem, which deals with the difficulty of expression, physical manifestations of mental health as a mapping of emotions metaphorically and physically.
- Blogs: Mother Love – Cath Beard wrote about motherhood and perinatal OCD so very beautifully and movingly. Would highly recommend this piece.
- Blogs: A Robin Waits For Us to Leave Crumbs – a creative non-fiction piece by Seth Gwilym Owen about depression through the lens of a partner.
- Freewriting Extracts – some creative, freewriting extracts, with images and an audio clip where I talk about symbolism, imagery, mental health and my writing processes.
- Blog: Politics of Local Borders and Mental Health Services – Rabiah Hussain wrote about the effect of local geographies and mental health services on her personal battle with depression.
- Blogs: My Brother’s Keeper – my brilliant friend, Mustafa Hameed, wrote about how mental health is approached in South Asian Muslim communities, the influence of religious and cultural factors, and the need for mental health practitioners dealing with individuals from such communities to not be dismissive of these factors. This is another one that I’d highly recommend – a topic very personal to me.
- Final Thoughts – 3 audio clips; one where I summarise the residency and my future aims for this topic now; two audio recordings by Denn Yearwood on being a black man with depression and why there is power behind talking about mental health.