Take a look inside Ladybeard‘s new Mind issue
Being open about our mental health in 2016 seems both easier and more difficult than ever before. While our generation can reach more people than ever before and our discussions are as open and frank as ever, the NHS is making cuts to mental health care, suicide rates are dangerously high amongst the youth – particularly the amongst LGBT population – and disability allowances are being cut.
Our generation stands accused of being too precious with our feelings, too outspoken with our thoughts and too honest about our struggles. However, these problems other generations seem to pick with us could, and should be seen as strengths. In particular, the open dialogue with which we discuss the positives and negatives of being a twenty-something today. This dialogue is entirely what self-published, feminist magazine Ladybeard wishes to uphold and continue in their latest edition, the Mind issue.
The new issue follows their first issue on Sex and seamlessly carries on a conversation about our bodies, our identities and the taboos wrapped up in each. When I spoke to Sadhbh O’Sullivan, Madeleine Dunnigan and Kitty Drake – the co-editors behind Ladybeard – about the differences and similarities between the two issues, they were keen to emphasise that no theme can be fully dealt with in just one issue. Because of this, the concept of open dialogue runs throughout.
“Sex is over-represented and misrepresented in culture in ways that hugely simplify experiences.” The team tell me via email, “For the next issue we decided we wanted to look ‘inward’ to something that, like sex, is universal, but is in fact under-represented. We saw an opportunity (and a huge challenge!) to create a themed issue about such a loose and supposedly unknown concept. Hopefully we’ve created something that does it justice!”
And the new issue of Ladybeard does exactly that – there is no romanticising of the subject to make for pretty pictures in this magazine, instead we see the harsh realities of dealing with mental health on the daily. Composed of interviews and articles, illustrations and photo series, Ladybeard confronts the mind at all angles, not solely from the view of the mentally ill. They aren’t just interested in the personal, but the history and sociology of anything and everything involving our minds.
“Our very notion of mental health has changed an incredible amount in just 100 years – you can see this from our ‘Timeline of Misdiagnosis’. Rather than offering pseudo diagnosis and prognosis we wanted to create a space for healthy exploratory discussion.” Comments Ladybeard, “As a result you’ll find that some pieces contradict one another – for example, in terms of treatment. However the point was to generate discussion beyond the magazine. An element of this is accepting and embracing the political implications of this: in some ways the magazine is a direct response on the Conservative government’s relentless attack on funding for mental health services. In this way we hope the magazine can be some kind of antidote.”
An antidote is a strong concept, especially on a subject for which many believe there is no real, definable cure. However, it’s clear those behind Ladybeard. those who read it and those who need it, feel that open and honest debate is the best step forward in helping those who are mentally ill – as well as changing the societal and media misconceptions about mentally ill people. Not only this, but the ladies behind Ladybeard make it clear that no topic is too taboo when approaching this issue.
“The more we talk, however, the more nuanced the conversation becomes and the more people come to a helpful understanding of the issues we face.” They emphasise, “At the moment, conversation revolves around ‘palatable’ forms of mental ill health like depression and anxiety and, to a certain extent eating disorders. This is not to say that these aren’t incredibly important conversations to have, but we need to push the discussion further. The ‘scarier’ forms (like personality disorders, bingeing disorders, schizophrenia, forms of PTSD, bipolar, to name a few) are still hugely stigmatised and sensationalised – reduced to scandal stories in the tabloids, or the focus of online abuse. This is still a big problem.”
While the conversation about mental health is being opened up by publications like Ladybeard, we still need to recognise that outside of the arty bubble many of us live in, the reality of being mentally ill is getting worse. As Ladybeard reference – the public may be more open to anxiety issues and mild depression, but the more severe the mental illness, the more demonised it becomes. In a Britain that is making extreme cuts, the mind is the first to suffer: We lose art funding, we lose disability funding, we lose queer safe spaces and mental health services and all the things necessary to help anyone stay sound in mind.
Whether or not you suffer from mental health issues, this magazine is a contemporary look at the way matters of the mind need to move forward. By opening the discussion from the private, hushed conversation to a printed publication, Ladybeard are refusing to let individuals feel cut off from society.
The latest issue of Ladybeard is available to buy via their online shop