Doll Hospital – a place to be oneself

On some recent travels across the world wide web I came across a brilliant new magazine named Doll Hospital. A print journal, it is creative and inspirational collection of art, poetry, words and wisdom that explores mental health without prejudice or preconceptions. I caught up with creator Beth Lamont to find out more.

Why did you decide to start Doll Hospital?

I created Doll Hospital because I felt frustrated with the limits of online spaces to sufficiently express and explore personal trauma and mental illness. Just before I started D.H. I wrote an essay for Rookie on my experiences as a survivor, an essay I’m super proud of and have no regrets publishing. But nonetheless the experiences got me questioning whether that model of online publishing is always the best fit for vulnerable people to share their stories. I mean if I’ve just written an essay on my experiences of abuse do I really want to deal with the comment section and a ton of twitter messages? Probably not. That stuff makes me anxious at the best of times!

Don’t get me wrong I love all those online magazines! And I feel proud and honoured to have my work published in magazines like that. But I think when it comes to such painful subject it’s good to offer people different options, different mediums and platforms to explore and present their stories, and their work on their terms.

What are the plans for the magazine?

Well we’ve now raised enough money to print 100 copies and cover international shipping and stuff, which is awesome. But I really want to get to a point where we can pay our contributors. That is so important to me. The devaluation of creative work is gross, and each and every one of our artists and writers deserve to be compensated for their work! Particularly in a publication like this, where our contributors, many of whom are from marginalised backgrounds, are honouring us by sharing such difficult subject so they may help and heal our readers. I hope we can raise more money on Kickstarter for us to achieve this goal.

In terms of Issue One, I also really hope we can go beyond the 100 copy run, as that is actually a teeny tiny amount, and I know so many people want to read it and I’d hate for anyone to miss out! When the pre-sale copies ran out and I got so many sad emoticon messages from interested readers it kind of broke my heart. So I hope we can expand this print run considerably!

Beyond that I’m interested in collaborating with a publisher so our journal can really thrive and reach as many people as possible. Like I’d love it to be one of those free magazines you can pick up at galleries and community centres and stuff-that would be so cool.

Why did you chose to use Kickstarter?

I chose Kickstarter as it’s such a great platform for independent media start-ups. So many interesting and innovative projects have been launched there. I love how gloriously strange and unexpected some of the successful campaigns are! There is so much belief and love there, it’s amazing. Stuff that some business dude may not see potential in, but something one person and their online community do, I love it!

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Many of our greatest artists are known to have suffered from mental health problems – do you think there is a distinct relationship between the two?

Oh man! This is a subject I think about a lot, and definitely something that I, and Doll Hospital as a publication, actively pushes against. To present mental health struggles as something creative and ‘unique’ is damaging and derailing, and prevents people struggling from getting the help they need.

As a writer and artist I thought that I shouldn’t get help for my chronic depression because it would prevent me from being a ‘good’ writer. That is absolutely ridiculous! Because when I’m suicidal, or having a panic attack, I’m not casually whipping up a manuscript on the side. Nope! It’s the total opposite. When my depression is bad I can’t work at all! It was only when I got help for this stuff that my work could actually thrive.

I think to truly foster honest and accurate conversations on mental health we need to actively challenge these sterotypes of tortured geniuses and tragic muses. We can do so much better than that, and we owe it to all the amazing artists we’ve lost to mental health struggles.

The funding available for the support of mental health is something that has been getting plenty of coverage recently. Why do you think it has been neglected for so long?

Mental health support continues to fail the most vulnerable in our society, coupled with the outrageous treatment of disabled people under austerity measures. Any improvements, particularly in terms of funding is surely a good thing, but we need to examine how this change is carried out, who benefits and how. After all, when creating ‘mental health’ awareness campaigns it is easy to slip into self serving PR that offers little to those truly suffering. In this sense, I do not think that mental health has been neglected exactly, rather grotesquely misrepresented and mishandled.

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