Dealing with mental health issues should be a matter of basic solidarity. It’s something we can do to help each other and it’s good for us a movement, too: combating burnout and creating a healthy culture of discussion, openness, and support. The following list is far from exhaustive and is, in fact, more a series of suggestions that groups might consider in formulating a policy and practice of addressing mental health issues and supporting members dealing with depression, anxiety, and overall emotional stress.
While there are probably no definitive answers for how to build such a culture, having discussions and creating structures are necessary first steps. With that in mind, here’s a list of potential discussion points which relate to political activity, organisation, and mental health:
1) Are our groups open about mental health issues? Do members feel comfortable discussing their emotional health or taking a short mental health break? If not, why not? Do we casually use words that are derived expressions which denigrate the mentally ill?
Do we have networks/structures in place to support those who need it? Would a sort of buddy system be beneficial? Should there be a named person or people whose role it is to ensure mental health issues are addressed by the wider organisation?
Of course in all of this, there’s a fine line to be walked. The reality is that there’s a stigma associated with mental illness. This means that not everyone will feel comfortable talking about such things, even in what’s hopefully a sympathetic situation. That’s to be expected, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for us not creating a culture of openness and support when it comes to issues of mental (as well as physical) health.
2) Are our meeting places and social activities conducive to those who may be dealing with emotional stress? Far too often, the bar/pub is the default place for our meetings. This is not going to helpful to those who’ve suffered from addiction in the past or who may want to avoid crowds for hatever reason. If we’re going to be an open movement, it’s imperative wehave open, accountable meeting spaces.
Organisationally, are we cliquish? Do we use a lot of alienating jargon? Are new members consciously integrated into the internal life of the organisation?
As a movement what can we do to alleviate the stress of our members who have more on their plate than just politics? Is childcare available at meetings? Do meeting spaces have disability access? Are our meetings short, concise, and structured or do they drag on interminably?
Similarly, do all our social functions revolve around alcohol or a particular musical subculture? A variety of social activities will attract a variety of participants. Regardless of whether someone is suffering from depression or not, it’s going to be really helpful if there’s a choice of social activities on offer. It will help people open up and feel like they’re part of the larger group, creating the bonds that allow us to tackle issues like mental health.
3) Do we proactively undertake activities which are good for the mental health of everyone? This can be simple things like incorporating physical activity into the social life of organisations. We can have regular sporting events or offer self-defense classes. Or we can encourage members to use their creativity to benefit the movement. Everything from poetry, art, music, and theatre can be therapeutic and there’s no reason such activities can’t be a part of what we do. They are not only good for those of us suffering mental illness, but for all of us, not least because they remind us of the good, shared human things for which we are all fighting.
Credits: About Our Contributors...
Most of the editors & writers participating in this project have chosen to remain anonymous, but please visit & support the websites of the many other writers & artists/illustrators who’ve volunteered their work:
Evangelos Artemou (pages 17, 20). See more of his fine illustrations and block prints at http://b14onlineportfolio.wordpress.com
Kelly Bastow (pages 6, 10, 26) is the illustrator behind Moosekleenex. Check out more of her beautiful prints, illos & comics at moosekleenex.tumblr.com, kellybastow.com, or etsy.com/shop/Moosekleenex
Dr. Charlotte Cooper (page 42) is a psychotherapist/counsellor based in East London. See her website at http://charlottecooper.net
Carolyn Hiler (pages 5, 19, 39) is an artist living in the mountains outside Los Angeles. When not drawing, painting, or hiking with her two adorable mutts, she works in private practice as a psychotherapist in Claremont, CA. Carolyn posts cartoons almost everyday at azilliondollarscomics.com, and she sells funny things on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/AZillionDollars
Stephanie McMillan (pages 9, 14, 23, 29, 35, 40, 54, 57) is an award-wining U.S. illustrator, well known in the environmental & social justice movement for her Minimum Security & Code Green comics. See more of her work and order her many books, including the brand-new Capitalism Must Die! at stephaniemcmillan.org
Tina Phillips (page 46) is a social worker with a master’s degree in the field.
Lauren Purje’s adorable illustrations (pages 2, 44, 48, 61), often skewering the elite art world, can be seen every Monday on the excellent online artmagazine Hyperallergic.com and on her own website at laurenpurje.com
Lyn X (aka Espa Idlenomore Love), designer/production editor of this zine, is a founding director of Edmonton Small Press Association (ESPA), a long-disgruntled member of the arts-precariat (who insisted we include artist/writer credits to anyone that wants them), an intersectional activist, and a resourceful single mom who firmly believes the arts to be vital tools for positive social change. She thanks Evangelos Artemou & Andrew Stewart for their consultations, Tom & Louise for their great direction and patience, and humbly apologizes to the entire editorial/production team for taking so long to complete this zine. :)
Edmonton Small Press Association (ESPA) is a registered, non-profit independent media & activist-arts society with a socially-conscious mandate, and has been an active participant in Edmonton's community arts, social justice & environmental communities since 1998. ESPA maintains a growing Small Press Library & Archive; operates a local Infoshop/Distro; presents thought-provoking and award-winning art exhibits, film screenings & special guest speakers; and also undertakes other special projects, such as community Murals and small publishing projects as time permits. ESPA is currently manifesting our new ESPA ArtHaus in downtown Edmonton which will eventually include a small Artist-Run Gallery and allow us to host community events. ESPA is recipient of the Edmonton Social Planning Council's 2010 "Award of Merit for Advocacy of Social Justice"; a 2011 "Award of Excellence" by the Edmonton Urban Design Awards; and a Medal in the 2012 National Urban Design Awards (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada). ESPA is 100% volunteer-operated and does not receive any government or corporate operational funding. ESPA gratefully accepts small press & activist-art donations from around the world, including zines, political graphics & poster art, mail art, art/documentary DVDs, and more; if you’d like to donate to our library/archive, please mail hard-copies to the address listed on page 2. Find & join ESPA on facebook at facebook.com/groups/EdmontonSmallPress
The Editors of Class Struggle & Mental Health: Live to Fight Another Day would like to thank Libcom.org for their instrumental role in bringing this pamphlet together. It began life off the back of a series of discussions on the Libcom forums and we look forward to Libcom hosting the finished project in their impressive library. Libcom.org is a huge online resource comprising a library, forums, and blogs. It exists both to promote the ideas of libertarian communism and to give pissed-off workers a space to come together and support each other in the fight for a better world. Readers can also find & join Libcom on facebook at facebook.com/libcom.org.
Thank You for reading and supporting independent media & activist-arts.