Guest Blog: HeadSpace

Naomi Elster tells The Incubator all about the wonderful work HeadSpace is committed to.

”There is a dearth of reading material in hospitals, and we set up HeadSpace, a literary and artistic anthology, to help remedy this.

Reading is an ideal entertainment to provide to wards as patients can choose to engage or not, a book or magazine can be stopped and restarted, and it doesn’t disturb others in the ward who might want to rest. Even with the best care in the world, hospitals can be stressful and lonely places and it is important to provide patients with a distraction to help them cope with the anxiety that can result of being there. However, with Irish hospitals currently so understaffed and under-resourced, hospital staff don’t have the time to organise reading material and libraries themselves, which is why we set up HeadSpace.

We chose the name because we found that in a busy, fast-paced world, sometimes there can be so much emphasis on efficiency and productivity that we can forget to take some time out for ourselves – we forget how important it can be to get some “HeadSpace.”

HeadSpace is focused on mental health. While there has been a great improvement in awareness of mental health in the last few years, this hasn’t been matched by an improvement in understanding. Some subjects are difficult to broach, and the fear of stigma associated with suffering with a mental health difficulty can make it hard to talk. The arts give us an avenue to express and communicate, and provide a safe starting place for conversation. For example, if I had an illness like bipolar disorder and wanted to confide in someone about it, I might find it very hard to broach the issue. If I had a painting, story or poem with that theme, I could start with a general discussion on the piece of art, a “what do you think of this?”

Reading something that reflects your own experience can make you feel less alone, remind you that there will always be people who understand. Then, as well as it being a safe avenue to communicate what you’re feeling, writing, and indeed reading, can allow us to escape from whatever stresses we might find ourselves in for a time, allow us to dream. All of these factors come together to promote positive mental health, and recovery from mental health difficulties and mental illness.

Within a few months of our first issue being launched in May 2013, all of our copies had been distributed. We received very encouraging feedback praising both the content of the magazine and the idea behind it, but best of all were the messages from people who wanted to let us know that the magazine had helped them through times of difficulty, given them some sense of hope.

We have copies in hospitals, day hospitals and support centres in Dublin, Cork, Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Mullingar, Wexford and Wicklow. We even have some copies distributed in the UK. A full list of all the places with copies of either Issue 1 or Issue 2 can be found on our website. If anyone would like to suggest somewhere else to distribute to, request copies for their organisation or offer to do some voluntary work in terms of helping us to distribute copies, fundraise or raise awareness about the project, we’d be delighted to hear from them at info@headspace-magazine.com.

We cap the number of copies we sell to make sure that most copies go where they are most needed – into wards and support services. But we do have some copies of our second issue which can be bought online at www.headspacemagazine.bigcartel.com. We’re working on getting copies into independent bookshops as well. Issue 1 is out of print but an e-version can be read online for free on our website www.headspace-magazine.com.  Our next issue will be launched in the summer, and submissions will open on March 12th and close May 12th. To keep up to date, email info@headspace-magazine.com with “Mailing List” in the title or like us on Facebook.”

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