'hate' zine takes a raw, honest look at mental health
We talk to 'Hate' founders Luisa Le Voguer Couyet and Scarlett Carlos Clarke about the struggles of mental health and why it's good to talk about your feelings.
Tired of the mainstream narrative surrounding the subject of mental health, and the stigma attached to addiction, anxiety and depression, writer Luisa Le Voguer Couyet and photographer Scarlett Carlos Clarke decided to address it in the latest issue of their zine, Hate. Dedicated to their friend the photographer Matt Irwin, who sadly took his own life earlier this year, the resulting pages are a breathtakingly honest conversation about a topic that has long been ignored. From poetry and short stories to op-eds and original artworks, a photographic series depicting the inside of a care home and a friend's suicide note, the issue shifts the narrative. "I think there is still a huge misunderstanding and no education surrounding mental health problems," says Luisa. As the issue launches, we talk to the girls about the struggles of mental health.
What's the concept behind the new issue?
Luisa: We've been wanting to explore mental health for some time now, so we decided to leave the topic open for contributors to interpret in their own way.
Scarlett: With Hate we want to be able to have an honest discussion and hopefully encourage people to talk more openly about these things.
What can we expect to see inside it?
L: There is a lot more creative writing than past issues, Greta Bellamacina has given us a poem, I wrote a few short, short stories. Some great photography that's really honest from Alex Sebley and Holly Whitaker. We're both really proud of this issue.
S: We dedicated the issue to photographer Matt Irwin, so there is a section where close friends have written their memories. We have an amazing piece by Alex Sebley who documented his time working in a care home for the mentally ill. Joe Sweeney created an installation made from painted chips which is also brilliant. Luisa has done some really good pieces of writing which fit in really well with the theme.
Were you surprised by any of the submissions?
L: As we ended up accepting open submissions, artist Hannah King surprised me! Her work is amazing, I really love her paintings!
What feature are you most proud of?
L: I'm really glad that we were able to find a way to remember our friend Matt Irwin, by including his photography and memories from his close friends in this issue.
S: I would have to say Alex Sebley's photos and writing from when he worked in a care home. His writing is so dry and honest.
Why do you think there is such a stigma surrounding mental health?
L: Because people can't see internal suffering, it's harder for some people to then sympathize with this. I think we are collectively getting better at discussing our feelings, but I do think there is still huge misunderstanding and no education surrounding mental health problems. And all this furthers the idea that problems faced by people are not really there, especially when you have a press that devours celebrity breakdowns and a government that does not prioritize children's mental health NHS services for example.
How can we change this?
L: Talk about it, talk about how you feel. I guess that's easier for some people - I've never found it easy to keep quiet about my feelings. Making stuff, creating, writing, music, these help, too.
Why is this such an important subject to you, personally?
L: When I was growing up, the mental health problems facing my relatives would shadow me a lot. I think they shaped who I am now. I felt really responsible for other people at times in my life, and I've had to teach myself to prioritize my own best interests and wants and needs. I know what it's like feeling stuck, or shit about yourself and your circumstances, or depressed. Doing Hate has been a really positive thing in my own life, so I know change is possible for myself and others. I want to encourage other people to do what they want and what makes them happy, to talk about stuff, to accept themselves the way they are.
S: I have been to five funerals in my life - all of them suicide including my father's which was 10 years ago now. Even though he committed suicide I would have never described him as being "mentally ill" or "manic depressive." From the outside looking in, he was successful, he had a house, he had a wife who loved him, he had a daughter, he had everything he had spent his life working for, he did what he loved doing. So what was the problem? Why wasn't there a solution? Why was suicide the only way out? I think most people who suffer from manic depression are born with it - factors or things that happen in their life then add to an already slightly unstable, vulnerable mind. I believe it's there from day one - a chemical imbalance, genetics, and it's going to surface at one time or another in life. That's not to say that suicide cant be prevented - people need to be encouraged to talk and tackle their demons at a younger age before they are too set in their ways and stubborn to change. I think the word "mental" has really negative connotations. No one wants to admit to being mentally ill, there isn't an obvious cure, people don't necessarily know how to help.
Do you find it difficult to talk about your own mental health?
L: Not with my friends, I used to think I was crazy, and abnormal, but as I grow up I realize I'm actually quite okay at dealing with stuff. And also, who cares if you're crazy? What's crazy?
Do you think attitudes towards mental health are changing?
L: Yes, and I think the internet has helped encourage a more open discussion. Mental health is still really misunderstood and there is little help free on the NHS which poses its own set of problems.
L: I still want to take Hate to New York, and I'd like to do issue 4 on the environmental issues which threaten life on Earth. We need to be focusing on that!
Text Tish Weinstock