Self-Directed Project Final Report
The topic I chose to focus on was mental health issues. Initially, my aim was to discuss mental health issues themselves and try to explain to people what those going through issues with their mental health were experiencing. However, I soon realised that this is impossible to do. Each person’s experience is completely different to the next and unless you, personally, have gone through it then it is extremely difficult to understand. Because of this I decided to focus more on people’s negative preconceptions of mental health and the taboo surrounding it. I hoped to encourage people to talk to each other about this topic and not feel as though it is a forbidden topic of discussion.
I chose to create a zine to create awareness of my topic. Zines are DIY magazines that often challenge the norm and contest society which is what I hoped to do with my project. For years, society has regarded mental health as a taboo topic that should only be discussed behind closed doors or with medical specialists. I aimed to counter this belief and get people talking.
I read various books to help me with both sides of my project; both the content about mental health and the zine. The book Hearing Voices, Seeing Things was extremely useful as it gave me an insight into how to approach the project and how to be sensitive to the topic. The book Fanzines was also invaluable when creating the layout and design for the zine. I also gathered information from various zines I have collected since beginning university. The zine LGBWHAT? was incredibly useful in forming an approach and style for the project.
One of the main changes I made to my approach was that in my initial brief I hoped to tackle the topic with a humorous manner. However, as I began to piece together content, I realised that I hoped to create something that had a more serious and empathetic tone to it. This came about as I started to implement elements of humour and noticed that if people were unaware of my experiences surrounding mental health, they may have thought that I was being insensitive.
The website for the charity called Mind was extremely helpful when gathering information of the more scientific side such as the examples of conditions and statistics and facts. As a charity, the way they write on their website is very professional yet comforting and I took a lot of inspiration from their approach when coming up with the content of my zine.
Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances and family issues, I was unable to present my work at the initial opening of the exhibition. This is extremely disappointing for me as I was really excited about getting some feedback and seeing how people engage with my zine. I hope to distribute my zine around the exhibition at some point, and possibly also create some to leave in the various places around Leeds that promote the DIY scene. Although I was unable to get feedback from my peers, I did give my zine to a few of my friends and their friends. This was ideal as my target audience is people of around my own age. They all agreed that I had successfully been empathetic yet informative throughout the zine and said that they would have picked one up to read had they noticed it in another setting.
My aim was to create a talking point and I feel that I was successful in doing so. Everyone who read it then went on to discuss what their previous preconceptions were and what they got from the zine. This was really positive for me, especially to receive this feedback from people who I respect and know might not have already had a positive outlook on people with mental health issues.
Although I feel I created something interesting and effective, I would definitely do numerous things differently if I were to carry out the project again. Firstly, I would bring in other artists or contributors to collaborate with. I think that this would allow the zine to have a much more varied style and would allow for more people to voice their thoughts and opinions. I would also have liked to try a different format for the zine, although I was happy with the outcome, sometimes it is nice to be a bit more experimental instead of playing it safe.
I would also have liked to spend much more time on my project. Time management was difficult during the process as personal issues definitely conflicted with the project. It was also hard to focus when the topic I was covering was so close to home and was so relevant to my life during the time I was creating the zine. Obviously this could not be helped but circumstances change and I definitely know I could give so much more to the topic, had I not been so involved personally with it at the time. If I had been able to stick to the time plan that I made at the start of the project I feel that I would have had a more thorough development section but sadly this was not possible due to things out of my control.
Duncombe, S (2008). Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. Microcosm Publishing.
Piepmeier, A (2009). Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. New York University Press.
Smith, B and Smith, R and Voorsanger, J (2006). Hearing Voices, Seeing Things. Serpentine Gallery.
Triggs, T (2010). Fanzines. Thames & Hudson.
http://www.mind.org.uk/ (Last accessed 16th May 2014).