The Asylum collective is a loose group of people who support, produce and promote Asylum magazine. We share a broad set of values but we don’t have an overall ideology or editorial stance as such. Our aim is to provide a forum for debate – away from mainstream mental health systems – for discussing radical, critical or alternatives perspectives on mental health.
As a Collective, we are not necessarily ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ psychiatry, but we try to provide a safe space for people to express these views, as well as debate and discuss them. We hope to promote discussion about what more democratic mental health services might look like. We try to publish marginalised and less heard views – especially those of users and survivors of services and those on the frontline of service provision and support. We promote a variety of means of expression (e.g. articles, stories, poems and graphics) and we endeavour to encourage diversity and debate.
Even in more democratic spaces, away from the mainstream, there are fraught and painful tensions to hold. We try, as a Collective, to hold those tensions, but we cannot claim to resolve them. We all have our own individual views and perspectives, which change, in dialogue with readers and writers of the magazine. Speaking as individuals, rather than on behalf of the Collective, we too are part of the debate.
To find out more about joining the Asylum Collective, please contact us.
Executive Editor: Phil Virden
Way back in Beatletime, Phil Virden had five years of fun before graduating from Oxford and Leicester Universities. For ten years he was a Lecturer in Sociology at York University. In the end he got sick of the ivory tower and it got sick of him. He was illegally sacked and blacklisted in 1980 – the beginning of Thatcher time – and although he never hit it rich he has since been quite happy pursuing a series of different occupations.
In the mid-1980s, along with Lin Bigwood and Prof Alex Jenner, he founded Asylum magazine. He was Executive Editor during the magazine’s first six years – that is, also its main secretary, typist, designer and lay-out artist. He contributes the occasional article, and in 2008 again took on the job of Executive Editor.
Managing Editor: Helen Spandler
Helen Spandler has been part of the Asylum collective for many years. She first stumbled across the magazine while wandering round radical bookstores in London in the late 1980’s. Asylum kindly published her rambling undergraduate essay on the German Socialist Patients’ Collective. When she went to Sheffield University in the early 1990’s she met Alec Jenner, Phil Virden and others and got involved in the Asylum collective.
Members of her close family have used the mental health system, although she wouldn’t call herself a ‘carer’ but more an ally and critical friend of the service user/survivor movement. Helen worked for a number of years in a ‘user involvement’ capacity and now works at the University of Central Lancashire as a researcher and teacher – where she takes every opportunity to promote Asylum.
Creative Writing Editor: William Park
William was born in 1962 in West London, currently lives in North-West England. His interests include Buddhist (and now other) spiritual philosophies, World Cinema, poetry, and music (jazz and jazz musicians, + Aim ((Andy Turner)), Tricky) and jogging, all with the intention of enhancing creativity/creative insights, physical and mental wellbeing, promoting these in the community through community developments and adult education tutoring. He has been part of the Asylum Collective since Spring 2012 and is now Creative Writing Editor.
Members of the Asylum Collective
Jill coordinates the Mental Health in Higher Education project (mhhe) and facilitates the national Developers of User and Carer Involvement in Education network (DUCIE). She studied English Literature at Bristol, then qualified as a social worker in Sheffield where she came across Alec Jenner. Jill worked in Nottingham in the 1990s during which time she was on the management committee of the Nottingham Advocacy Group.
She has a particular interest in mental health education, having taught on social work programmes at the Universities of Nottingham, Cumbria and Lancaster. Jill lives in Lancaster and is a member of Critical and Creative Approaches to Mental Health Practice. @mhhehub
China Mills has been an ally of the user/survivor movement for a number of years, and first came across a copy of Asylum when she was attempting the daunting task of tidying up in the Manchester Hearing Voices Network office. China’s main interests lay with critically exploring the Movement for Global Mental Health, particularly the globalisation of bio-psychiatry, and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.
She recently spent some time in India working with some emerging user/survivor groups there, and exploring some of the many alternatives to psychiatry. China has also worked and done research with children and young people who hear voices. She is deeply committed to finding alterative and democratic ways of working with and living alongside people who experience distress.
Ian Parker is Professor of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and helps run the Discourse Unit ( www.discourseunit.com) which is an interdisciplinary networking resource for radical academics, and which hosts Annual Review of Critical Psychology (an open-access peer-reviewed online journal).
He was involved in radical psychology groups, including Psychology, Politics, Resistance (whose newsletters on the Discourse Unit site). He is interested in therapy (and is trained as a psychoanalyst), but is more interested in social change (is a Marxist).
I started using mental health services in 1991. I had my first major mental health crisis in 1991 when I was studying for a Master’s degree, and a second very severe and enduring mental health crisis between July 2008 and June 2010. This second crisis resulted in a 3-month long detention under a Mental Health Act Section in an acute psychiatric ward, and in a 2-year period of unemployment and immense struggle on all fronts.
Following this crisis, I worked in two Universities in the north of England as a Service User Researcher. Currently, I am working at the Service User Research Enterprise (SURE) in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London carrying out research on violence on inpatient psychiatric wards. My involvement with Asylum started in 2010. I have been in personal therapy since I can remember, and I love films, theatre and visual art.
Sonia Soans achieved her PhD in Manchester. Her field of study is gendered representations of addiction. She studied and worked in India. She has worked in both clinical practice and teaching in India which she felt relied heavily on American models of mental health. Her work in Manchester has led her to some interesting conclusions about mental health and activism continuing to be an active editor on Asylum magazine.
Jim is a self-employed mental health trainer based in Edinburgh. He is also a researcher, writer and practitioner, specialising in recovery and sexual abuse. He has worked for over 15 years in both healthcare and education and is currently working as a person-centred counsellor in Primary Care.
He enjoys writing, publishing in a range of areas and is on the Editorial Collective of Asylum Magazine. He recently coauthored, with Ron Coleman, Reclaiming Our Lives: A Workbook for Males Who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse, which draws on the direct experiences of the authors’ own recovery journeys. His passion and enthusiasm lies in recovery, giving people hope that change can and will happen.
A reader with a keen interest in the Asylum Collective taking part as an editor over the years.
Administration & Distribution:
PCCS Books is an independent mental health publisher. We want a better deal for everyone who seeks help for emotional distress – better understanding, better responses, more choices and better outcomes.
Our aim is that our publishing reflects that goal. Our titles broadly cover three main subjects – counselling and psychotherapy, mental health and madness, and survivor and service user perspectives.
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