The Editorial Group

The Asylum editorial group 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, both about mainstream services and about radical, critical or alternatives perspectives on mental health.

As an editorial group, 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 to 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 of 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, there are some fraught and painful tensions to hold.  We try, as an editorial group, 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.  Sometimes we speak as individuals, as well as being part of the editorial group, because we too are part of the debate.

To contact the Asylum Editorial Group, please click here.


Managing Editor: H Spandler

Helen Spandler
Helen Spandler

H Spandler has been part of the Asylum editorial group 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.

Members of the Asylum Editorial Group

Jill Anderson

Jill Anderson

Jill studied English Literature at Bristol, then qualified as a social worker in Sheffield where she first came across Alec Jenner.  She worked in Nottingham in the 1990s during which time she was on the management committee of the Nottingham Advocacy Group.

Jill has a particular interest in mental health education, having taught on social work programmes at the Universities of Nottingham, Cumbria and Lancaster and coordinated the Mental Health in Higher Education project.  Jill is currently a researcher, at the University of Central Lancashire, working with Helen on a project on MadZines.  She lives in Lancaster and is a member of Critical and Creative Approaches to Mental Health Practice. @mhhehub


Janine Booth [Poetry Editor]

Janine Booth is a Marxist, trade unionist, socialist-feminist, author, poet, speaker, tutor, former RMT Executive member, supporter of Workers’ Liberty, neurodivergent, bisexual, Peterborough United fan!
Janine has written several books of poetry, has been featured in numerous poetry journals and anthologies, and is the host of the monthly Spoaken Word Lewes event in the East Sussex town where she currently lives. She aims to include in Asylum poetry by service users and ex-users, and by frontline workers, that tells the poet’s story and which challenges the dominant pathological models of mental distress.
As an active trade unionist, Janine works hard to shift trade union approaches to mental health away from mainstream ‘mental illness’ narratives towards approaching the issue as a workplace issue and a working-class issue. She delivers training courses to union representatives, and encourages trade unions to demand more mentally-healthy working conditions, such as shorter hours, more manageable workload, more secure jobs, more workers’ control and less workplace hierarchy.
See more here. 

Ian Parker
Ian Parker

Ian Parker

Ian Parker is Honorary Professorial Research Fellow at Manchester University, and helps run the Discourse Unit ( 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 w as 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).



Dina Poursanidou

Dina Poursanidou

Dina (Konstantina) Poursanidou has been a member of the Asylum editorial group for over a decade. She started using mental health services in 1991 when she had her first serious mental health crisis. As a result of this crisis, she did a PhD that looked at adolescent depression as a socio-cultural phenomenon in England and in Greece (her country of origin). She has worked as a service user researcher in a number of English Universities following her second mental health crisis that lasted for a couple of years and involved, among others, being sectioned in a psychiatric ward in Manchester. She is currently working at the University of Central Lancashire on a project in the area of forensic mental health. Lastly, she is one of the Directors of the UK-based Survivor Researcher Network C.I.C. There is a part of her that wishes she had met H Spandler at the gym, which illustrates her profound ambivalence towards her own madness and her involvement in mental health politics.


Sonia Soans
Sonia Soans

Sonia Soans

Sonia Soans was awarded her PhD from Manchester Metropolitan University. Her field of study is the gendered representations of addiction and its relation to media and violence. She has worked in both clinical practice and teaching in India, which she feels relies heavily on American models of mental health. Critiquing the stigma surrounding mental illness and the social issues that are often relegated to the background. Sonia came across Asylum magazine in 2009 whilst working on her M.Phil research. Her work in Manchester has led her to some interesting conclusions about mental health and activism. She is a part of the Discourse Unit. Currently, she is working as an independent lecturer and researcher. She occasionally writes and illustrates for Asylum magazine. 

Phil Virden

ivory tower

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. In 2017 he had to give up this role due to ill-health.

Alex Dunedin

Alex Dunedin

Alex Dunedin runs the Ragged University education project which brings people who love what they do into social spaces to share their knowledge and skills. With strong themes of participatory action research and forms of community which are independent and autonomous from institutions, there are many connections to be found between Ragged University and Asylum Magazine.

Through personal experience with mental health systems which were reductive, pharmaceutical driven and instrumental in nature, he has developed a keen interest in seeing the conversations around mind and well being open out to include everyone – not just those with professional stakeholdership. Discovering Asylum editorial group and the inclusive nature of the conversations he got involved as a natural extension to the Mad World archive which he took part in developing in the community as a representation of what is missing in the popular discourse.


Photograph of Hamja Ahsan

Hamja Ahsan 

Hamja is an artist, writer and activist. He initiated protests against his brother Syed Talha Ahsan‘s extradition to the United States and wrote Shy Radicals: The Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert (Ian Parker reviewed this in Asylum 27.1). Hamja also co-founded the DIY Cultures zine festival and helps promote Asylum at zine fairs around the world.




PCCS books

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.


PCSS Books

Wyastone Business Park,

Wyastone Leys, Monmouth,

NP25 3SR