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 Collective, please click here.
Managing Editor: Helen Spandler
Helen 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 Collective
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
Nathan is an author and qualified mental health nurse. The Shock of the Fall, his novel about the life of a young man grieving the loss of his brother was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into thirty languages. It won The Costa Book of the Year, The Betty Trask Prize, The National Book Award for Popular Fiction and The Writers’ Guild Award for Best First Novel. He has written for the Guardian and the New York Times. His BBC radio 4 documentary, The Mind in the Media, which explored portrayals of mental illness in fiction and journalism was shortlisted for a Mind Media Award. His book of non-fiction, The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia (also published as This Book Will Change Your Mind About Mental Health) was a Sunday Times Book of the Year and was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize. Nathan holds an honorary doctorate from Abertay University, conferred in recognition of his role in raising awareness of mental health issues through literature.
Ian Parker is Honorary Professorial Research Fellow at Manchester University, and helps run the Discourse Unit (www.discourseunit.com)
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.
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
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.
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.
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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