The Tab Meets: This Space
JAMIE WEBB talks to MEGAN DALTON about her new mental health website, this space
Megan Dalton is a 3rd year English student who has created This Space, a submissions-based blog addressing mental health.
It’s a space for anything from poetry to prose, personal accounts to scientific pieces, from fine art to comics, with the goal of raising awareness about mental health issues. Submissions can be published anonymously, under a pseudonym, or using your own name. It goes live today.
The Tab caught up with Megan to discuss her website.
Why did you decide to start This Space?
The site is all about giving people space to share their perspectives and experiences. So by inviting submissions, we’re focussing on respecting individuals rather than having any rigid agenda. We don’t want to stigmatise or romanticise mental health issues, and we want to avoid putting out stereotypes or clichés. It’s also a really exciting way of doing things, because the variety of submissions means that every new thing that comes in is completely different.
Why is there a still a lack of awareness around mental health issues in Cambridge?
I think there’s more open discussion in Cambridge than a lot of other places, but it’s still a huge problem. It’s still a taboo, there are still people who don’t consider it a real illness, or consider it to be selfish. Attitudes like this are really damaging because they can make people feel guilty about their condition, like they don’t have a right to be ill. And that causes a sort of vicious circle that makes the illness even worse because people feel unhappy at what they see as their unjustified unhappiness.
What value is there in people talking about these experiences?
Several of our submitters have said the process of writing for us has been really helpful, which is really heartwarming. Talking is hugely important: the more you articulate it’s easier to understand, and to separate it from yourself. When I started suffering from depression and wasn’t telling anyone about it, it started to consume my identity. Externalising it makes it more manageable.
How did you get comfortable talking about your own mental health?
I was in a show two years ago called Snap Out Of It, a piece of verbatim theatre about mental health. Before that very few people knew I had mental health issues, even my parents. The bravery of the people who submitted to the show, and the amount of audience members who approached me wanting to talk about mental health, gave me the courage to speak out. I hope This Space can do for people what Snap Out Of It did for me.
Does the university need to do more?
Yes. The college system makes it so variable. I’ve spoken to some people who’ve been given so much help and others who have just been dismissed by their tutors. I had a huge amount of support from my DoS and the Nurse at Queens, on to the University Counselling Service, before College offered to pay for psychotherapy, and without that I would have had to intermit. If you are suffering with your mental health and your college isn’t being supportive (and even if they are) go to your GP.
What is the best thing if you know someone close to you is suffering?
Well I’d recommend Michael Zacharias’ article , because it’s really damn good. The main thing is just to listen to them. Don’t instantly dive in with advice, just give them the space to talk and let them know you’re there for them. And look after yourself as well, it’s unproductive to be consumed by looking after someone else. But initiate meeting up: when people are feeling really down they might not communicate, and just being asked by a friend for a coffee can really make a difference.
What are your hopes for the website?
I suppose simply that it gets more people talking about mental health. We want to be part of the growing movement to reduce stigma surrounding mental health. This is after all just one website of many that people can go to, but it’s really damn exciting to be behind this particular space.
This Space can be found here. The Tab will be exclusively publishing some Cambridge specific stories from This Space over the next few weeks. If you have any stories or submissions that you’d like to share with Megan, get in touch at [email protected]