The Rag and Bone Man Press on Other States of Mind
Last week, The Rag and Bone Man Press launched their new anthology, Other States of Mind: Stories of mental health. Lana Rosenbaum tells us a little bit about the evening, and why the stories in this book are significant.
Like most things in life, it’s the small things, the simple gestures that carry the most significance and power. It’s the friend that forces you into a counselor’s office and keeps you there until you book an appointment; it’s the group of people gathering stories and sharing them with others; or, it’s the act of folding a paper crane.
Origami. To most people it’s just folding paper. To others, it’s a symbol of happiness, good luck and peace. A symbol so strong that the Japanese tradition became a belief that if you folded a thousand origami cranes, your wish would come true and you’d be spiritually healed.
Cut to a warm Thursday night in Richmond, where the outdoor bar of Holliava was adorned with a thousand bright and patterned paper cranes, floating from the walls, perched on the tables and strung across the open roof. This was the launch of Other States of Mind: Stories of mental health, the latest anthology by The Rag and Bone Man Press.
A group dedicated to telling stories of importance and engaging the community in the spirit of sharing, The Rag and Bone Man Press brought together people from all walks of life – friends, colleagues, families and strangers, those who told their stories and those supporting them: ‘my husband always held my arm. He helped me move when I was too weak to walk.’ A book launch like no other, Holliava became an open and accepting space for anyone who might have something to share. Contributor Zoe Blain took to the stage with a proud, triumphant face and read her poem ‘The Pineal Gland’. Her words managed to capture the night perfectly, ‘This is the synapse; When serotonin wants to make a statement; it crosses the gap and with a twist; click and; swing …’ That was the beauty of this event. With flair, it crossed a gap, it made a statement and, true to form, it did so by voicing silent, difficult tales.
Editor, Natasha Bernard, opened the event and introduced the book by saying ‘Mental health is part of the human experience. Almost 50% of people in Australia will have a mental illness at some point in their lives. We talk about cancer, cardiac disease, stroke and other physical ailments with no worries, no prejudice. My dream is that one day people everywhere will feel comfortable talking about mental health with their friends and families, not just asking “are you ok?” But actually waiting for the answer with an open heart and mind.’
What is most prominent about this compilation are the feelings of love and support. Every page shows that people are not alone in their experiences. It was Ella Mittas who ‘confided [her] feelings to a close friend’ and was pushed towards a counsellor’s office, who finally told her family what she was going through and that it ‘ended up being a blessing’. The book offers incredible insight and honesty. There are stories written right ‘in the thick of things’, as contributors struggle with social anxiety, bulimia, trichotillomania, intense rage and more. There are stories about children helping their parents while in the midst of depression, families who provide ‘enough encouragement to believe’, and people who have found happiness in the companionship of animals. Other States of Mind manages to create an intense awareness that, while 50% of the people in Australia will have a mental illness, the percentage of people affected by it are so much more. And yet, the book displays hope, strength and positivity throughout.
The night included food and wine, smiles cracking and laughter rolling from one paper-craned table to the next. Wild@heART, a group dedicated to reconnecting people with their passions and reaffirming that mental illness doesn’t just focus on the negative, sent forth members of their team to add to the atmosphere. Singer, Heidi Everett, ‘mental health wrangler and soul fire starter,’ and guitarist Philip Heuzenroeder, had the crowd on their feet. The rest of the night was abuzz with music by the Bipolar Bears, who are ‘rockin’ for mental health.’ And though some understood it firsthand and others were only just scratching the surface of their awareness, a sense of community blanketed all.
Like most things in life, it is the small, simple things that carry the most significance and power. And that is what Other States of Mind is. It is a seemingly small thing to collect stories and then share them, albeit in such a beautifully designed package, but it is a big step to building awareness, to changing the way people perceive mental health, and towards expression, acceptance and community. Those were the steps people left the launch with.