Authors: Sepehr Hafizi
Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Community of Diarists for Mental Health
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Dr Sepehr Hafizi is a Consultant Psychiatrist in General Adult Psychiatry at Fulbourn Hospital in Cambridge. He is also an Associate Lecturer and a College Research Associate at the University of Cambridge. His interests include the interface between medicine and literature.
Communities are formed not just in space, but also in time. There is much to be learnt from the past, especially from the lived experience of writers with a history of mental illness. An example of a celebrated writer is that of Virginia Woolf who was a major contributor to the modernist cultural movement of the early 20th Century. Not only was she a writer of diaries, but she was also an avid reader of diaries such as that of the Somerset Rector John Skinner. She saw herself positioned in a ‘community of diarists’ where the reading and writing of diaries is much valued. Her own diary writing can be split into three phases with the last phase particularly valuable to the reader in understanding the struggles and coping mechanisms of a mind tortured by depression. Although the study of a diary is very much a qualitative effort, some researchers have examined diaries using more quantitative methods, e.g. the analysis of the journals of Sylvia Plath. Both approaches are likely to benefit interested patients and healthcare workers. Thus, modern healthy communities are not only created in physical space or virtual space, but also may be sought in ‘time’ space.
Learning Objective 1: There is value in reading the diaries of celebrated writers from the past as it allows access to the rich workings of the inner mind of the mentally ill.
Learning Objective 2: A ‘community of diarists’ represents another form of healthy community for tackling mental health issues.
Demjen, Z. (2017). Sylvia Plath and the Language of Affective States: Written Discourse and the Experience of Depression (Advances in Stylistics). Bloomsbury Academic.
Lounsberry, B. (2018). Virginia Woolf, The War Without, The War Within: Her Final Diaries & the Diaries She Read. University Press of Florida.