Several of these questions have been asked of us at our events in NYC, Philadelphia, LA, and San Francisco. Here are our answers!
Q: What led you to creating Headcase?
A: Teresa, an NYC-based social worker, was working at Rainbow Heights Club (RHC), the only psychosocial clubhouse program providing socialization and support specifically for LGBTQ+ adults with serious mental health conditions, about a decade ago when she viewed a short documentary entitled “What Helps and What Doesn’t.” It features LGBTQ+ people talking about their own mental health care, which inspired Teresa to wonder whether a book comprised of stories like this existed. It didn’t, so she set out to create one. Stephanie agreed with Teresa that this book needed to exist, and she stepped up as a co-editor in 2014. It turned out to be a dream collaboration for both of us! (And, the Executive Director of RHC, Christian Huygen, ended up contributing a wonderful essay on culturally competent care!)
Did you get a lot of submissions? How did you choose what made the final cut into the book?
Yes, we got far more submissions than we could possibly include in the book! It was an honor to receive so many thoughtful proposals, essays, poems, stories, and pieces of artwork. People bared their souls and took big chances, and we are hugely appreciative of their courage and generosity. We narrowed our shortlist down to about 40 contributions, and based our choices on the quality and relevance of submissions; pieces by mental health professionals needed to be written in plain English rather than clinical-ese, and we were not looking for case studies. We made efforts to include representation from a very wide cross-section of LGBTQ+ communities in regards to age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, socioeconomic status, and geography; a mix of genres; and diverse viewpoints (for instance, some folks’ work is grounded in an anti-psychiatry viewpoint, while others have benefitted from conventional mental health care systems).
Are you going to compile a second volume, maybe using some of the submissions that didn’t make it into the first volume?
That’s not currently on our agenda, as we have other projects in mind for the future that are related to but not a continuation of this book. But we never say never!
What was surprising for you as you put together the book?
We were surprised at how few surprises were in store for us! We heard from a great many people about their negative experiences with mental health care systems–which was unfortunate, but expected. It remains a challenge for many LGBTQ+ individuals to locate affordable LGBTQ+-affirming mental health care.
Why is this anthology necessary?
Because, simply put, LGBTQ+ peers/consumers of mental health services are underrepresented in the literature. Many books on LGBTQ+-affirming care are written by professionals for professionals. But LGBTQ+ peers are the experts on our own care. We wanted to help give a voice to others like us, especially to people with multiply marginalized identities who are often left out of these important conversations.
How can other people in the community get mental health support?
Please see the resource list in the appendix of Headcase. If you are in NYC, you can also check out the local LGBTQ+ mental health resource guide Teresa helps maintain. The Affirmative Couch, a new website dedicated to LGBTQ+-affirming care, has launched since Headcase’s publication and includes articles geared toward clients/peers.
Where can we find you on social media and how can we contact you?
Headcase’s Facebook page can be found here. Teresa’s Instagram handle is brooklynfemme. Stephanie’s Instagram and Twitter handle are both StephS910. Email us with speaking requests, questions, etc. at firstname.lastname@example.org!
What is it like to have your own stories and details about your mental health out there?
It is many things at once: exhilarating, terrifying, freeing. Nearly every time we present about the book and about LGBTQ+ mental health, we say that queer stories save queer lives. When we “come out” about our mental health, if and when we deem it safe, we chip away at stigma and shame.