Creative Writing from the Archive: R.D. Laing and Mental Health

creative writing

We can think of Laing as a voice:
Kooky, wise, sympathetic, abrasive, perhaps
a voice, I think more and more, with a hint
of Hume or Adam Smith in its cadences.

To many, for sure, a voice of understanding –
“Laing knows me far better than you: he speaks
to me,” a patient, who’d never met Ronnie
told his psychiatrist.

But has there ever been a better
photographed mind doctor?

(extract from the poem ‘Pocket Edition’ written by Adrian Chapman)

 

On the 18th September 2014, a small group of individuals made their way through the grey Glasgow weather to the Special Collections in the University of Glasgow. They were there to take part in a Wellcome Trust supported creative writing project using the archive of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing to explore issues of mental health and creativity. Supported by creative writer Geraldine Perriam, librarian Sarah Hepworth and geographer Cheryl McGeachan, the participants discussed, handled, listened and wrote about the archival materials associated with this famous psychiatrist. These pieces wonderfully created through the imagination of all involved, highlight the complexity of thinking about individuals now gone and the haunting questions that remain about the unearthing and retelling of the histories of mental health care.

To read more about the activities undertaken on the day, please see the following blog posts by Cheryl McGeachan and Sarah Hepworth at Asylum Spaces and the University of Glasgow Library.

Participants have donated their work from the day, ranging from poetry to personal commentary, and this has been compiled into a brochure that is freely available. If you would like a copy please email Cheryl McGeachan with your postal address.

4 thoughts on “Creative Writing from the Archive: R.D. Laing and Mental Health

  1. I attended the event ‘Encountering RD Laing’ event on 10 October 2014 at the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at Glasgow University, organised by Cheryl McGeachan, from the perspective of a psychiatric survivor, writer, activist, campaigner, carer and mother of 3 sons who have, like me, survived psychiatric treatment and forced drugging.

    I found that my voice wasn’t as welcome at this event as the voice of the academics and clinical professionals speaking from the floor and in the audience. In fact one psychiatrist said to me at the beginning of the afternoon session “are you still here”.

    Here is the blog post I wrote about my experience of the day, for interest:
    http://chrysmuirheadwrites.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/encountering-rd-laing-at-glasgow.html

  2. Thanks Jenny! It was great to see you at the Troubling Institutions event and I am really excited to hear more about your new research project.

  3. Thanks for your comments Chrys. As we have discussed before the creative writing event was separate from the conference which you attended and was designed to be a very different type of event (for example, no medical professionals were in attendance) and in many ways I wonder if this would have been a more pleasurable event for you. When we chatted at the conference you mentioned you were very interested in Laing and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the booklet so if you would like a copy please do let me know.

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