Reaching Out Within One Another: An Interview with Célia Schouteden, Founder of Peculiars Magazine
Peculiars Magazine launched in December of 2017 with the intent of sharing stories of those suffering with mental illness. Today with speak to Editor and Founder of the magazine, Célia Schouteden about the birth of the publication, hopes for the future and mental illness in the modern world.
What inspired you to start peculiars magazine?
There are a lot of online magazines or independent printed magazines emerging all around us, I'm following so many of these and one night I found myself thinking "why not? Why are you so scared?".
Peculiars Magazine is a project I've imagined and created many times in my dreams, I have built it over and over again in my mind, never quite satisfied of what it looks like. I'm anxious to see it grow though. To be honest it still feels surreal and also pretty scary to finally be out there, trying to make it happen, for real this time. It's still early to know how it affects people's journey but I'm doing my best to be as authentic as possible, to share as many content as possible (since I'm the only one working on this project right now it can become overwhelming pretty quickly - I'd love to collaborate with like-minded individuals later on). Even if only a couple of persons feel less alone because of peculiars it would still be a victory. Peculiars has been inspired by my love for the arts and my struggles with my own mental health. I've often found myself in a place where I've felt very very lonely.
Sometimes, when you have to deal with a mental illness, it can feel like you're on your own, "nobody understands, nobody's here, why am I here?" but it's actually an illusion, the biggest lie our mind tells us: we are never alone. So I wanted to reach out to the other souls out there who have to fight these thoughts and feelings. I think it's essential to let people know they're not alone. We have to be reminded of that, a lot. Being part of a community, having a great support system, are some important keys for mental illness survivors. I think it can change everything. We should not underestimate the power of empathy and communication. Just be there. Be there for each other. Be kind. I think art is a fantastic tool to start the discussion around mental health. The reason why I chose art as the main tool to raise awareness is because I've noticed how powerful it is, how it can help facilitating human interactions when words fail us. I strongly believe that art therapy is very powerful and tell us a lot about ourselves, and alongside speech therapy it can do wonders.
Do you have any goals for the magazine?
Absolutely, maybe too many. As an idealist I tend to have unrealistic goals but I don't mind as long as it keeps me going. The main goal that I have for the magazine would be HELPING people; it probably sounds silly or cliché but it's true. Helping is the key-word here. I truly believe that nobody should be battling a mental illness alone, nobody deserves that... it's awful. Struggling with a mental disorder can be very isolating and it doesn't have to be that way. My other goals would be to ultimately have the magazine printed a few times a year and maybe even organizing small exhibitions. I'd also like to organize some fundraising in order to contribute to scientific research and donate to associations. It's a life-long project.
What do you include in the magazine?
Mostly I include pieces of art alongside the articles, poems or short stories that I receive. It's still very small, our journey only started in December 2017 but people are very responsive to it and I'm so grateful they are. We need people, we need them to share their stories, their struggles, their pain and also their recovery. Everything is worth sharing, really. The main themes are melancholy, recovery, hope and I'd like to see all of these being expressed through words and art.
Who can submit to peculiars magazine? Anyone can submit. Sure, I'm always looking for artists to illustrate our content but above all we need writers, poets, people who want to express themselves, people who want to speak up. You're important so if you feel like sharing a piece of yourself then email me at email@example.com. It's all we're looking for: your authenticity, your uniqueness and what you want to communicate. Everyone has a story worth being told.
What do you think about the negative stigma circulating around mental illness?
I think it's not only potentially damaging but also very dangerous and devastating. It's already hard enough to deal with your own insecurities, doubts, self hate; we do not need somebody else's reproachful thoughts. It's already hard enough as it is. Uneducated people still formulate judgmental observations and it has to be stopped. How? By raising awareness and speak up. Now, silence is a luxury that we don't have, because it's potentially harmful to stay quiet about issues like those, being blamed for our struggles is far from ok. How many of us have experienced relatives or friends telling them what to do or how they should act and feel? "Go outside, it's beautiful today, do something!", "Go to the gym, you'll feel better after!', "You have nothing to be depressed about, what's wrong with you?", "Are you sure about taking meds? You don't look sick"... It seems like we're never sick enough. Mental health is a delicate subject but it's as important as physical health: sure, you can't SEE mental illness. It's invisible, that's what makes it so hard to explain, to legitimate in the eyes of others. Nonetheless, it doesn't make it less real. I think our best shot at erasing the stigma is to educate. To be proud of being a survivor. To reach out for help, to stop being silent. And it's damn hard! It takes a lot of courage but I believe that we can do it. Together. I'm optimistic it's going to get better. It has to get better somehow.
What is your advice to young people struggling with mental health?
Reach out if you haven't already. It's very important to get professional help and to have a good support system (friends, relatives, for example). I know it can be hard, it's exhausting and it's stressful and sometimes you don't get the help you need. But you're brave, you're still here, see? Do not give up, try again and if you feel like you can't well I promise you that you still CAN, I believe in you even if I do not know you because I feel and share your pain. Tomorrow is a new blank page to write on and it's never too late to become who you want to be. If you don't have access to a professional caregiver, there are many support groups online, hotlines (just like Teen Talk),... find yours and don't be ashamed to call or message them! It's ok not to be ok, I know it sounds silly but - again - it's true. Please, remember: there is NO SHAME in feeling depressed or scared or angry or empty or anything else for that matter, you deserve to be heard, you deserve love and acceptance, you deserve to be taking care of. As an artist, I would also advice you to create. Even something very little as long as it's honest. Try to make at least one thing each day. You'll see how amazing it is: to make one thing that is all yours, to reach a goal. Last little reminder: you are always someone's "something", even if you don't know it, as long as you keep yourself alive there is hope and there is someone out there ready to help, to care about your feelings and to relate to them. Never give up. I'm here, we're here. It has to get better. Somehow it will.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CLAIRE L. SMITH is an Australian author, poet, artist and activist. A childhood of depression, anxiety and domestic abuse inspired her to join Teen Talk Hotline in February 2018. You can find her on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM.