New book bids to break down barriers surrounding mental health

12 Mar 2024
A bearded man and young woman holding up books

A new collection of writing celebrating the diversity of mental health and wellbeing has been launched at the University of Winchester.

Breaking Barriers, which features 100 personal accounts of mental ill health, recovery and connection, has been edited by the University’s Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr Glenn Fosbraey and Creative Writing graduate Katie Pether who now works for the Department for Education as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor.

Their collection showcases writing from contributors aged 18 to 83 from the UK, USA, Africa, and Europe. It includes the stories of people who are transgender, non-binary, and from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and occupations.

It was launched at as special event held at the West Downs Auditorium last Thursday (7 March) attended by an audience of 70 including  Vice-Chancellor Professor Sarah Greer and representatives from Winchester Youth Counselling and Solent Mind.

The audience heard readings from graduates Jack Stacey, Lucie Warren, Donna Samways, and from lecturers Catherine Wild and Susmita Bhattacharya. 

Emaline Hamnett, a third year Psychology student and member of the Youth Board of Winchester Youth Counselling, gave a talk on the barriers young people face around mental health issues.

The Univeristy's Director of Student Support and Success, Lesley Black chaired a panel discussion with Mary Edwards, Chair of Governors at the Uni and former NHS CEO; Louis Duarte, Music Leader at SoCo music project; Lucy Sharp, Director and former Head of Wellbeing at University of Winchester and University of Portsmouth; and Lily Annis, a third year Creative Writing student.

Group of eight people around a table

Pictured from: (back row) Mary Edwards, Chair of Governors at the Uni and former NHS CEO; Katie Pether,  Lucy Sharp, Director and former Head of Wellbeing at Winchester and Portsmouth; and Glenn Fosbraey. Front row:  Lily Annis, third year Creative Writing student; Leslie Black and Louis Duarte, Music Leader at SoCo music project

Glenn Fosbraey said: "The overall reaction to both the event and the book itself was extremely positive, and it was heartening to see so many people discussing and reacting to such important issues. The discussions and presentations were informative and illuminating, and the readings from the book emotional and hard-hitting.

"We are glad to be furthering the conversation around mental ill health, and will continue to chip away at the barriers that may prevent people from seeking the help they need."

Glenn and Katie sent out a call for submissions to universities all over the world and Katie appealed for contributions at the Department for Education.

The search was rewarded with an inspiring selection of personal stories.

Glenn said: “There are moments of despondency, moments of hope, but overall you will find, within this collection, the power of the individual spirit to create, to rise above, to speak from the wilderness and to share.”

Breaking Barriers was funded by Student Support and Success at the University and £1 from every book sold will go to Winchester Youth Counselling.

Pictured top: Glenn Fosbraey and Katie Pether at the launch of Breaking Barriers.

Photographs by Dominic Parkes Photography.

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