This online toolkit is a collection of resources about using literature to support mental well-being at times of illness. It is particularly aimed at clinicians and medical students keen to incorporate the use of literature in clinical and reflective practice but may be of interest to a range of interested readers, academics and of course to those experiencing illness. The toolkit has been created collaboratively with clinicians, literature and humanities experts, and expert by experience groups. We are keen to collaborate further in developing this resource with other organisations.
This project explores the patient experience through the prism of literature and personal narrative to inform self-care, patient-centred care, and to support clinicians with regard to reflective and clinical practice while investigating interactions between literature and medicine. Do doctors and patients speak the same language, and how can we use narrative to bridge the evident gaps? This project explores the use of narrative in medicine and has an interdisciplinary focus.
This collaboration is led by Dr. Elizabeth Barrett and the UCD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Dr. Melissa Dickson at the University of Birmingham with the Diseases of Modern Life Project at St Anne’s College, Oxford.
Our activities comprise a series of explorations around the central theme of literature and mental health. The events are brought together by their intent to explore the best ways of drawing on the insights of historical and literary research in contemporary medical practice and the insights that medical practice lends to the reading of literary texts. We have now held two successful interdisciplinary MindReading events.
The first MindReading conference in 2017 was held at UCD and the Lexicon Library in Dublin.
MindReading: Mental Health and the Written Word Conference 2017
These sources were collected mainly from a conference about literature and mental health titled, MindReading: Mental Health and the Written Word. The titles and authors listed were either discussed in the conference, or suggested by participants after the conference. This is not an exhaustive list; we’re delighted to hear about further useful links and resources via the feedback form provided.
This conference was held in March 2017. This interdisciplinary event sought to locate and explore productive interactions between literature and mental health both historically and in the present day. Participants from various disciplines explored together the interfaces between literature and mental health, shared useful resources, and engaged in critical discussion about literature as a point of therapeutic engagement.
Speakers on the day included clinicians from a range of medical fields, medical humanities professionals and expert service users. The conference also had various small group workshops which were taught by the Diseases of Modern Life team, CBI Book Doctors, REFOCUS and the Dublin City Libraries HEAL project team. All are experts in their respective fields but are interested in viewing health from a range of perspectives. Our keynote speakers kindly agreed to be recorded and their talks are available here.
Links to the 2017 conference:
Wordpress page for the 2017 conference is available here: https://literatureandmentalhealth.wordpress.com/page/
Conference keynotes are available here: http://www.ucd.ie/medicine/mindreading/
A short video from participants is available here: https://literatureandmentalhealth.wordpress.com/page/
Mindreading Installation at the Lexicon Library 2017
From 4th March to 29th April 2017, we curated an exhibition at the Lexicon wit Colleagues from the University of Oxford and in Collaboration with Dr. Marian Keyes, Senior Librarian at the Lexicon. The Exhibition was curated by Dr. Melissa Dickson and Dr. Elizabeth Barrett
This was a wonderful opportunity to explore ideas about the advent of childhood and ideas about mental health of Children and young people in this public space, which has very significant daily footfall, and was an inclusive, engaging public project. Programme available here.
This was a wonderful experience, locating these posters in a public space. We also had collaboration with the College of Psychiatrists, who loaned some artwork from their collection for the exhibition, exploring expert users use of art in mental health.
Our title was: ‘The Diseases of Modern Life: Changing Perspectives on the Mental Health of Young People from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day’. It was located on Level 4, dlr LexIcon. The description of the exhbition was used in Lexicon programming, websites etc and is as follows: This exhibition is a joint collaboration between St Anne’s College Oxford and UCD Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (UCD-CAP). ‘The Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives’ ( an ERC funded project based at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, investigating nineteenth-century literary, and medical understandings of stress, overwork and other disorders associated in the period with the problems of modernity). This aspect of the exhibition focuses on child health and changes to the education system leading to the overwrought or exhausted school child – cramming too much into their brain at the expense of their physical health. Works by Charles Kingsley and Charles Dickens and others are highlighted. UCD Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (UCD-CAP) are an interdisciplinary group of clinicians, lecturers and researchers. They work collaboratively, through research, education, advocacy and communication, to improve the mental health and well-being of children in Ireland and internationally. This aspect of the exhibition will provide an overview of mental health disorders in children in Ireland today.
UCD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry present Mindreading: Mental Health and the written word- at UCD Festival Day 2017
Together with our colleagues at the Diseases of Modern Life Project, we developed a poster installation highlighting key ideas in children's mental health. The theme explored was ‘The Diseases of Modern Life: Changing Perspectives on the Mental Health of Young People from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day’. We displayed posters exploring the history and literature, and changing understanding of, Childhood and the Mental Health of Children from Victorian times to the present day at the UCD Summer festival 2017.
This was in parallel to a panel discussion around mental health in 2017 in Ireland with Prof Fiona McNicholas, Prof Barbara Dooley, Ass. Profs Blanaid Gavin and Elizabeth Barrett
MindReading: Mental Health and the Written Word Conference 2018
Our 2018 conference was held at the University of Birmingham on 18th and 19th June. Key questions for this event were: do clinicians and patients speak the same language? How might we bridge the evident gaps in communication? How can we use narrative to foster clinical relationships? Or to care for the carers? How does illness impact upon our sense of self?
Participants have provided lots of information and interdisciplinary resources over the past two years. This includes information about, and links to, tools they use in their personal lives when encountering illness, tools used in academic settings, and tools used in clinical and in reflective practice. This interdisciplinary “toolkit” is a live document, which we hope to continuously update.
Links to the 2018 conference:
Wordpress page for the 2018 conference is available here: https://literatureandmentalhealth.wordpress.com/2018-conference/
Wakelet page for the 2018 conference is available here: https://wakelet.com/wake/be6b73e3-373d-4e8a-b18b-7c6447a93809
We were delighted that the Action On Postpartum Psychosis (APP) group participated in Mindreading 2018. As part of the Writing yourself Health workshop they developed and delivered, Sue McKendrick composed a poem for the event:
A Healing Sonnet
The wound lies deep
but there’s no blood, no stitch,
no scab; it does not weep
or leave a lingering itch.
When trauma festers in the mind,
consuming your thoughts, twisting in knots,
what healing actions or words might we find?
There’s no cream or cloth to wipe away the blot.
This wound can’t be dressed to heal in days,
but slowly reconnects in a jigsaw compilation.
Cool your feet in sweeping waves.
Relax by a crackling fire. Seek your inspiration.
What words, whose words might refocus this daze?
The scent of lavender wafting in the Summer haze.
This toolkit has been developed as part of a SSRA project in 2017 by WanTing Yew and updated in 2018 by Dana Alalwan, supervised by Associate Professor Elizabeth Barrett and the UCD Child & Adolescent Psychiatry group.
These resources have been identified by conference attendees and speakers as useful adjuncts to teaching, reflective practice or understanding mental health issues. The information contained above is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. The above tools are not intended as a comprehensive collection of relevant materials and inclusion of items does not imply that these have validated or endorsed by the UCD School of Medicine.