Dr Meg John Barker

“I’ve experienced mental health struggles for most of my life but I’ve always been reluctant to label myself either as a person with depression, or as mentally healthy. As with so much in life, I feel that the binary – in this case between ‘mad’ and ‘sane’ – is actually part of the problem.”

Dr Meg John Barker is an activist, psychotherapist and senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University. The author of a number of books including 'Rewriting the Rules' (2012), an anti-self-help guide to love and relationships, and, most recently, 'Queer: A Graphic History' (2016), Meg John is internationally recognised as an expert on sex, gender, and mental health. Personally identifying as non-binary, much of Meg John’s work centres on the necessity of rethinking traditional classifications for identity. They wrote for Ladybeard on the mad/sane binary, and how we can move beyond it. 


“My cultural background is one that does not acknowledge mental health as part of health or mental illness as an actual illness. It was and still is a real challenge for me accepting my mental illness, asking for treatment and realising that it is not weakness or a lack of faith or spirituality but a strength.” 

Laura* is a skilled migrant woman who has had fluctuating experiences of mental illness. She was diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2012 when she was already very ill. Due to a mix-up with her blood-sample, for months the doctors told her that she was HIV negative. Laura is originally from West Africa, and her immigration status – which is currently pending – means that legally, she cannot work in the UK, and she has no recourse to public funds. Laura wrote for Ladybeard about the experience of being diagnosed with HIV. 

Dr Rufus May

“Madness is presented as something we should fear because it is always bad and dangerous: to be mad is to be broken. That’s the biggest myth. In fact, we can learn from madness about ourselves. Madness has a method, it tells us about hidden truths and other dimensions. As communities I believe we can benefit from creatively dialoguing with minds we don’t understand.”

Rufus May has worked as a clinical psychologist since 1998. He also received psychiatric treatment in 1986/7 for psychosis. He has a keen interest in developing holistic approaches to mental health inside and outside of mental health services. He organises ‘Evolving Minds’, a monthly public meeting where personal, social and spiritual understandings of distress and confusion can be shared. He has facilitated 'Hearing Voices' self help groups since 2001, and his work was featured in the Channel 4 film, 'The Doctor Who Hears Voices' (2008). Rufus wrote for Ladybeard about the necessity of rethinking the notion of suicide ‘prevention’, exploring alternative ways to come to terms with suicide personally, and as a society. 

* Name has been changed

Illustration by Rose Pilkington