Zing Stories

The Nine Lives Project

Open Minds is a not-for-profit organisation providing services to enhance the integration of people with psychiatric, intellectual and neurological disabilities. Based in Woolloongabba in Brisbane, Open Minds began operations in 1912 as the Queensland Wattle League, originally founded to assist talented Australian artists to study overseas. After the First World War, its focus changed to helping injured soldiers, and as the twentieth century progressed, it evolved into Open Minds.

In common with all members of the general public, Open Minds believes that individuals with disabilities have rights to self-determination and self-realisation. Every person is entitled to receive support and encouragement to maintain themselves through their own efforts. Through partnership with the Brook Red Centre, Open Minds supported the 'Nine Lives Writing Project' to give people with mental illness (or psychiatric disability) a voice. We believe the finished product, Nine Lives, is an inspiring demonstration of the valuable skills, abilities and insights possessed by people with mental illness. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to each of the contributors for having the courage to share these very personal stories. By doing so, you have recreated the link between Open Minds and the Wattle League's original interest in the arts. May all contributors continue to develop as writers and artists!

Open Minds hopes the wider community will be able to value, recognise and respect the roads to recovery people with mental illness take. We encourage readers to think about mental health and wellness and invite you to be a part of breaking down social stigmas which harm not only the individuals experiencing disability but also those close to them. Stigmas can only diminish us all.


A note from the editor

Got the blues? Or are you mad about someone?  Are you so crazily in love, you're nearly out of your mind? Perhaps you have felt mad with grief, or mad as hell, or been so stressed you've shouted, let me out of this madhouse! These are just a few of the phrases we use when feeling emotional extremes. Which suggests that to be in an unusual mental state is, at least sometimes, a natural aspect of existence.

 What is the experience of those who don't flit in and out of these intense states of mind easily? What happens when people get stuck?

 Nine Lives is about some of these people telling it like it is. The project was hosted by the Brook Red Centre and Open Minds, both Brisbane service providers to those experiencing mental illness. Not that mental illness is a term everyone likes to use - there is quite a debate about its connotations and even its scientific accuracy. Many prefer to use the term consumers and some, such as the Batty organisation, even adopt an approach adapted from social Liberation Movements and positively identify with their ‘outsider' experience.

 Whatever their individual viewpoints, the contributors to this anthology made it happen. Some attended my writing workshops, some participated in interviews, and some brought along writing from home. All have shared their stories to better understand their individual journeys and to ask others to join them in a greater collective understanding. Nine Lives is about ‘giving everyone a go' at expressing themselves. The writing styles differ but all share a candour and generosity of spirit.

As teacher and editor it has been my privilege to help create this anthology, a Brisbane contribution to the honourable and often brilliant genre of writing about mental illness.         

This introduction to Nine Lives: Personal Stories of Mental Illness was written for the client Open Minds Brisbane in 2004 and revised in 2007.



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Lesley Synge
Zing Stories
PO Box
West End Q 4104

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