Pick-up a zine, and the first thing you notice is the rawness in its form and realness of the messages shared. It's just one element to zines that makes them indispensable mental health resources. Read on to find out more.
What is a Zine?
Zines (pronounced z-ee-n) are independent self-published booklets that anyone can create to tell stories, raise awareness, or impart knowledge on a topic. Zines are a vibrant part of the DIY publishing culture because they often involve artistic and handmade elements. Zine genres range from sharing personal experiences (perzines), enthusiasm for music or arts (fanzines), sharing stories (e.g., comic zines), activism, knowledge (education zine), and more.
The production quality of zines are likely to differ as much as their subject-matter —from roughly photocopied, handwritten zines to polished zines with glossy covers and pages much like books.
But the impact of zines as mental health resources extends beyond their physical and content diversity. Zines themselves hold significant community and cultural significance, which I'll discuss in the following sections.
1. Zines Give A Voice to Marginalized Communities
For anyone who's had aspirations to publish a book will know too well, the expense, time, resources, and connections required to get a book to the marketplace. This publishing route is not an option for many people.
Zines allow individuals and communities who wouldn't ever have access to publish their ideas in mainstream media the vehicle to impart their knowledge and wisdom.
Creating a zine needs only an idea, paper, pen, access to a photocopier or home printer, and some time to make it. If you'd like to take it one step further to share your zine with the world, you might consider using social media to connect with your community, distributing your via a zine distro, perhaps even creating web site to share your zines and zine creating process (though this is not a necessity).
Through the world of zines, we can discover new ideas and life experiences, realities and seek additional mental health support through connection with zine authors (called zinesters) of these creative small press publications.
2. Zines Reduce Mental Health Stigma
Almost 9 out of 10 people with mental illness experience stigma and discrimination. The immediate health impacts include social isolation, feelings of shame, avoiding treatment, and low self-esteem.
Building a greater understanding and knowledge of mental health is fundamental to reduce this devastating statistic and impact on our communities. Zines help bridge this gap in our understanding by making available accessible information that includes day-to-day lived experiences for individuals living with mental health illnesses. For example, reading personal zines (called perzines) about mental health can help you feel less alone and isolated in individual difficulties. There is also a growing body of zines created by health professionals to serve as complementary tools to support health and wellbeing.
Above: Zine Library on display at the 2018 LA Zine Fest
3. Zines are Accessible
One of the first things that struck me when I started reading zines and learning about zine culture was how publically accessible they are. By accessibility, I'm referring to a zines ease of access and ease of use. These are two criteria important for mental health resources.
Zines are affordable compared to books. They typically cost around one-third to one-half of the cost of a book, for example. Arguably, there's less content in a zine than in a book. However, this shorter format is easy to use, digest the information, and apply in one's daily self-care practice.
Because zines are not part of mainstream media, they're not available in big-box bookstores. However, zines are becoming more available in libraries, smaller independent bookstores, and zine distros.
Zines cover subjects that the mainstream media often won't. For example, as I rummage through my personal zine collection, I have a zine about pie, a risograph zine devoted to pictures of a milk carton, activist zines about feminism, racism, fatphobia, and a zine I traded about the zinesters trip Downunder, which I love and read when feeling homesick. It makes me smile.
4. The Physical Form of Zines Have Symbolic Significance for Mental Health
Zines are imperfect like we are. Not in a bad way, but in an authentic way. Zines have a handmade quality to them. They don't typically go through the editorial rigor and production processes that traditional media do.
You'll likely stumble across little imperfections as you read zines, and this is what makes them unique. In their research about The Felt Value of Reading Zines, Ash Watson et al. notices that the handmade, amateur aesthetic to a zine builds intimacy — humanness and connection between the zine creator and reader. It's these qualities that make zines so relatable and influential as mental health resources.
5. Zines Contribute to World Peace (No Kidding)
If you get an opportunity, to visit a zinefest (or an online zine fest in case of 2021). Take a moment to let the culture soak in. You might find that there is a feeling of peace that is hard to describe.
There's a strong feeling of community, mutual appreciation, and important diversity among zinesters sharing their work? Zinefests create safe spaces for marginalized and vulnerable communities to share their ideas freely. It's a wonderful environment.
Imagine if the whole world were one big harmonious zine fest! We'd be a happy and united human-race.
Above: The thriving zine-loving community at the 2018 LA Zine Fest
Explore the Amazing World of Zines
Zines and DIY publishing have an exciting place in our culture as valuable mental health resources. Zines help to share ideas and perspectives of communities, reduce stigma by sharing mental health experiences and insights, and their symbolic significance as accessible independent media sends a strong message celebrating the differences inherent in all of us.
Explore more about zines as mental health resources, check out the mental health zine collection, or perhaps you're inspired to create a personal zine to share with the world. If that is the case, don't hold back!
Last updated: 9 January, 2021