The ASSU Emotional Wellbeing Team’s forthcoming literary-arts publication, “Release.Restart.Review,” is a collection of stories about the common experience of having emotions, facing them and trying to live with them. The journal is the first of its kind, and the ASSU plans to begin distribution to students as soon as possible.
The journal is the first part of the Emotional Wellbeing Team’s three-part Release.Restart programming for the year, a new initiative that aims to focus attention on mental health and well-being outside of diagnosis.
How it started
The idea for the new journal was born at the beginning of the year when the newly formed Emotional Wellbeing team met to plan its programming for the year. Someone on the team brought up the idea of art and personal expression, and Caitie Karasik ’15, a member of the team who had been involved in a literary arts magazine in high school, suggested compiling student work dealing with mental health.
During fall quarter the team sent out a call for writing and visual art submissions, and according to Karasik, they received so many submissions that they couldn’t accept everything. Karasik thought the final collection would be under 50 pages, but the journal ended up 130 pages long.
Karasik took on leadership of the project, including editing the submissions, laying out the journal and sending it to a publisher at the beginning of winter quarter.
The original plan was to print only 15 copies of the journal and put them in the community centers around campus, but ASSU president Elizabeth Woodson ’15 and vice president Logan Richard ’15 liked the journal so much that they wanted to purchase more copies.
The journals will be placed in every freshman dorm and possibly all dorms on campus. The team is working on creating an eBook version as well and will send out an all-campus e-mail with instructions for how to access it. People will also have the option of ordering physical copies for personal use.
The second part of Release.Restart will consist of workshops with student artists and writers talking about how they address emotional themes in their art, including using the artistic process as catharsis. The third part will be a live event sometime during spring quarter that includes artwork on display and students reading their work. Some of the artists and writers featured in the journal will be involved in these events.
A new perspective on mental health
Although many of the stories deal with the general concept of “mental health,” Karasik explained that the stories are not just anecdotes about mental illnesses or catastrophes.
“What I was really impressed by was the number of people that had something to say about this issue,” Karasik said. “I think that speaks to the fact that mental health is personal and individualistic, but almost everyone has some sort of experience with it — has something that they go through. It’s almost universal, especially on a campus like this, where people are really stressed out and at a sensitive point in their lives.”
The anthology includes a little bit of everything – a 15-page story about depression, rap and fear of death; an anonymously authored four-line poem called “The Mind”; and a difficult-to-describe portrait titled “Gentle Reminder.”
Release.Restart is filling an important niche, Karasik said, because before the Emotional Wellbeing team asked students to share their work, there hadn’t been any forum on campus for connecting art and well-being.
“So many people go through a trial with mental health and we were just providing them the opportunity to share it,” Karasik said. “And as soon as we did that, people from all places came forward…I think people will sense that. People will read [the journal], they’ll look through it, and they’ll realize just how many of their peers relate to this issue. It’s not a specialized issue for a certain group of people — it’s something that everyone can relate to.”
The ASSU is reorganized each year based on the executive team and whom they hire as a cabinet, and the Emotional Wellbeing Team is new this year. With that in mind, Karasik and the rest of the team are working on making an impact on campus that will outlast the current senate organization. Ideally, Karasik said, she’d like to see “Release.Restart.Review” become an annual publication.
“One of our goals at the beginning of the year was to create programming that would have longevity, so that it wasn’t such a circuitous process of being replaced and getting nowhere really,” Karasik said. “That’s why the journal’s so important to me — because that’s something that could be carried on to the next year and could [become] a fixture on campus.”
Contact Emma Johanningsmeier at ejmeier ‘at’ stanford.edu.