As a journalist, Seraphina Reynolds has built a career around words, writing for publications such as Oyster and Yen and starting up her own (now defunct) online culture site, Side Street Sydney, in 2010.
But in late 2011, the young writer found herself struck by a dark depression and for the first time was unable to write about what was happening in her life. “Mental health or depression is one of those things where you don’t talk about it because you feel awful for having it at all…it’s just a very lonely disease,” she says.
It was the words from a memoir by British-American journalist Emma Forrest, entitled Your Voice in My Head that pulled Reynolds from the darkness and completely transformed her view on sharing what she was going through. “From the instant that I wrote about it, it just poured out of me and all of these people commented…people that I didn’t even know at all were writing to me and thanking me for talking about this,” she says.
Her words had stirred something and not only were people thanking the writer for her honesty, but they too began sharing their own personal experiences. And so the concept behind This Place Is Yours (TPIY) was born. Starting with a nine-month stint at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Reynolds began building the framework. A vigorous crowd funding campaign ensued, which raised $12,000 to kick-start the organisation and produce the launch book.
TPIY launched on May 1 in the form of a multimedia storytelling platform that embraces the art of creativity in connecting people and starting conversations that matter. “The point of the project is to de-stigmatise experiences [like anxiety and depression] and put them into a context that’s just as normal as love and joy,” says Reynolds.
And what role does creativity play in all of this? “People are going to be more willing to express their emotions on the page and through a paintbrush than they are in conversation,” offers Reynolds. “I guess creativity says what cannot be said.” In aid of this, TPIY encourages people to share their stories in a variety of formats including the written word, visual art or video.