Dolly Sen asks “What is madness?” at Portugal Prints

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I found a fabulous video online for a workshop called Portugal Prints. They are a charitable organization in London. Here’s what they say on their website at

“We support people recovering from mental illness by offering them the chance to use their creativity in a commercial art and design studio as a stepping-stone back into work, training and education. We deliver individual tailored programmes, combining the challenges and rewards of creative and commercial work and training alongside key working and personal support.”

There’s really a lot to love here. The arts are a natural place to build accommodations right into the work. There is a lot of stigma around mental illness and a lot of misinformation about people who experience mental illness, especially those not working full time and especially those in the psychiatric system. I really feel like Portugal Prints and the work they do goes a long way toward smashing that misinformation. Below is a lovely video where artists talk about their work and experiences there. (Way to smash another bit of misinformation that people with mental illness can’t speak for themselves about what’s important to them!)

For my readers who aren’t in the London area who want to see the workshop and even purchase some handmade artwork, visit their card shop online at

There are a lot of reasons I feel strongly that the brain injury community and mental illness community should be collaborating a lot. For one, many people often have a real brain injury missed and are diagnosed only as having mental illness. (Hint:  I’m one of those people!) We also have a lot of overlap; many people with brain injuries do experience real mental health crises or difficulties. (Like me!) Having a mental illness can lead some people to poverty or houselessness, which puts you at huge risk for brain injury, among other things. And of course, we share the ever illustrious title of “invisible disability” or “non-apparent disability” or other people demanding “You don’t really have a disability!”

Sometimes what we think and do and feel works for us and in our communities, and sometimes it doesn’t, whatever the reasons and no matter how you label it. I don’t want labels to divide us so that the brain injury community and the mental illness community don’t mix, for example, because we’re not “one of them” and they’re not “like us.” Yes, I have heard this. What I feel is most important is that people have ways to get the information, resources, support, and access that they need to feel and be successful and included. Sharing our diverse yet similar experiences through the arts is a fabulous, invaluable thing, something I’d like to see us do more often!

Please search this blog for posts by William L. Alton, one about David Feingold, and have a listen to Stories from the brainreels from May 2014 with David Parkin for more contributions from some artists I admire who identify as having both brain injury and mental illness.