Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Discuss all the girls comics that have appeared over the years. Excellent titles like Bunty, Misty, Spellbound, Tammy and June, amongst many others, can all be remembered here.

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Tammyfan
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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 20 Jul 2015, 04:16

There have been stories where the protagonist is not exactly mentally ill but is in serious need of a counsellor/psychiatrist. One is "Stefa's Heart of Stone" in Jinty, where grief-stricken Stefa freezes her heart to avoid being hurt again. Another is "The Black-and-White World of Shirley Grey" in Tammy, where Shirley Grey takes a vow never to lie again because she irrationally blames herself for a friend's accident by lying for her. When this starts causing problems at home and then at school because Shirley is taking her vow too far, her dad starts raving that she needs to see a psychiatrist as she is clearly not right in the head. But they never do get a psychiatrist (or can't get an appointment?) so it escalates to the point where Shirley runs away. The only doctors Shirley gets in the story are the ones who treat her for the skull fracture she gets from an accident.

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philcom55
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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by philcom55 » 21 Jul 2015, 12:43

This is a very interesting question, and the more I think about it the more I'm inclined to agree that there WAS no obvious engagement with serious mental health issues during the Golden Age of British girls' comics (though there were quite a few characters who could legitimately have had whole complexes named after them!). This is all the more surprising when one considers that, given the success of Rae Earl's 'My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary', such stories would almost certainly be popular today if titles like Tammy and Jinty were still being published. The only explanation I can think of is that mental illness was far more stigmatized by society 25 years ago - added to the fact that the legacy of Sigmund Freud meant that many people still associated psychiatry with sex!

When you consider the potential that mental health would provide for bold new storylines in today's more enlightened climate it makes me wish all the more that somebody would commission Pat Mills to launch a new girls' comic specifically designed for the 21st century!

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by colcool007 » 21 Jul 2015, 12:59

philcom55 wrote:This is a very interesting question, and the more I think about it the more I'm inclined to agree that there WAS no obvious engagement with serious mental health issues during the Golden Age of British girls' comics (though there were quite a few characters who could legitimately have had whole complexes named after them!). This is all the more surprising when one considers that, given the success of Rae Earl's 'My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary', such stories would almost certainly be popular today if titles like Tammy and Jinty were still being published. The only explanation I can think of is that mental illness was far more stigmatized by society 25 years ago - added to the fact that the legacy of Sigmund Freud meant that many people still associated psychiatry with sex!

When you consider the potential that mental health would provide for bold new storylines in today's more enlightened climate it makes me wish all the more that somebody would commission Pat Mills to launch a new girls' comic specifically designed for the 21st century!
Pat is trying to get Misty or something like it launched. I would certainly take a look at such a comic if it made it to the newsstand.
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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 22 Jul 2015, 21:17

philcom55 wrote:This is a very interesting question, and the more I think about it the more I'm inclined to agree that there WAS no obvious engagement with serious mental health issues during the Golden Age of British girls' comics (though there were quite a few characters who could legitimately have had whole complexes named after them!). This is all the more surprising when one considers that, given the success of Rae Earl's 'My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary', such stories would almost certainly be popular today if titles like Tammy and Jinty were still being published. The only explanation I can think of is that mental illness was far more stigmatized by society 25 years ago - added to the fact that the legacy of Sigmund Freud meant that many people still associated psychiatry with sex!

When you consider the potential that mental health would provide for bold new storylines in today's more enlightened climate it makes me wish all the more that somebody would commission Pat Mills to launch a new girls' comic specifically designed for the 21st century!
Comixminx said on the Jinty blog that Waves of Fear was ahead of its time for using the theme of mental illness. This must be why. The story came out in 1979, about the time when mental illness was more stigmatised.
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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 23 Jul 2015, 00:11

Nervous breakdowns were not uncommon in girls comics. Bella Barlow had a few in the course of her career. Tammy's "Saving Grace" had a mother who went into catatonic withdrawal after a breakdown.

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by peace355 » 25 Jul 2015, 19:27

M&J dealt with some mental health issues that affected families like in "Heartache for Hannah" where Hannah's mother has postnatal depression after having Hannah's baby brother, so Hannah tries to look after her brother and cover for her mom so her parents don't split up. Of course they don't actually call it postnatal depression, she does get help from a nurse in the end.

There was also the story "We Matter Too" where children are feeling neglected when their mom can't cope with the death of their brother.

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by suebutcher » 26 Jul 2015, 04:02

Apart from the Annuals, I don't have any decent runs of girls' comics, but mental illness was touched on in "Rob Riley" after it moved to Look & Learn. In 1968 there was a strip about a student, Jessica, who lies about her family background to cover for her depressed father, unable to work as an artist since her mother died.
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(Look & Learn 12.10.68.)

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 26 Jul 2015, 04:23

Mental illness (breakdown anyway) starts the trouble in Misty's "Winner Loses All!" A girl sells her soul to the Devil to save her father, who has become a broken-down drunkard following his wife's death. He is on the brink of being sacked because of his alcoholism, and his daughter is so desperate to prevent it that she makes the pact with the Devil.

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Phoenix » 26 Jul 2015, 07:50

So who is David, Sue, and how does he fit into the story?

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 26 Jul 2015, 11:16

colcool007 wrote:
philcom55 wrote:This is a very interesting question, and the more I think about it the more I'm inclined to agree that there WAS no obvious engagement with serious mental health issues during the Golden Age of British girls' comics (though there were quite a few characters who could legitimately have had whole complexes named after them!). This is all the more surprising when one considers that, given the success of Rae Earl's 'My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary', such stories would almost certainly be popular today if titles like Tammy and Jinty were still being published. The only explanation I can think of is that mental illness was far more stigmatized by society 25 years ago - added to the fact that the legacy of Sigmund Freud meant that many people still associated psychiatry with sex!

When you consider the potential that mental health would provide for bold new storylines in today's more enlightened climate it makes me wish all the more that somebody would commission Pat Mills to launch a new girls' comic specifically designed for the 21st century!
Pat is trying to get Misty or something like it launched. I would certainly take a look at such a comic if it made it to the newsstand.
It would be nice to see a new comic. There is nothing bridging the gap between the under-eights and the teens as there used to be with titles like Bunty, Mandy and Jinty, except for The Phoenix. I think the trouble is Pat finding someone to back the idea.

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by suebutcher » 27 Jul 2015, 11:02

David is Jessica's brother. He's confined to a wheelchair, and he used to be a whizz at the piano before his mum died, but has given up. Anyway, Jessica falls ill and can't perform at the school concert, so David is persuaded to sub for her, is a big success, and all turns out well. It's a real soap, this one!

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 28 Jul 2015, 09:18

There have been plenty of stories in girls' comics about grief doing strange things to people emotionally and mentally. In Jinty's "Jackie's Two Lives" https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2014/1 ... s-1974-75/, the combination of grief and obsession makes Mrs Mandell mentally disturbed and she ends up in a nursing home. Others, such as Mrs Marshall in "The Four Footed Friends" https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2014/0 ... ends-1979/ develop irrational, unhealthy attitudes that causes trouble for everyone until the end, when they realise how they've behaved. Stories where grieving girls freeze up and refuse to express emotion because they don't want to be hurt again also abound, such as Jinty's "Stefa's Heart of Stone" https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2014/0 ... tone-1976/ and Mandy's "Little Miss Icicle" http://ukgirlscomics.com/2015/03/14/little-miss-icicle/.

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by comixminx » 03 Aug 2015, 17:43

I think mental health issues of one sort or another - more realistic or less so - have clearly been a strong driver / plot point throughout many years. They give a good story-reason for all sorts of excesses - cruelty, neglect, obsessive behaviour. What I mean by them being taken seriously, I think, is not whether they are present in the story to drive it along, or depicted with realistic symptoms, but whether the mental health aspect itself is taken seriously as something that needs professional care to be healed (as well as a certain acceptance on the part of the ill person). Something like amnesia caused by a bang on the head is far too lightly invoked - and then healed again with another bang on the head! Very unrealistic of course.

So much of it must come down to the cultural stigma of mental illness, which in our time is being addressed much more forthrightly than ever before. Only in trying to address that stigma are you going to take the mental illness in the story seriously, I think, rather than just skating over either how it happened or how it might be healed (if at all, indeed).
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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 03 Aug 2015, 23:53

comixminx wrote:I think mental health issues of one sort or another - more realistic or less so - have clearly been a strong driver / plot point throughout many years. They give a good story-reason for all sorts of excesses - cruelty, neglect, obsessive behaviour. What I mean by them being taken seriously, I think, is not whether they are present in the story to drive it along, or depicted with realistic symptoms, but whether the mental health aspect itself is taken seriously as something that needs professional care to be healed (as well as a certain acceptance on the part of the ill person). Something like amnesia caused by a bang on the head is far too lightly invoked - and then healed again with another bang on the head! Very unrealistic of course.

So much of it must come down to the cultural stigma of mental illness, which in our time is being addressed much more forthrightly than ever before. Only in trying to address that stigma are you going to take the mental illness in the story seriously, I think, rather than just skating over either how it happened or how it might be healed (if at all, indeed).
Clare's illness in "Waves of Fear" sounds like it was handled professionally once they realised it was a mental illness and not cowardice. I bet the guilt they all felt (sans Jean) over treating Clare so badly because they thought she was a coward had them putting an extra-serious effort into that. It also helped that Clare was given a second chance to save Rachel when she had another accident in the cave, and this time succeeded, claustrophobia and all. Her classmates welcomed her back as a heroine. Only spiteful Jean was put out (I still can't understand why she was still in class and not expelled for that cruel trick she pulled to get Clare expelled).

In "Cursed to be a Coward", when Marnie and her mother learned the reason why the fortune-teller had been persecuting her, the mother said they should feel sorry for her because grief turned her mind. It is not revealed what happened to the fortune teller, but I think we can assume she was put in some professional psychiatric care.

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Re: Mental health issues in stories (taken seriously)

Post by Tammyfan » 08 Dec 2015, 11:11

There have been plenty of stories where girls become emotionally disturbed after suffering a loss. The most common is their freezing up and refusing to give their hearts to anyone. Examples include "Little Miss Icicle" from Mandy and "Stefa's Heart of Stone" from Jinty.

Other variants have them trying to emulate the deceased person, such as "I'll Make up for Mary" from Jinty.

And of course there have been loads of stories about girls becoming psychotic in a quest for vengeance. Sometimes they even going as far as attempted murder. However far they go, it's always because they wrongly blame someone for a death or other misfortune. Examples include "Go on, Hate Me!" from Jinty and "The Change in Clare" from Bunty.

But I've yet to see such stories where the girl is turned over for counselling or psychiatric help. It's usually resolved with their eventually seeing the error of their ways.

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