Content warning: eating disorders
Mouth to Mouth is a new student led zine about university and eating disorders. The Student got the chance to chat to the founders of the zine, Lucy Dinozzi and Jess Cox, to hear about the process of creating Mouth to Mouth and their aims for the publication.
How did Mouth to Mouth begin, what inspired you to create the publication?
Jess: When I came to uni, I had mostly but not quite recovered from an eating disorder. I also had been making zines for a long time as a way to collate different feelings, visually and otherwise, that were swirling around at different points in my life. Sometime in January, Rosie Taylor, who is part of the Wellbeing and Mental Health Soc and also has struggled with eds, made a Facebook group called SEEDS (Students of Edinburgh Eating Disorder Support). For the first time, there was a place in my experience where conversations about this really taboo subject could happen. I was like, instantly, let’s make a zine, and SEEDS provided me with a space to ask if anyone wanted to do it too. Then I met Lucy. Literally none of this would have happened without us getting together. Rest is history, I guess. This has been so much fun and learning already and we haven’t published a thing!
Lucy: When I developed anorexia, I always wanted a place where I could post my writing and share my experience without being judged. I was already so isolated due to the nature of my disease, and writing and art was a way to escape temporarily and express myself when my health situation allowed for little expression. When Jess posted about making a zine, I instantly jumped at the opportunity. I was just beginning to become more vocal about my eating disorder, and I knew if I wanted to take the next step and actually make an impact on my community, I was going to do it with this random girl I met on the internet. It was a gut feeling, and one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Jess: LOVE YOU!!
What kind of content will be featured in Mouth to Mouth?
Jess: Our idea is to create a real publication filled with the weirdnesses, very specific dark humours, sadnesses and bleak times of coping with this mental illness. We hope to receive art, poetry, collages, short pieces of writing, anything that can be imagined relating to this topic. However, we are very firmly removing any pro-ED content. Acknowledging that difficulties with recovery exist does not mean we cannot strive towards that goal.
I have to mention, because we’ve had so many discussions about it, the overall aesthetic – positive, but maybe also slightly unnerving. I was strongly pushing for a very 90’s DIY feminist punk zine vibe, but Lucy gently steered me towards a less femme thing to make it less gendered, which was an important decision. Inclusivity! Anyone can and does suffer from eating disorders. Removing these stereotypes can open up access to help for everyone.
Lucy: Exactly. We want it to be radical, and it is, because even talking openly and unapologetically about your eating disorder is radical. Even more so is talking about how eating disorders can affect every kind of person. It will be sectioned into more and less triggering content to protect readers, but we knew we weren’t going to censor the more raw material. It’s about time people were educated on the realities of having an eating disorder, not just the symptoms. However, the zine is an overall positive endeavour. We know recovery is possible, and we want that for every person suffering from an ED. So, whilst we want this zine to be truthful, it will also contain plenty of tips and tricks on recovery and seeking help, as well as how you can support someone you know, who is ill.
You describe Mouth to Mouth as a zine about eating disorders and university, are you aiming to raise awareness of eating disorders or give advice to students who are living with, or recovering from an eating disorder?
Jess: The two aims are definitely entwined – I think raising awareness could make spaces and conversations happen much more easily, shedding shame and stigma, and therefore making university a safer space to say ‘I’m not okay’, and learning to ask for help. The only requirement for submitting is that you have had experience with EDs – apart from that we’re open, but it does make it a more personal and confessional atmosphere.
As an example, it’s wild how much starting up this zine has helped me to be open about it. When I first shared our call for submissions, I carefully blocked any family members, people from school I didn’t really like, and anyone who I thought would view me differently from seeing it. I was scared of being exposed, of having to explain myself and be humiliated. Only a couple of months later, I have actually, for the first time, talked without being embarrassed to my parents about having bulimia, and have “Manages Mouth to Mouth: a zine about eating disorders” on my FB profile. If even one more person felt like that, it’s a success.
Lucy: What’s great about this project is, the majority of the team running it suffer from or have suffered from an eating disorder. We know what it’s like to navigate university with what can be a very debilitating and isolating disease. We have experience and knowledge on how to survive and now we have the tools to share that with other people, as well as share the experience and knowledge of others.
Do you think that university life can make students more vulnerable to developing an eating disorder?
Jess: This has been discussed a lot recently, but mental health is such a problem at uni. We all tag each other in memes about how depressed and bone deep anxious and stressed we all are, and then we get calls from our friends at 3am wondering if they can come over so they don’t do something stupid.
Lucy and I have spoken quite a bit about how losing your support network in the migration from home to uni – whether that means medical support or medication, provision of regular meals, or just being able to be open with your friends when you’re struggling – can have a deep detrimental effect on anyone’s mental health, not just those with EDs. Everything personal is political, and mental health is political, certainly, but this is more focussed on our subjective experiences. (Put more money into mental health services and stop treating us like we’re paying customers cough cough)
Lucy: When you are younger, there is far more monitoring of what you eat and where you go and how you feel. It can still be not enough, but there is more. When you leave home for the first time, all of a sudden there is no one forcing you to eat healthily or to stop exercising so much. You can isolate yourself easily as a fresher, and already the university experience can be so lonely and scary and daunting. It can create a culture ripe for mental illness, with people unable to healthily cope with their issues without their old school friends or family. So many people come to edinburgh from abroad, and don’t see their family for an entire year, having to work around time zones and conflicting schedules. It can be such a challenging time, and it can be so hard to find the right help for you.
However, leaving home can also be a hugely positive thing for some people. Getting out of a toxic environment and being able to looking after yourself in a safe and healthy way can be vital for your mental health. You can make friends with people who understand you, and can support you in ways you may have never experienced back home. You can make decisions about what doctor you go to and if you take medication. It can be very empowering. I think it’s the responsibility of the university to make sure as many people as possible have access to this experience, and that those who don’t can be supported. Mouth to Mouth is just one of the ways in which this can happen.
Are there any resources available for students at the University of Edinburgh living with an eating disorder?
Jess: There are, but they are not really publicised. That’s a problem, especially for people who are maybe teetering on the edge of it, and don’t know how to get the support they need. Once you make the habit, it’s very difficult to unlearn the destructive patterns of behaviour.
That being said, we have a comprehensive list of all the resources we can find in Edinburgh and online in the back of our zine, and I’ll also put them here in case anyone is interested.
When will the first zine be published, and where can students find them?
Jess: The official publishing date is 12 May. Because that’s right in the middle of exams, however, although we’ll have physical copies available then (Shout out to the uni for giving us money so this can be a holdable thing instead of something transient on the internet), our main launch is going to be at the Mental Health and Wellbeing week next semester, in September. We are going to be running a stall with badges, posters, and copies. The zine is completely free! I repeat, we are giving students copies of this beautiful manifestation of creativity, for NO MONEY!
Lucy: However, if you do want a copy in May, they will be at the main library at George square and at Kings, and in most university buildings. If you can’t find it, let us know! We can send you a copy, free of charge! The zine will also be distributed through the Crisps Zine Shop and the Forest Cafe.
Is there anything else you’d like students to know about Mouth to Mouth?
Jess: Ok, it’s free, and it’s gonna look real good and also either teach you things about a subject you know nothing about, or provide a support network, so there’s absolutely no reason not to grab a copy for FREE ($0) at any of the major Edinburgh Uni buildings, including Teviot, Potterow, libraries at Kings and Central, and some bookshops and independent spaces! Also, because we get the free shipping associated with the university, if you know anyone who would be interested in a copy, just provide an address and we can send a copy for free!
Lucy: Despite our submissions for this edition closing on the 27 April, we still want your work! Send us an email with something you’ve written or made, and it could make it into a future edition.
Jess: This is a project for everyone, including those who think it has nothing to do with them. Mental health is radical, self care is radical, creativity is radical.
Mouth to Mouth is now available throughout campuses at the University of Edinburgh.
Please see what we’re up to on:
FB: Mouth to mouth : a zine about eating disorders
Information and support for people with eating disorders
Student helpline: 0808 801 0811 (3pm-10pm, daily)
Beat Online Peer Support (supported by NHS Lothians)
Email befriending service for people with eating disorders
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
NHS Lothian Cullen Centre
Outpatient centre based in Morningside for people with eating disorders CullenAdmin@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk
0131 537 6655
The Advice Place
Advice, support and signposting for University of Edinburgh students
0800 206 2341
Image: Lucy Dinozzi