'It's a rebirth': Colour of Madness authors republish and find space to heal

Dr Samara Linton and Rianna Walcott are the editors of an innovative and vitally important book about mental health and race – The Colour of Madness.

It’s a book that addresses the deep inequalities and systemic racism that exists in mental health treatment and highlights the voices of those who have been ignored. However, a scandal that erupted in 2021 threatened to overshadow all their hard work – through no fault of their own.

At the heart of the story is a deep and painful betrayal.

Three years after their work was first published by Stirling Publishing and releasing the book in 2018, it was discovered the publisher was linked to ‘far right group’ Patriotic Alternative. 

For Rianna and Dr Samara, whose work centres issues around race, inequality and mental health, the news was completely devastating and threatened to destroy everything they had built since the book’s release.

‘I was really embarrassed,’ Rianna tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I just thought we would look so silly. I was thinking – “how are we going to explain this to people?” It’s horrible to be confronted with a bad decision you made when you were younger. There’s no way I would be in that position now, but when I was 22 I was naively very trusting in a way that I’m not now.

‘The meeting of those two selves was really quite traumatic. I also felt really, really hopeless about the situation.’

Dr Samara says ‘heartbroken’ is the only word she can use to describe how she felt when she found out about their publisher’s far right links. She says the discovery also explained some of the strange questions that had been plaguing her since the book’s release.

‘It felt that at every turn, what we were trying to do was being sabotaged. There were all these obstacles in the way,’ she says.

‘It was really, really heartbreaking. Rianna and I both have our own mental health difficulties anyway, and that news came at a time when things could have been better for us. It was really hard.’

The devastated authors initially blamed themselves and worried how they would be perceived, but the wider publishing industry and the community around them made it clear that they were the victims in this situation.

Publishing and legal professionals rallied around them immediately, offering support to help them win back the rights to their book, and to find a new home for it to be republished.

Thankfully, their experience with Pan Macmillan publishing the second edition of The Colour of Madness has been world’s apart.

Rianna adds: ‘We had been betrayed so badly, treated so badly by someone in the publishing industry. So, to then watching the publishing industry rally around us with the speed that they did, in the way that they did was so restorative. It was the only thing that made this better.’

The book itself is an innovative collection of memoir, essays, poetry, short fiction and artwork that aims to disrupt the whitewashed narrative of mental health in the UK. Now, this important piece of work will be given another chance to reach audiences, and both editors are excited about the journey ahead.

‘It feels like the rebirthing of something,’ says Dr Samara.

When the pair confirmed the second edition of the book, they asked all of their contributors if they would like to be part of the project again. Overwhelmingly, the answer was yes. Dr Samara was particularly struck by the growth she has witnessed among the writers who worked on the book the first time round, compared to where they are now.

‘For me as an editor, it is one of the most beautiful things that you can see,’ she explains. ‘The people who we have been working with and bringing together, they have been on a journey that they have found to be really powerful and really meaningful.’

Despite the obstacles faced with the first publication, the book has already had a significant impact. Rianna and Dr Samara have worked on academic collaborations, and worked with charities and community projects to advocate for real change in mental health support and services for people of colour.

‘What’s important to us is actually changing things,’ says Dr Samara. ‘Addressing the inequalities, addressing the disparities, and addressing the discrimination and oppression that was highlighted in the first edition.

‘I think when people read it, they will be able to relate to the stories and the experiences, and think, “I can see myself in these pages”, but also I hope they will be challenged, and will be moved to take it upon themselves to play their part in what is actually a bigger struggle for justice.’

However, this isn’t only an ‘issues’ book. The writing is also powerful, unique and lyrical, and has the power to move and inspire beyond those who have direct lived experience of the subject matter.

‘I’m just struck by how beautiful it is as a book,’ says Rianna.

‘The conversation that this book sparks is so important and vital, but I’m also so excited for people to read this and just go – “wow, what a beautiful poem that was”. I want people to really appreciate that the writers in this book can really, really write.’

The second edition of The Colour of Madness is available to buy now, published by Pan Macmillan.

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