A conversation about comics and health with Cathy Leamy and Tony Pickering

Join us for an afternoon with two comics creators who have both used the medium to explore patient experiences. Although they take very different approaches, Cathy’s and Tony’s comics illustrate the power of the medium to not only provide health information and raise awareness, but also to offer reassurance and stimulate discussion.

Cathy Leamy is a Boston-based cartoonist specializing in autobiographical and health education comics. Her work includes the Suzie and Ray wellness webcomics for Massachusetts General Hospital’s DiabetesViews blog and the humorous health education comic Diabetes is After Your Dick!, as well as and research and co-writing for the Marvel Comics collection Women of Marvel: Celebrating Seven Decades. She is a long-time member of the comics collective Boston Comics Roundtable.

Cathy’s website

Tony Pickering created Diabetes: Year One as part of his MA in Illustration at MMU’s School of Art. Diabetes: Year One is a ‘comics-anthology’ combining comics and poetry to chart his first year since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The work offers a patient perspective to explore the design of the patient-practitioner interface, aimed at developing awareness and understanding of the patient experience for new diabetics, parents and family, medical practitioners and, in a wider sense, patients.

Tony’s website


Loneliness Connects Us: Young people exploring and experiencing loneliness and connection

Youth loneliness is an issue that has come of age; indeed, loneliness might be seen as the issue of the age. With the appointment of the Minister for Loneliness it is apparent that recent media, civil society, research activity and not least the campaigning and advocacy of the Jo Cox Commission is ensuring loneliness is taken seriously. But what kind of issue is youth loneliness? And, how might we take it seriously? The Loneliness Connects Us project is youth co-research project that brings the voice of young people into the growing conversation about youth loneliness and answer these questions.

Research Aims:

  • To develop new narratives and ways of thinking and talking about loneliness, beyond medicalised discourses and towards more inclusive ways of belonging.
  • To locate youth loneliness within contemporary experiences of precarity, poverty and austerity politics in addition to settled truths about social media and isolation.
  • To bring the diverse voices and perspectives of young people into dialogue and decision making about addressing problematic and painful forms of loneliness.
  • To work with young people to explore and develop youth-led approaches to reducing painful forms of loneliness and develop more cooperative ways of being with one another.

We worked with a group of 14 youth co-researchers from 42nd Street and MMU programmes, exploring issues related to youth loneliness through arts-based and creative methods. In total we spoke to 133 young people in Manchester, Rhyll, Ballymena, Glasgow and Great Yarmouth.

For more information read our report Loneliness Connects Us: Young people exploring and experiencing youth loneliness and friendship.

Download (PDF, 6.74MB)

A significant part of the research was the belief that as loneliness is a sensitive and stigmatised experience, arts and creative methods are invaluable in working to research and communicate issues relating to youth loneliness. The research developed ‘Missing’ a playful and immersive theatre experience for young people to explore experiences of loneliness and participate in discussions to develop new understandings of youth loneliness. For more information on Missing, watch these films:

This was a youth co-research project and that aimed to explore youth loneliness from the perspective of young people, developing the research agenda and research methods according to the preferences and interests of the youth co-researchers. As part of this we spent a day ‘taking over’ Reform Radio to record ‘Conversations that Matter’ on youth loneliness. To listen to the show click on the image: 

This was a project that aimed to understand youth loneliness and create new knowledge and practices to help young people to navigate painful experiences of loneliness. We recommend:

  • Develop new ways of thinking and talking about youth loneliness, beyond medicalised discourses of epidemics and towards more expansive understandings of youth and more inclusive ways of belonging.
  • Arts-based and creative methods create spaces and relationships where young people can find connection and navigate painful forms of loneliness.
  • Restore threatened youth work provision and fund a plurality of options so that all young people have someone who knows and accepts them for who they are.
  • Re-imagine interventions beyond individual funded projects and towards commons spaces and social movements to bring into being more co-operative and convivial communities.
  • Youth led social action is necessary to develop the practical and political change, benefiting youth participants and their peers.

Download (PDF, 1.68MB)

Janet Batsleer and James Duggan