Mary Wilkins

Mary Wilkins

Doctor of Philosophy student
Master of Creative Writing
Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing


How is mental health represented in literature? That is the interesting topic Mary Wilkins is exploring for her PhD. She began researching this topic in her master’s degree but felt she had only just scratched the surface.

“My PhD research is part theoretical, part creative. In the theory part, I research how mental health has been represented in novels, memoirs, television shows and movies. I examine if there has been research showing if these ‘texts’ have directly affected those reading or watching them in a negative or positive way. Based on this research, I’ll then craft a Young Adult fiction novel that explores mental health issues, basing the way I portray these issues on my theoretical research.”

Supervised by Associate Professor Paul Mountfort from AUT’s School of Language and Culture, Mary hopes her research will create additional support for teenagers with mental health issues.

“New Zealand was identified as the country with the highest teenage suicide in the world and while there has been increasing government funding towards helplines and free counselling, I believe there’s space to create supportive resources beyond these traditional forms.

“Having literature that a teenager can connect to and that can make them feel understood while reading about someone else successfully going through mental health issues could potentially instil hope, and be supportive in more culturally engaging ways to the current assistance available.”

Choosing AUT
Deciding to study creative writing at AUT was easy for Mary who successfully completed AUT’s Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Master of Creative Writing before enrolling in doctoral study.

“I originally chose AUT for the smaller class sizes. I came from a school that was very small and I felt that it was more beneficial to have the opportunity to have one-on-one time with lecturers and to not just be a number in a class of a hundred or more people, like I could have been at another university.”

She also appreciated the calibre of lecturers within the creative writing department.

“Each lecturer has their own style of teaching and they’re all immensely knowledgeable and talented. They continue to inspire me today.”

A passion for creative writing
She would highly recommend the creative writing programmes to other students, Mary says.

“I did my bachelor's and master’s degrees at AUT and loved them. I enjoyed learning from incredible lecturers; they made each class engaging and they were always approachable and kind. I’m still awed by the support within AUT and the people who have helped me find my path.”

Her hard work throughout her studies has certainly been recognised and during her time at AUT Mary received a number of awards and scholarships, including the Award for High Achieving Māori or Pasifika Student, Women on Campus Scholarship, Dean’s Award for the Master of Creative Writing and the AUT Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship.

As a PhD student, Mary now also gets to share her passion for creative writing with other students.

“I’m currently a teaching assistant for one of the first-year creative writing classes. I hope to continue this and one day become a lecturer.”

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