This guest blog post was provided courtesy of Gail Z. Martin and the Hold On To The Light campaign.
What happens when you start a conversation with over 130 bestselling sci-fi/fantasy authors about depression, anxiety, suicide, bi-polar, PTSD, self-harm and other mental health issues?
The result is #HoldOnToTheLight, a blogging campaign back for its second year with candid, tell-it-like-it-is, no-holds-barred blog posts by authors including Elizabeth Bear, Robin Hobb, Jody Lynn Nye, Catherine Asaro, Myke Cole and more. The goal? Reducing the stigma around mental health issues and standing in solidarity with fans to make fandom a welcoming and inclusive environment.
Since September/October are the months for Depression Awareness, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Domestic Violence Awareness, that’s the time we kick the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign up a notch, but the project never ends, and the posts remain up indefinitely.
“We” are John Hartness, Jaym Gates, Jean Marie Ward, Emily Leverett, Mindy Mymudes and me, the core group behind #HoldOnToTheLight.
The #HoldOnToTheLight initiative was inspired by #AlwaysKeepFighting, an outreach program in the fandom for the TV show Supernatural that came about as the show’s stars Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins, talked candidly about their own challenges. I was impressed by the stars using their fame to do something really good. I don’t know actors, but I do know a lot of authors. We had just finished ConCarolinas 2016, where a panel on depression and mental health had a standing-room-only crowd and went overtime. And I wondered—what would happen if I encouraged writers to talk about how depression, suicide, anxiety and other mental health issues influenced them, their writing and their character? The result was #HoldOntoTheLight.
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
One of the other important outgrowths has been encouraging conventions to include panels on mental health in their programming. This year, Dragon*Con added a mental health panel and GenCon expanded their programming, along with panels at ConCarolinas, ConGregate, Atomacon and elsewhere. We hope to encourage more convention panels to talk about how mental health issues are addressed in genre fiction, how characters with challenges are depicted, and how mental wellness is handled within fandom.
How can you help?
- All of the links to blog posts on HoldOnToTheLight.com are tweet-ready for you to cut and paste and share on social media.
- Ask the conventions you attend to add or expand programming on mental health topics.
- Drop by the blog posts of the participating authors and let them know that their post meant something to you.
- Tell others about the campaign.
- If you’re an author, contact me if you’re interested in participating.
About the author:
Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Warhammer and Falstaff Books. Series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and Deadly Curiosities. The Spells Salt and Steel series and Iron & Blood are co-authored with Larry N. Martin. Her newest books include Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst, Trifles and Folly, and Spells, Salt and Steel. Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and on Goodreads.