Today I attended a Birmingham Lit Fest event in which Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan spoke about teen mental health and the stigma around it, and I just want to talk a little bit about it. I was previously unfamiliar with Nicola Morgan's work but the fiction extract she read was amazing and her non-fiction sounds brilliant also so I'll definitely be looking at reading some of her work.
So. This isn't going to particularly inform you about the event's content, it is more for myself, and I believe that could get quite rambly.
Every fibre of my being was invested in every second of this event. I walked in, equipped pretty much only with a cold that was dragging me down - honestly, this morning I felt so rubbishy that I almost cancelled, but I knew I wanted to go. This held a weird contrast for me because I hadn't actually attended a book event since my inpatient stay, or since I stopped book blogging particularly, when I used to go with my DSLR and a notebook, and sometimes a lanyard swinging with my web address on it. And this was kind of scary, but I did it anyway.
And the reason I became so invested, regardless of my omnipotent headache, was because everything was so true and so relatable. Nearly every view I have about mental health, and education, and the relativity of struggle; they were pretty much all expressed and I think even if they hadn't I would have been just as invested, if maybe ready to make this blogpost a bit of a fight.
This event was special. I only wish it had been bigger like other events I've been to, but alas, less people want to hear about mental health than they would want to see Veronica Roth, so. It wasn't preachy and it was cut-throat in the best possible way - Juno's comment about people telling us to get over it because "we're not in the war" was so, so true.
And the last time I met Juno, I was very different. I was (outwardly, anyway) healthy and believed I was straight, in a grammar school and no, no I wasn't happy but I was dealing. This time, I'm suffering with several illnesses. I know I'm asexual. I go to a comprehensive school where I get far more support. And interestingly, I hope she won't mind me saying, this was also before Juno came out, too - so I feel like we essentially met each other for the first time.. just again.
It's so important that we have these conversations, even if it's in a room of already quite aware people, because at least then we can go on and talk about it to others. And so, thank you, Juno, Nicola (and indeed the teens who organised the event!). Thank you for having that hour and a half of safe space, and letting me ramble my thoughts to you after; thank you for making me want to read again after a while of feeling down about it. Thank you.