As a Supernatural fan, one of the many things that I love about our SPNFamily is the way Jared, Jensen and Misha have rallied fans for charitable projects. The #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign impressed me in particular, because of the way Jared’s openness about his own struggle created a safe space for so many fans to talk about their own depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. I’m especially thrilled to see the #SPNFamily Crisis Support Network creating a fandom-based peer counseling training opportunity. As Bobby Singer said, “Family don’t end with blood.” In other words, your true family is the one you gather around yourself.
I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and horror books for a living. I don’t know any TV actors or movie stars, but I do know a lot of authors. And since most of us have at some point either personally struggled with depression, PTSD, anxiety, self-harm, etc. or been touched by those issues via friends and family, it made me wonder—what would happen if the authors whose books help to create sci-fi and fantasy fandom talked about the personal impact mental illness issues have had on them and their writing? I decided to start a conversation, and the result is #HoldOnToTheLight.
We’re the authors whose books are on your shelf or in your pocket. You’ve seen us in the bookstores, on convention panels, on the bestseller lists. We help to build the genre you love to read, one book at a time. And right now, more than 130 of us are talking candidly for the second year in a row about how mental illness, depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, self-harm, low self worth and other issues have affected us, our characters and the worlds we create.
Why? Because by coming forward with our own stories, we want to encourage our readers and others in fandom and let them know that they are not alone.
We want to help lift the stigma that still shadows mental illness, but lessens a bit when someone in the public eye—actors, celebrities and even authors—own our struggles. Jared has certainly proven that fans feel empowered to come forward with their own struggles when someone they admire reveals their own vulnerability.
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 most exciting outcomes—aside from the fantastic blog posts—has been getting conventions to add panels on mental wellness to programming. This year, Dragon*Con, a multi-fandom/genre convention with over 80,000 attendees added a mental wellness panel for the first time. GenCon, a 70,000 attendee gaming convention also ran two panels, and so did a growing number of other smaller conventions. I’ve been fortunate to be on many of these panels, and the standing-room-only crowds didn’t want to stop the conversation when our time was up!
Now that you know about #HoldOnToTheLight, how can you help spread the word?
Read the blog posts, and share them with your social media friends. Links to the blog posts are updated on HoldOnToTheLight.com, where you can also find a list of all the participating authors. I frequently tweet the links to the posts via @GailZMartin (I also tweet a lot about Supernatural), so please retweet and spread the word. The posts have blown me away with how candid these authors have been about their own struggles, in order to help fans cope. If you read a post that speaks to you, leave a comment and let the author know that taking the risk to be vulnerable made a difference for you.
Supernatural fans know that we keep each other human, and that we’re stronger together. So please, read the #HoldOnToTheLight posts, spread the word, #AlwaysKeepFighting and keep on being the wonderful SPNFamily who demonstrate every day that we are each enough, and no one is alone.
About the author:
Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Warhammer and Falstaff Books. Her newest releases include Scourge: A Darkhurst novel; Vendetta in her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC; and Spells, Salt, and Steel: A New Templars Novella. Other work includes the Chronicles Of The Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms series, and Iron & Blood (co-authored with Larry N. Martin)