HWA Mental Health Initiative
The Horror Writers Association is pleased to launch its Mental Health Initiative, a coordinated roll-out of events, resources, and activities intended to promote positive mental health, foster the concept of hope, and challenge the stigma of mental illness in the horror genre. The initiative, run by the organization’s Wellness Committee, debuts in June 2022 and will form part of an ongoing program.
Activities planned for 2022 include establishing a dedicated webpage for resources on the HWA website, publication of Of Horror and Hope, a downloadable anthology of poems, flash fiction, and personal reflections on mental health by HWA members, “Holistic Horrors” a monthly column in the organization’s newsletter, several panel sessions, as well as articles and blogs published in the wider genre community.
“The HWA should be commended for being bold in its approach to tackling the stigma of mental illness in the genre,” says Wellness Committee Co-chair, Dave Jeffery, who spent 35 years as a mental healthcare professional in the UK’s National Health Service. “To my mind, it is the first time such an initiative, with a specific focus on hope and recovery, has been developed for the horror community, and there are currently discussions as to how the Wellness Committee can develop further resources over the coming years.”
Jeffery’s co-chair, New Zealander Lee Murray, agrees: “Our intent is to promote positive images of mental health in horror and to create an environment of understanding and compassion. For me, as a sufferer of anxiety and depression, inclusion is extremely important—that notion of lifting something up to the light, so we realize that many of us experience the same things and that we’re not alone.”
HWA President, John Palisano, welcomed the initiative, stating, “The HWA’s Mental Health Initiative is exactly the sort of support and resource the organization should be offering members. It means a great deal to me personally to see this come to be, as it’s as important as things get. I’m beyond grateful to those putting so much effort into this and I have all faith this will be an extremely helpful initiative for many.”
The initiative’s logo, created by Australian horror artist, Greg Chapman, features Poe, arguably the father of horror, bathed in comforting yellow light, with the HWA’s raven on his shoulder. “The concept of this logo and, by extension, its committee, and services, is to be a guiding light, and for the HWA to always be there on members’ shoulders supporting them,” says Chapman of his design.
A WELCOME FROM THE WELLNESS COMMITTEE
Reports suggest that 10.7% of the global population suffers from some form of mental illness (Our World Data, 2017). Those who endure mental health issues can often feel alone and disempowered by societal misguided perspectives of what mental illness is, often leading to social exclusion and stigmatization.
The association between mental health and creativity is one that is often cited in studies and is certainly raised as an issue amongst the HWA membership through social media. An important aspect of mental health recovery is the fostering of hope. This is achieved by offering opportunities for empowerment.
With this in mind, the HWA Wellness Committee has developed a Mental Health Initiative to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness, exploring ways in which the membership can feel empowered and informed. The official launch will be on June 1st 2022 and will include the following exciting features:
- A dedicated Mental Health Initiative webpage where members can access centralized information relating to the initiative including the Mental Health Initiative Charter, a series of statements from the Wellness Committee clarifying the aims of the project and how we as an organization intend to achieve them
- The ‘Holistic Horrors’ News Column features a monthly round-up of mental-health-related activities conducted by the HWA Wellness Committee and the wider membership. This will be published in the HWA Newsletter.
- The ‘Holistic Horrors’ Blog Post where guest HWA members share their experiences and insights into writing and mental health and, in some instances, share their own personal experiences of mental health issues.
- Of Horror & Hope, a curated anthology featuring original flash fiction, poems, and personal vignettes from HWA members that will be available for free as a downloadable eBook from the dedicated webpage. Excerpts and teasers will also feature heavily on the HWA social media platforms.
- Dedicated resource links to external mental health charities and professional organizations both in the US, UK, and other territories where the HWA has membership representation. This will be accessible via the dedicated webpage.
- Panel Discussions have been scheduled at StokerCon 2022 & ChillerCon UK 2022 and will feature both in-person and virtual elements. Panel reports will be published in the monthly HWA newsletter so that members will be able to see what themes and topics were discussed
- Community Engagement is intrinsic to promoting the initiative and many high profile genre sites have agreed to support the launch by either publishing the HWA Press Release, releasing mental health articles from HWA members, or interviewing members of the Wellness Committee.
Through this initiative, the Wellness Committee hope to provide members with a sustainable platform – a ‘go-to’ place – where they can access features that will inspire, motivate, and offer a comprehensive list to resources that may offer support when needed.
As an organization, we can help support each other and give every member struggling with their mental health and inform those who want to know more on the subject, the means to do so. Together, let’s make the stigmatization of mental illness a thing of the past by empowering our members who endure it on a day-by-day basis.
Let’s keep talking about it. Let’s give people hope.
Welcome to the HWA Mental Health Initiative.
Lee Murray & Dave Jeffery (Co-chairs of the HWA Wellness Committee)