Horror Writers Association

MHI: Why Mental Health representation in SFFH matters


Trigger Warning: This article addresses mental health.

Why Mental Health representation in SFFH matters
By Penny Jones

Recently, I had the privilege of moderating the Fantasycon 2022 panel on mental health in SFFH with my panellists David Green and Tej Turner. And although I was both hung over and nervous as hell, my panellists at least were erudite and insightful, talking at length about both their personal and professional experiences of mental health in genre fiction. As always with these panels, an hour never seems long enough and I probably only managed to get through half of the questions I wanted to ask my panellists, though we did manage to cover: Why mental health representation is important? How genre fiction’s representation of mental health differs from its representation in other forms of popular culture? The why’s and how’s of how to ensure accurate portrayals of mental health in your writing, the use of sensitivity/ authenticity readers to develop realistic and fully formed characters and narratives, and debated the use of trigger/content warnings within the various genres (amongst other topics).

As always with these panels I let the panellists know I was allowing 15 minutes for audience questions, but again this is never enough, and we only managed to get through a small fraction of the questions our audience had for us. Maybe next time we should ask for a double slot.

David Green is a NEURODIVERSE writer of the epic and the urban, the fantastical and the mysterious. With his character-driven dark fantasy series Empire Of Ruin, or urban fantasy noir HELL IN HAVEN, David takes readers on emotional, action-packed thrill rides. Hailing from the north-west of England, David now lives in County Galway on the west coast of Ireland with his wife and train-obsessed son. When not writing, David can be found wondering why he chooses to live in places where it constantly rains. https://www.davidgreenwriter.com

Tej Turner does not have any particular place he would say he is ‘from’, as his family moved between various parts of England during his childhood. He eventually settled in Wales, where he studied Creative Writing and Film at Trinity College in Carmarthen, followed by a master’s degree at The University of Wales Lampeter. Since then, Tej has mostly resided in Cardiff, where he works as a chef by day and writes by moonlight. His childhood on the move seems to have rubbed off on him because when he is not in Cardiff, it is usually because he has strapped on a backpack and flown off to another part of the world to go on an adventure. When he travels, he takes a particular interest in historic sites, jungles, wildlife, native cultures, and mountains, and so far, he has clocked two years in Asia and a year in South America. He also spent some time volunteering at the Merazonia Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Ecuador, a place he intends to return to someday. He also hopes to go on more adventures and has his sights set on Central America next. Firsthand accounts of Tej’s adventures abroad can be found on his travel blog. His debut novel The Janus Cycle was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and its sequel Dinnusos Rises was released in 2017. Both are hard to classify within typical genres but were semi-biographical in nature with elements of magical realism. They have often been described as ‘gritty and surreal urban fantasy’. He has since branched off into writing epic fantasy and has an ongoing series called the Avatars of Ruin. The first instalment – Bloodsworn – was released in 2021, and its sequel Blood Legacy is due out in 2022. He is currently engaged in writing the third instalment (‘Blood War’). https://tejturner.com

Penny Jones is a registered mental health nurse. Her debut collection “Suffer Little Children” published by Black Shuck Books was shortlisted for the 2020 British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer, and her short story “Dendrochronology” published by Hersham Horror was shortlisted for the 2020 British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. Her novella Matryoshka was also shortlisted for the 2022 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. https://www.penny-jones.com

The full text of the HWA Mental Health Initiative Charter can be found here: https://horror.org/mental-health-initiative-charter/

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