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Webchat: teen books and mental health – as it happened

Feb 2nd, 2015 by

Catch up with our chat with YA authors Jennifer Niven, James Dawson, Nicola Morgan, Gayle Forman and others, plus charity experts Rethink Mental Illness and Young Minds UK on mental health in teen fiction. After this, we’re hoping it’s only a matter of time before mental health is treated with the same dignity, respect and lack of stigma as other serious illnesses

8.08pm GMT

There were just far too many wonderful, profound and heartwarming conversations going on there to keep up. We really have only one thing to say: if this chat is representative of people’s attitudes, then it’s only a matter of time before mental health is treated with the same dignity, respect and lack of stigma as other serious illnesses. That day cannot come soon enough.

The debate is still rolling and will be for some time we suspect, so head over to #gdnbluemonday if you want to keep reading. Or if you’ve still got some steam yet, head over to #UKYAchat for more teen fiction tweeting.

8.01pm GMT

With a wiping of the metaphorical brow, the hour is up!

7.59pm GMT

Charity Rethink Mental Illness have this excellent advice if this debate has got you thinking or you feel the need to take anything further:

There’s lots of info and advice on all kinds of mental health issues on our website

7.57pm GMT

Jennifer Niven tries to divine the line between being part of the problem and part of the solution:

@Jenny_books_art @gayleforman I wrote the story I needed to write. And it was tough and sad and hopeful. I hoped readers… #Gdnbluemonday

@Jenny_books_art @gayleforman would find hope in it too but what was most important was that it inspired discussion and let #Gdnbluemonday

@Jenny_books_art @gayleforman them know they’re not alone. #Gdnbluemonday

7.53pm GMT

Given the enormous response this evening, that seems to be exactly what’s happening. Anyone looking for a kind, loving and supportive community this evening, #gdnbluemonday is for you. There aren’t even proper questions and answers anymore, that’s how kind, loving, supportive and IN AGREEMENT everyone on here is tonight!

7.52pm GMT

And hopefully this is what that talk will do:

You wan’t to portray the truth, and show the challenges, but also show young people that there is hope, support, community. #gdnbluemonday

7.50pm GMT

This is exactly what we want to do.

Loving these #Gdnbluemonday posts. Let’s talk about mental health. Let’s talk and talk and talk until stigma suffocates and is no more.

7.49pm GMT

There are just 10 minutes left to join this fascinating chat – ask your questions using #gdnbluemonday or email

7.47pm GMT

Matt Haig is definitely in lone wolf mode today:

Totally off message, but idea a writer SHOULD include more mentally ill characters is wrong. Let stories happen naturally.

7.46pm GMT

And now some practical advice from an actual expert:

.@GdnChildrensBks @youngmindsuk Dr Olivia says ‘most important thing is to talk about it and GIVE PERMISSION to be honest.’ #Gdnbluemonday

7.45pm GMT

What about some practical advice?

@GdnChildrensBks @Rethink @youngmindsuk I would encourage that friend to reach out when needed, to not be afraid to speak up #Gdnbluemonday

7.44pm GMT

The omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent SF Said seconds that:

@LokisFool I think Jacqueline Wilson is a great example of someone who deals with mental health issues in an accessible way! #Gdnbluemonday

7.43pm GMT

This is a great shout, especially for younger readers:

Jacqueline Wilson deals well with emotions, ups and downs

7.39pm GMT

Joking aside, we know tea and cake is not the answer. In fact, maybe it’s part of the problem…?

@_jamesdawson YES. I kept feeling like a failure because I COULDN’T. They’d be like TRY HARDER and I’m like BUT HOW. #Gdnbluemonday

7.37pm GMT

We promised you a couch moment. We have one. Annabel Pitcher:

I suffered anxiety, bouts of agoraphobia, depressive episodes and OCD as a teenager – but I didn’t KNOW that I did…

7.35pm GMT

This is a really difficult one. Are we talking to the right people tonight, then?

@LibWithAttitude @nicolamorgan I second that. A parent wrote me to say she loved my book but doesn’t want her teen reading #Gdnbluemonday

7.33pm GMT

And if ever you needed proof that this webchat is being run by the Brits…

@eleanorreads tea with a friend can be just what’s needed! #Gdnbluemonday

7.32pm GMT

This one is certainly a lone voice though. I mean, who on earth hates rice pudding?!

@CreativeBCuk @GirlGoneDreamer @flvral I hate The Perks of Being a Wallflower more than I hate rice pudding. #Gdnbluemonday

7.30pm GMT

Really pleased poetry is coming into its own here, the eternal voice of the human condition. SF Said votes for Sylvia Plath.

Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted

7.26pm GMT

But at the same time, we need to have these discussions and we need to get people to understand THIS, from Jennifer Niven:

I think people are afraid of mental illness. They view it as something to be ashamed of when it’s NOT.

7.25pm GMT

James Dawson responds to the issue we raised at 19.16pm:

I think we (as authors) must be very careful that we don’t ‘pretty’ mental illness. It isn’t pretty. At all.

7.24pm GMT

We’re saving the world, one tweet at a time.

.@GdnChildrensBks We’re tackling everything from braces and friendship issues to self-harm and psychosis. #Gdnbluemonday

7.23pm GMT

A long-overdue nod to the soothing powers of poetry from Matt Haig.

@Ruby6918 #Gdnbluemonday I’d say the poems of Emily Dickinson, because they soothed me and are very simple and strong.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.

7.19pm GMT

SF Said – aka The Interloper – makes up for his unannounced visit with this:

Books show us that we are not alone. With that tweet, @gayleforman gets right to the heart of why books will always matter. #Gdnbluemonday

7.17pm GMT

James Dawson offers a sneak peak at his new book. You heard it here first, folks:

Mind Your Head will explore mental health as a continuum. I think we all exist on a sliding scale of wellness.

7.16pm GMT

Two more very thought-provoking questions:

Do you think some books romanticise mental health? ‘The Virgin Suicides’ springs to mind. #Gdnbluemonday

@gayleforman Do books give enough of an escapism for young people battling with a mental illness? #Gdnbluemonday

7.15pm GMT

Matt Haig chimes in with a vital observation – we’re not pigeonholing books here:

basically ANY book they can lose themselves in, doesn’t have to be about anxiety, just something that loses them.

7.13pm GMT

What’s the response been from readers to All the Bright Places?

@Jenny_books_art Thank you! The response has been powerful and lovely. So much sharing of similar stories and readers who… #Gdnbluemonday

@Jenny_books_art … are grateful to find a book that deals honestly with these issues & makes them realize they’re not alone #Gdnbluemonday

7.12pm GMT

With so many contributors, the debate is fast and furious! Get in on the act using #gdnbluemonday.

James Dawson says,

I want to move away from the idea that only *some* people experience mental issues. We all do.

If we’re afraid how can we expect others to ask for help?

7.09pm GMT

. @GdnChildrensBks @kuderickwrites @jenniferniven Pleased to be here. We’re all typing with British accents, right? #gdnbluemonday

Er, absolutely! If it’s right, it’s right…

7.06pm GMT

This is a really important point. Hence the bold font. After all (as much as we hate to do ourselves down) there’s only so much literature can do.

#Gdnbluemonday and if there was a politician here I’d want to ask why only 6% of mental health budget on young people’s mental health?

7.05pm GMT

James Dawson replies:

All young people must speak up and show their support for LGBTQ people – you never know who’s listening!

7.04pm GMT

And one for Gayle Forman, complete with a philosophical answer:

. @BookAddictdGirl I don’t ever try to lace my books with issues. But when you write about life, you write about life. #gdnbluemonday

7.03pm GMT

Joshua is really out of the blocks fast! (I can’t help but feel we’re mixing metaphors here… And the evening has hardly begun *sigh*)

It’s one for James Dawson: What do you think we could be doing as teenagers to support LGBTQ youth, not just in fiction?

7.00pm GMT

Here’s your first starter for 10:

@thurrockjoshua It was hard but I needed to write it. I knew a boy like Finch & felt his story (and mine knowing him) was important to share

6.55pm GMT

Get set…

Join me soon! (2pm ET) Live webchat: teen books and mental health #allthebrightplaces #gdnbluemonday

6.53pm GMT

Are you ready…

Getting ready for live Twiterchat for Guardian on teenage mental health 7pm @GdnChildrensBks Use #Gdnbluemonday to join in!

6.50pm GMT

You can pick the brains of our panel at anytime over the next hour, using #gdnbluemonday. If you want to address a particular author then make sure to ask them directly, or if you don’t tweet then you can still join in by emailing

6.45pm GMT

We’re just 15 minutes away now: the ticks are tocking and the tweeters are a-knocking!

If you want to follow the debate live on Twitter (and join in!), search #gdnbluemonday. Or hang around, we’re here all evening, and by gosh, there’s jolly japes to be had for all who do!

6.39pm GMT

That’s the spirit!

#GdnBlueMonday and #ukyachat tonight! The plan to do some coursework might have just disappeared…

6.35pm GMT

Never fear, there’s still plenty of time to add your questions.

Head to Twitter and start using #Gdnbluemonday. If you want to address a particular participant then make sure to ask them directly – check out the list below – then they know who should answer what! If you don’t tweet then you can still join in by emailing Remember to keep your questions short as they still need to be tweeted by us, so aim for around 140 characters and head up your email “Mental health live Q&A”.

6.31pm GMT

Half an hour to go and questions are starting to come in thick and fast – our panel had better have their tweeting thumbs in tip top condition!

Member some-infinities-katie asks @jenniferniven, what made you decide to give Violet depression and Finch bipolar disorder? #gdnbluemonday

@GdnChildrensBks AtBP was inspired by a real Finch and a real experience. He. is bipolar in the book because he was in life #Gdnbluemonday

6.14pm GMT

Shock! Horror! Swoon! A last minute entry!

Not only do we have the reigning Queen of Teen, James Dawson, in attendance, he’s also

brought along Dr Olivia Hewitt to help with the science bits! So here’s the full cast again, at your beck and call from 7pm, good ladies and sirs:

5.59pm GMT

Well this very nearly got us in a flap alright. But, you know, we’re using Blue Monday ironically, so…

5.44pm GMT

What fantastic timing! Today James Dawson announces he is writing a new book, Mind Your Head, which aims to debunk myths and banish the stigma around teen mental health. It’s non-fiction, full of tips and ideas for managing your “emotional wellbeing”, as well as helping direct you to the right sources of support. It’s being written jointly with a clinical psychologist, Dr Olivia Hewitt, and is due for release in 2016 – but what great timing on that announcement! It’s almost like there’s a reason everything is happening today… Oh yeah. #gdnbluemonday

5.32pm GMT

Before we get down to the real nitty gritty this evening – pencils ready, notebooks out – have you done your homework? No, we mean your real homework. Here’s what our panel of experts are setting you:

5.02pm GMT

So why are we all gathered here on this clear and chilly winter’s night? Well it was all sparked off by this: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, our new year Teen book club read and a heartbreakingly poignant story about two teenagers struggling with depression and bipolar disorder.

If you’re looking for something to wile away the hours until our chat gets underway, you could make a start and read the first chapter here. Or Jennifer wrote this fantastic list of the top 10 teen books to save your life, to which YA authors and Children’s Books site members have responded today with their own recommendations. There’s still time to add to the list: email or catch us on Twitter, @GdnChildrensBks.

4.13pm GMT

Hello and welcome to our live author Q&A, to celebrate (or should that be commiserate?) “Blue Monday”, officially (if you believe in pseudoscience) the most depressing day of the year. We’ve got an A-list cast of authors, experts and teenagers ready to get to grips with your questions about mental health, depression and teen fiction: how it’s represented, what authors feel about writing about it, whether things have really changed, and how books can help.

It’s a star-studded line-up we’ve got ready and waiting for you tonight:

Continue reading…

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