On Monday, I went to the annual Mind Media Awards as a guest of my great friend Black Dog Runner who was nominated in the blogger category for his brilliant blog about living with depression and ADHD, which he set up to raise his profile in the lead-up to running the Great North Run dressed as a black dog.
My recollections of the evening are still a stew of feelings: Work/money worries, and being cross with myself and for having a brain that tends to freeze from overload in crowds (ever so handy for my career dependent on networking, that…), versus feeling tremendously honoured to be there, next to one of my favourite places in the world, with some of my most special friends from a very special time and place in my life. And remembering that I was there in the first place because at 19 I couldn’t even get out of bed or contemplate going to university, much less attend an award ceremony. By the look of other guests, most seemed to see it as pleasure more than work, and no-one I recognised from client do’s was there, so I decided to do the same and try to put the professional anxiety on hold as far as possible.
Thanks to ye Twitter I was able to enjoy the wonderfully surreal experience of pre-awards dim sum on the South Bank with two friends of eleven years, someone I hadn’t seen since university, plus tweeters and bloggers I’d never met but probably knew more about than some of the people I saw in person at school/university/work every day for years. Best celeb spot of the night was a double-take when Alastair Campbell walked straight into my eyeline, which should have surprised me less than it did, considering I’d seen him having his photo taken all of a minute before… Sadly, BDR didn’t win but all the winners and nominees were very worthy. I was especially happy that Channel 4 News won the News and Current Affairs award for their coverage of mental health stigma in Somalia, that Andy McNicholl and Michael Buchanan (of Community Care/BBC News respectively) won the Best Journalist award for their reporting on youth mental health services, and, of course, that Rae Earl won Best Drama for the magnificent My Mad Fat Diary. I reviewed the book for my blog when it first came out in 2007, then in 2011 I interviewed Rae as part of a piece for the erstwhile One In Four magazine about ethical issues in mental health memoirs, just before it was adapted for TV. It sounds trite to say I saw the big-hit potential from the start, but I really did, and it has been amazing to see it grow such a following. And, although part of me wishes Rae had been writing when I was a teenager and doing my first journalism (see below), a bigger part is glad I interviewed her as a grownup and from a much better place.
Above all, I’m so incredibly proud of BDR and all the other nominees from outside journalism who, while managing their conditions and holding down day jobs (or, in the case of super-talented 15-year-old Ellen White, who won the Blogger category with her OCD blog, being at school) have a media platform the most senior journalist would envy. And I trust that Ellen (unlike myself, when I was a teenage journalist and web designer who thought I could escape my internal rubbishness by bigging up older women I thought were better than me. Spoiler: No, I couldn’t….) will have decent emotional support available to deal with the bizarre and unique situation of juggling media work and an online platform with school, friends and homework. At dinner I told her I’d started blogging at 17 in 2001 when a blog was called a “weblog”, which is a good way to feel ancient….
Inevitably at an event where there are awards named after people who’ve taken their own lives, I had many thoughts of my late friend. For some time I have been thinking of ways to honour his memory and now, three years on, I’m starting to feel it might be time to come up with something concrete. The success of Black Dog Runner and my attachment to blogging (which is how he and I first met, 11 years ago) has made me think that whatever I do ought to involve a blog – maybe one pulling together some of the many thoughts and resources I’ve come across around suicide bereavement and suicide prevention. Thinking it through, I know some may feel that surrounding myself with such things isn’t the best of ideas, but it reflects who I am. Whenever I’ve been confronted with a challenging situation (whether it’s redundancy, bereavement, being diagnosed with dyspraxia, or ending up in the wrong bed…) immersing myself in it, reading around it and trying to get whatever tangible thing I can from it is how I deal with it. To quote a lyric: “My only way out is to go so far in…” Whether it goes any further than an idea is more a matter of time and logistics, i.e whether I can do it properly given that I’m already trying to grow a business and finish a book, with the marketing and project management skills of a giraffe. Watch this space, and congratulations again to all the Mind winners this year…
FOOTNOTE: I was about to hit “Publish” on this post when I found out the worst possible news about yet another friend. I cannot even begin to describe how I feel right now, but I thought I’d publish this anyway as I didn’t want to forget what it meant to me….