The first of June marked the start of a first-time event for Leah Woods and Ula, book bloggers at Uncorked Thoughts and Blog of Erised. Woods and Ula (who has asked that her last name not be revealed) recently came together to create Mental Health Awareness Month, an online event dedicated to reducing the stigma of mental health. In order to promote discussion and raise awareness, the bloggers initiated a month-long event to cover a variety of mental health issues.
"Our aim is to read books that focus on exploring these issues and how their characters cope with it, but also to have a little fun and raise some money for charities in the process," said Woods.
Mental health "is something a lot of people silently struggle with," said Ula. By hosting this event, she hopes to show that these issues are "normal and okay, and nothing to be afraid or disgusted about."
Woods and Ula have received an overwhelming response, not just from fellow book bloggers, but from authors and publishers, as well. Several publishing professionals have participated in guest posts on Woods' blog, including authors Marcus Sedgwick ("She Is Not Invisible") and Sarah Rayner ("Another Night, Another Day"), with topics ranging from general discussions of mental health to personal experiences with these issues. Publishers, authors, and bloggers alike have also pitched in by hosting giveaways for participants. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this is an event exclusive to book bloggers.
"We tried to be as accommodating as possible to those that don't have a book blog," said Ula.
"We welcome anyone to write a guest post that we can then host on our blogs. Anyone is free to enter our Twitter giveaways or chat with us at any point. If you're someone who cares about the topic...there's always quick and easy giveaways to enter on our blogs, there's donation links to donate to charities and anyone is welcome to take part in our challenges on the weekends," Woods added.
So why use book blogging as an outlet for such an important issue as mental health? For one, there's the supportive camaraderie of the community.
"We're such a passionate community and we really love what we do," said Woods.
With so many bloggers and readers alike willing to participate in enthusiastic discussions of literature and its related topics, the solitary business of reading has turned into a collective, even therapeutic experience.
"We're just normal people with the same problems [as] everyone else," said Ula. "We escape through reading and try and help you do the same."
As for whether or not they will host another mental health awareness event: "Seeing how we already had a lot of success before it even officially started, I think it's safe to say this might come back next June," said Ula.
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Month, visit the original introductory posts on Uncorked Thoughts and Blog of Erised. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag, "#MHAMJune." The event runs from June 1 to June 30.