Mind Your Head – Juno Dawson and Dr Olivia Hewitt talk about their new book, illustrated by Gemma Correll
January 24, 2016
On Thursday 21st January, I headed over to the first event at the newly opened Waterstones Tottenham Court Road (open until 11pm – try the cocktails!) to hear Juno Dawson and Dr Olivia Hewitt talk to Jo Elvin, editor at Glamour Magazine, about their new non-fiction book for teens Mind Your Head, illustrated by Gemma Correll.
Mind Your Head, published by Hot Key Books, is an accessible, easy-to-read guide to mental health for young people, in a similar style to Juno’s previous non-fiction titles Being A Boy and This Book Is Gay. I was all set to live tweet the chat but we were in the basement bar and there’s no signal or WIFI, so, after a quick chat with some fellow book bloggers, I decided I’d type what would have been my live tweets into the notes on my phone, so I could post them as a blog afterwards…..so here they are:
Ok, so this is horrific – there is no signal, so we can’t live tweet, so I’m going to write as notes instead then post as a blog afterwards!
Waterstones Tottenham Court Road is great but they don’t understand how book bloggers can’t cope without phone signal…!
Juno and Olivia take the stage, with Glamour editor Jo who is chairing this evening. Juno with epic opaque pink tights game this evening.
Jo congratulates Juno and Olivia on filling a niche which has been worryingly empty for far too long. Why did it come about/why not?
Juno – 2 book-deal including This Book is Gay – initially thinking about male body image, starting with over-exercising but then developed and expanded from there…
Went to uni with – and lived with – Olivia, brought her on board for her expertise as she wouldn’t trust an author to advise on mental health alone without a professional adding their input.
Olivia – we went to the Isle of Wight for a week in January last year and it worked really well.
Juno – we worked really hard!
O – we went back to books.
J – there are enough restaurants on the Isle of Wight in January for each day of the week but that’s it…!
Jo – the tone is lovely and light, despite the very serious topic – you get the sense of humour when you really need it. Is that important?
J – yes – we approaching gently because people don’t necessarily identify clearly what “problem” they might have, it’s more subtle than that – when we were looking at the questionnaires people answered about their mental health when they were teenagers, very few people said they had an eating disorder, but quite a few put things like ‘anxiety’…’and then I might stop eating for a few days’.
It’s a trickle down effect to get to teens who might need to read it for a variety of reasons, via bloggers, librarians, teachers, booksellers and then…
Also, no one wants a lecture, especially not when you’re feeling bad!
O – it’s not about diagnosing, it’s about giving people an idea. And of course there’s a spectrum of need too.
Jo- what would you tell your 15/16 year old self?
O – there’s an idea that school days are the best days of your life, but I’d say look forward to being grown up – you get freedom and choice
J – The group of friends in Hollow Pike are essentially my friends, they’re still my friends. I’d say if your friends are making you miserable, make new friends.
Jo asks about writing non-fic – Juno talks about the pressure of pulling together TBiG and how MYH has been relatively much easier.
Jo / Juno talking about Juno’s column in Glamour (walking her mother through her transition) and how it’s important to be able to talk openly, honestly and with a sense of humour about gender and sexuality.
J – there are days that are difficult but psychologically, I feel so much better because I’m not trying to be a boy every day and then feeling like I’m getting it wrong. I feel like I have an extra half an hour in the day!
Jo – Gender Dysphoria isn’t covered – is there a reason why?
J/O – because it’s not a mental illness but we mentioned that it can mean you’re more prone to anxiety or depression.
Jo – are you going to write about becoming a woman?
J – yes, but more to do with the ‘construct’ of being a woman, the messages we’re sent about what a woman ‘should’ be!
Q – how do you spot the toxic friendship?
Olivia – we do talk about the darker side for young people to the Internet – damaging networks, eating disorder websites…
J – there has to be a willingness to change. The young person can be supported but they have to want to get out. There are also sites like thesite.org which are very helpful.
O – fine to ask, share a concern, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Q – have you always known you were transgender?
J – no, I wasn’t aware that it was possible. I knew I wanted to be a girl with hair and She-ra but I didn’t know I could have made that change. It was when I met people who I started to identify with more, for TBiG, that I realised, and I don’t really regret it – I enjoyed my 20s, it was fun!
Q – as an ex-teacher, is there anything you thing that needs to be changed in the education system?
J – we need to burn it down and start again – the government has an obsession with imitating South Korea which has the highest teen suicide rate in the world. There is no time to talk about mental health or wellbeing.
Q – J, don’t answer if you don’t want to but do you ever look in the mirror, see your ‘old self’ and feel disappointed?
J – No, not at all. It’s all me, and it’s all realness!
We had a lovely evening hearing about Mind Your Head and I’m really looking forward to reading it. As someone who’s come from a similar teaching background to Juno, I also believe it’s so important for young people to have access to good resources which they find helpful and I know Juno and Olivia, and Gemma, will have done a fantastic job – I’ve already had a quick look through and it looks brilliant.
Mind Your Head is out now from Hot Key Books, priced at £7.99 in paperback.