Yesterday evening, I found myself at the Mind Media Awards 2011 in London. Pandora, the author of Confessions of a Serial Insomniac, had been nominated for the Mark Hanson New Media Award, and had kindly invited me along as one of her guests. Hence Pandora, her partner A and I were sat in the audience as Mind honoured positive portrayals of mental health issues in the media.
There were some truly outstanding nominees in the lineup. Particular highlights for me included Victoria Derbyshire’s Radio 5 interview with an alcoholic GP, which won the News and Current Affairs category, and Joshua Jackson, whose Suffering in Silence movie earned him Student Journalist of the Year.
I haven’t yet seen Tulisa: My Mum and Me – Tulisa Contostavlos’ documentary about her upbringing with a mentally ill mother, which won Best Documentary. But given my professional interest in young carer issues, I definitely want to see it. Sadly Tulisa couldn’t be there to accept the award in person, which was a bit disappointing for the celeb-spotters, but isn’t too surprising when the X Factor is in full swing.
Coincidentally the episode of Casualty that won the Drama category – in which Dr Ruth Winters struggles to accept that she has bipolar disorder – is the only episode of the show that I’ve watched in recent years. I didn’t think the episode was perfect – it presents lithium as the only treatment for bipolar. Plus there’s the usual Casualty artistic licence in which Charlie “Chuck Norris of Nursing” Fairhead appears to be running an entire ward single-handed. Even so, it presented a convincing portrayal of the difficulties a lot of newly-diagnosed people face in coming to terms with their illness.
Oh, and then we came to the New Media award, which was presented by Mark Hanson‘s widow Claire. “And the anonymous winner is…Confessions of a Serial Insomniac.”
Pandora seemed genuinely shocked. She was so convinced that she wouldn’t win that she hadn’t even bothered to prepare an acceptance speech. However, she ad-libbed her acceptance admirably, despite her bemusement that the award would go to “just a silly blog”, as she described her efforts.
Pandora is not a person who takes compliments easily, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to embarrass her by stating that I don’t regard her website as just a silly blog. I should know, I’ve done my share of silly blogging. It is an exceptional blog. I’m continually impressed by both the quality and quantity of her output. Lord knows it’s hard trying to write something interesting and worthwhile on an daily basis. I find it a lot easier to write on a group blog, because I know that if I don’t have anything to say, then hopefully Ermintrude will, but Pandora manages to keep up the high quality along with a prolific level of writing. I’ll also say that both Pandora and A are two of the nicest people you’re ever likely to meet.
When I reviewed the New Media nominees for the Mind blog I decided to refrain from saying who I thought should win. Privately though, I was rooting for either Pandora or for Rebecca Brown’s Trichotillomania vlogs. So I was particularly pleased when Rebecca was presented with the Comic Relief Speaking Out award by Ruby Wax.
After the ceremony, I had the chance to mingle with the guests, including New Media nominees Dawn Willis and Dan Taylor of the Campaign Against Living Miserably – both of whom richly deserved their nominations. I also chatted to Mark Brown of One in Four Magazine, and Carrie Holroyd of Young Minds – two resources which I can’t recommend highly enough. I had an unfortunate misunderstanding with Carrie.
Carrie: “I want to talk to Ruby Wax, but last time I met her she snogged me.”
Me: “What? Isn’t she old enough to be your mother?”
Turns out that the combination of a noisy foyer and Carrie’s Yorkshire accent meant that I’d misheard her. She actually said that Ruby Wax had snubbed her. Oops.
Plus I managed to rub shoulders with Taryn Ozorio and Eve Critchley, who run the Mind website, and work hard at their jobs greasing the pistons and pumping the bellows (look, I choose to believe that the the Mind site is operated from a steampunk laboratory, and I see no reason to change this mental image.)
All in all, an excellent evening, and some very well-deserved winners. I came away with a sense that the right people had been picked to win.
There was another sense that the evening left me with. The topic of mental health has recently been given a tragic poignancy by the death of Gary Speed, who was mentioned several times during the ceremony. Other people who had died were also paid tribute to, not least Mark Hanson. It gave me a feeling that in the room were the ghosts of those who had lost their battle with mental illness, whispering in our ears, reminding us that what we do is important.