Emma Healey, the author of Elizabeth is Missing, is urging aspiring authors to enter a new competition for stories about teenage depression.
Healey launched the competition with her publisher Viking and The Children’s Society as part of the charity’s Seriously Awkward campaign, which aims to secure more help for vulnerable 16 and 17-year olds with everything from mental health issues to support with housing and access to education.
Healey suffered a breakdown at the age of 15 and her new book, Whistle in the Dark, features a teenage girl called Lara who self-harms.
“I keep meeting people who have faced these issues themselves or have children who are still struggling with this nightmare - it’s more widespread than people think,” she said. “Like Lana I’d been self-harming and thinking about suicide and on one occasion I took loads of pills which my mum made me throw up.
“There are lots of things going on for teenagers, with exam stress, changing friendship groups, becoming independent and all those hormone changes affecting you.”
She added: “It can be a pretty terrifying time and I felt pressure from every direction, but you don’t really have the language to express any of that when you’re a teenager, even if you have supportive parents like I did.”
The competition is open to anyone over 16 and is divided into two categories: one for young people aged 16-25 and one for adults aged 26 and over. Entrants must write a fictional story of up to 2,000 words based on the ‘ups and downs’ faced by 16 and 17-year olds, and must send their stories via the website by 31st August.
The entries will be judged by 19-year-old Alexandra Kate Flynn – a young person supported by The Children’s Society – author Harriet Reuter Hapgood, The Bookseller’s books editor Alice O’Keeffe and literary agents.
The winners of the 16-25 group will receive feedback from Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency and the winner of the adult category from David Higham Associates.
The best stories will be published on The Children’s Society’s website and celebrated at a special event in London.