Call for Papers: Mental Health Issues in Fandom

Special Issue: Mental Health Issues in Fandom

Guest Editors: Ben Abelson (Mercy College) and Allison R. Levin (Webster University)

Before the concretization of fan studies as an academic discipline, fans would routinely be labeled and treated as “fanatics” — people with excessive love for something or someone that could lead them to engage in maladaptive, even dangerous, behavior. Over time the term mental health disorders developed to mean a condition that affects a person’s behavioral, and emotional well-being. As both fanaticism and mental health are framed as being all about how people think, feel, and behave, public discourse framed fandom as a mental health issue. Along with being problematic due to class, racial, gender and other issues, this positioning meant that fandom was not well understood until the recent couple decades.

Now, scholars return to this idea of mental health and fandom, but for the purposes of understanding how being a fan relates to their own mental health. This special issue explores what fans learn about mental health from their fandoms and how their fandoms can impact their own mental health, for better or worse. Discussing these issues and intersections will further our understanding of the complex ways in which fandom weaves into people’s lives.

Fans experience and express issues with mental health in various ways. The essays intended for this issue demonstrate the importance of neither deriding nor lauding fans and fandom. Instead, they engage with fans to understand how their fandom operates as another component of their lives, which can have positive and negative impacts on their mental health. Such examinations can further reduce any lingering stigma associated with fandom as well as highlight true areas of concern that fans and their communities would benefit from better understanding.

We are looking for theoretical or empirical articles that consider the mental health issues experienced by fans, within fan communities, and/or related to fandom.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Prevalence of mental health issues within fan communities
  • How fans negotiate mental health issues
  • How fandoms/media cause mental health issues in fans
  • Using fandom as a therapeutic tool
  • Representation of fans’ mental health issues and how media depictions of mental health affect fans
  • Fan activity as therapy
  • What causes mental health issues within fans, fan communities, fandoms
  • How fandoms act as therapy/coping mechanisms
  • How fans learn about mental health issues
  • How fans talk about mental health issues
  • Negative aspects of mental health issues in fandom
  • Positive aspects of mental health issues in fandom

We’re especially interested in articles by science communicators and collaborations between scientists and humanities/pop culture scholars, concerning, for example, how scientists/physicians use pop culture to teach or talk to patients about mental health.

Abstracts Due: July 15, 2022

  • Abstracts should be 250 to 500 words and present the intention of the research, the research’s original contribution, and how it relates to popular culture.
  • Please send abstracts to with “Mental Health Issues In Fandom” in the subject line.

Acceptances: August 1, 2022

First Drafts: October 1, 2022

Peer Review: November-December, 2022

Final Drafts: February 2023

Published: April 2023


Submission Guidelines:

Authors interested in contributing to the special issue should submit an approximately 500-word abstract explaining the proposed article or text. This abstract should include the article’s title and the author’s full name and contact information. In addition, all potential authors should include with their abstract a 100-word author bio to be included upon acceptance and publication.

Essays should range between 15-25 pages of double-spaced text in 12-pt. Times New Roman font, including all images, endnotes, and Works Cited pages. Please note that the 15-page minimum should be 15 pages of written article material. Less than 15 pages of written material will be rejected, and the author asked to develop the article further.

In accordance with the PCSJ style guide, essays should also be written in clear US English in the active voice and third person, in a style accessible to the broadest possible audience. Authors should be sensitive to the social implications of language and choose wording free of discriminatory overtones.

For documentation, the PCSJ follows the Modern Language Association style, which calls for a Works Cited list, with parenthetical author/page references in the text. This approach reduces the number of notes, which provide further references or explanation.

For punctuation, capitalization, hyphenation, and other matters of style, follow the MLA Handbook and the MLA Style Manual. The most current edition of the guide will be the requested edition for use. The Purdue Online Writing Lab provides updated information on this formatting style.

It is essential for authors to check, correct, and bring manuscripts up to date before final submission. Authors should verify facts, names of people, places, dates, and source information, and double-check all direct quotations and entries in the Works Cited list. As noted above, manuscripts not in MLA style will be returned without review.

Before final submission, the author will be responsible for obtaining letters of permission for illustrations and for quotations that go beyond “fair use,” as defined by current copyright law.