The word on lived experience
Wollongong Writers Festival is running two events with a mental health focus on Sunday 24 November 2019 at Wollongong Art Gallery, 46 Burelli Street, Wollongong.
The Mental Health Commission of NSW is partnering with the Festival to support the 2019 Mad Poetry initiative which included poetry workshops held in October created for and led by people with a lived experience of mental health issues. Workshop participants will have a chance to read their poetry in an open mic session at the Gallery in a free community event at 10.30am on Sunday. The event is free but please RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/432565444121842/.
Another festival event at 3.30pm ‘Losing the plot’ features established writers who will discuss how mental health informs the writing process (and vice versa), including Quinn Eades, Helena Fox, Sam Twyford-Moore and David Stavanger. Tickets for this event are available on the Festival website: wollongongwritersfestival.com
Deputy Mental Health Commissioner Tim Heffernan, a Wollongong local, has been involved with the running of the poetry workshops:
“It has been amazing to see the development of the Mad Poetry workshops and readings since Alise Blayney and myself ran the first one in 2016. We have attempted to bring to life the dream of the late Benjamin Frater. This year Alise continued on as a facilitator with David Stavanger and Anne-Marie Te Whiu to provide eight workshops in Wollongong and Port Kembla. I was privileged to be a workshop participant this year and that has been such a rich and creative experience.”
Workshop facilitator and presenter David Stavanger is excited about the poetry being presented at the Festival by workshop participants:
"The range of voices that emerged on the page - and now the stage - from these workshops is a reminder that writing is most powerful when it comes direct from the pens, mouths and minds of those most marginalised in our community. There lies the real power in poetry."
NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey will be opening the events at the Gallery on Sunday:
“I’m so pleased to be supporting these events that explore mental health and the arts and amplify the voices of people with lived experience.
“Mental health and the arts have had a long relationship and there is a good reason for this. Creative writing allows us to explore areas of reality that don’t easily fit into our routine daily lives and accepted culture but are so rich and full of insight into the human condition.
“One in every two people will experience a mental health issue during their lifetime. Recovery is possible, and writing can be a cathartic and creative way of working through the darker times.
“I applaud the writers on the ‘Losing the plot’ panel for hosting a discussion on mental health and how it colours their writing. Conversations about mental health are important to break down stigma.
“I encourage the people of Wollongong and surrounding areas to come along and enjoy the performance and panel discussion and start a mental health conversation in their community.”
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About the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales
The Mental Health Commission of NSW was established under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 and came into operation on 1 July 2012. The Commission is an independent statutory agency responsible for monitoring, reviewing and improving mental health and wellbeing for people in NSW. The Commission works with government and the community to secure better mental health and wellbeing for everyone, and to ensure the availability of appropriate supports in or close to home when people are unwell or at risk of becoming unwell. In all its work, the Commission is guided by the lived experience of people with lived experience of mental health issues and caring, their families and kinship groups.
If this story raises concerns or distress for you or someone you know, the following services are available to provide support and assistance:
NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800