You remember our community collectively talking about mental illness after the mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011. You remember discussions on the need for more resources, better care and better recognition. At Our Place Clubhouse, a downtown space, part of what we said we wanted to do as a community has been happening there since the 1980s. People, your friends, family and neighbors are recovering and healing from mental illness by volunteering and regaining confidence to gain a vision for where they want to be the rest of their lives.
Last year I wrote a cover story on a writing group at Our Place led by board member Sheila Wilensky, a Tucson writer, editor and teacher. The eventual goal of the group was to put together a chapbook of the members' writing, with a focus on reflections on mental illness. Tonight you have an opportunity to celebrate the labor of these writers and the work of Our Place Clubhouse at an open house, from 5 to 7 p.m. at 66 E. Pennington St. The night, catered by Cafe 54, is a celebration and a chance to purchase the chapbook , A Certain Slant of Light: Emerging from the Shadows of Mental Illness, published by the organization. The books costs $12.95 and all proceeds benefit Our Place.
Need more reasons to go? KXCI's Amanda Shauger did a wonderful interview with Wilensky and some of the writers. You can give a listen here.
Go, buy the book, support the work of Our Place Clubhouse and celebrate what many writers know is true—writing is healing. Here's a group that offers us proof and also makes feel blessed to call these writers fellow Tucsonans. Keep in mind, as everyone in Tucson struggled to understand what took place after the Jan. 8 shooting, writers in Wilensky's group lamented on misconceptions of those with mental illness and how to challenge those perceptions.
Wilensky's explains more in her press release for the event:
Misconceptions about mental illness abound. A few weeks after the Jan. 8, 2011, Tucson shooting, an Our Place Clubhouse member asked, “What is it with people? Why do they think that anyone with a mental illness may pull out a gun anytime and indiscriminately start shooting?”
The question stuck with local writer, editor, and educator Sheila Wilensky. She is a board member of Coyote Task Force, which includes Cafe 54 and Our Place Clubhouse. The Clubhouse, says Wilensky, “is a safe place, a caring community of people in recovery from mental illness.”
In September 2012, Wilensky started the Thursday Writing Group at the Clubhouse with the intention of confronting those misconceptions and producing a chapbook to help educate the public about those misconceptions.
“A Certain Slant of Light: Emerging from the Shadows of Mental Illness” is the result of that collaboration. Five chapters from “Any Morning, or A ‘Normal Day,’” to “Take Heart, The Times They Are a-Changin’,” highlight the voices of individuals living with mental illness, and are accompanied by Wilensky’s commentary.
Fourteen co-authors are men and women ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s. Each unique individual strives to lead a full life and to cultivate hope, like anyone with a serious illness.
The book’s foreward, “We’re all in This Together,” was composed by Suzi Hileman, a retired social worker who was shot along with Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8, 2011.
Suggestions for concrete action about what we can do together to change attitudes about mental illness are at the back of the book.
The first step to getting involved, says Wilensky, is attending an official signing and reception at Our Place Clubhouse, 66 E. Pennington St., on Friday, Jan. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. “A Certain Slant of Light” will be available for purchase at $12.95. Refreshments will be provided by Cafe 54.
For more information, contact Sheila Wilensky at firstname.lastname@example.org.