One of the busiest writers to ever come out of St. Albert is polishing his presentation notes in advance of an upcoming Conversation Circle engagement at the Edmonton Public Library (EPL).
It’s a good thing that Leif Gregersen is no stranger to public speaking. He will certainly rely on his work as a lived experience presenter before he takes the podium at the relocated Stanley Milner branch in Enterprise Square on the afternoon of Saturday, May 6. He’ll be talking about mental health and isolation just in time for Mental Health Week.
“I’m really going to draw on my experiences with the Schizophrenia Society but I’m going to go a little bit further,” he said.
Gregersen last made a similar presentation at the St. Albert Public Library during Mental Health Week 2016. Now, he’s hoping to reach a wider audience in the Edmonton system.
It has been several years since the author and public speaker first opened up about his experiences with bipolar disorder and depression through his books Through the Withering Storm and Inching Back to Sane.
At this upcoming event, he’s going to share his story with the audience in the hopes of making personal mental health a more accessible talking point.
“I’m going to open up a conversation, go around the room and have people discuss what they feel about mental illness, what they feel about community treatment, different things like that. With the Schizophrenia Society, it’s sort of a set presentation. It’s also specifically related to psychosis where I deal with anxiety, bipolar disorder, isolation … different things like that.”
He says that the response that he gets from the public is often amazing to him, especially with middle to late teenagers.
“There’s so much stigma with high school students around the whole idea of mental illness. It seems almost common that when we go to high schools, someone will come up and start seeking resources that we might be able to provide them.”
“It’s sort of a recurring theme. First of all, some people have experienced mental illness and they’re very reluctant to share that, which is obviously understandable why they do that. The other thing is that people don’t seem to know much about the amount of mental illness there is in society. It’s very common.”
He usually asks these audiences for a show of hands to demonstrate how few of the attendees have heard of Alberta Hospital. Gregersen himself hadn’t even heard of the place before he received care there during the most troublesome period of his early mental health struggles.
“Just the fact that people don’t know about it is surprising because … if they do have problems, where are they going to go for treatment? It just shows how people want to shuffle the problem away and hide it.”
The EPL will be making Gregersen’s books available for borrowing so that readers can learn more about his life with bipolar disorder and other mental health struggles. Later on in the summer, he will be featured on the EPL’s local author website and he will be holding some poetry and short story writing workshops along with other events to promote his books.
Attendance for the Conversation Circle will be free but pre-registration is encouraged. Interested people should check out www.epl.ca to find out more.