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Event Details

Nathan Filer: The Language of Madness

23 October 2019
6.30pm – 7.30pm AEDT
Lower Town Hall, Sydney Town Hall
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Nathan Filer portrait

Acclaimed novelist and former mental health nurse re-imagines care, calling for a radical rethink of mental health labels and anti-stigma campaigns.

“There is no uncontroversial language when talking about mental illness – and that includes the phrase ‘mental illness’” says Nathan Filer in his new book, The Heartland, praised as an “entertaining and absorbing” narrative and historical exploration of schizophrenia. (The Guardian).

With a background in mental health nursing, Filer is interested in people and care systems – and what happens when someone receives a diagnosis of a so-called disorder. His experience as both a care professional and researcher has led him to the conclusion that it is time to rethink mental health labels and anti-stigma campaigns completely.

The Heartland is the non-fiction follow-up to Filer’s debut novel, The Shock of the Fall, a story of a young man negotiating grief and mental illness, which won multiple awards including the Costa Book of the Year, 2013. With The Heartland, Filer has produced an “effortlessly-readable” study of the seemingly-transient nature of the symptoms, language and treatment of schizophrenia over time, unpacking a complex and fascinating subject.

Hear him share his findings in a talk presented by The Big Anxiety Festival. Following the talk, Nathan will discuss and challenge current orthodoxies around causes, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness with a panel including Dr Emma Tseris, lecturer in social work and critical mental health theory at the University of Sydney.

This event is presented by The Big Anxiety.


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Standard – $15 + booking fee
Concession – $10 + booking fee

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Nathan Filer portrait

Nathan Filer

Nathan Filer is a qualified mental health nurse. The Shock of the Fall, his novel about the life of a young man grieving the loss of his brother has been translated into thirty languages. It won The Costa Book of the Year, The Betty Trask Prize, The National Book Award for Popular Fiction and The Writers’ Guild Award for Best First Novel. His writing has featured in the Guardian and the New York Times. His BBC radio 4 documentary, The Mind in the Media, which explored portrayals of mental illness in fiction and journalism was shortlisted for a Mind Media Award. His new book is The Heartland: Finding and Losing Schizophrenia, described by The Times as ‘a beautifully written book that brims with compassion and wit’. He holds an Honorary Doctorate in Liberal Arts from Abertay University, conferred in recognition of his role in raising awareness of mental health issues through literature. He is currently a Reader at Bath Spa University, UK.

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