May 13, 2014
10:21 AM
Health & Wellness

Best-Selling Author Wally Lamb to Speak at Connecticut Mental Health Forum

Best-Selling Author Wally Lamb to Speak at Connecticut Mental Health Forum

Wally Lamb

From the tortured and depressive heroine, Delores Price, in his first novel, She’s Come Undone, to the issues of sexual abuse prevalent in his latest endeavor, We Are Water, mental health has been an underlying theme throughout the seven novels of Connecticut-based best-selling author Wally Lamb.

He is a longtime mental health advocate and has spent the last 15 years working closely with the inmates at the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, the only institution for female offenders in the state.

Lamb meets with the inmates once every two weeks to teach a writing workshop. In 2003, a volume of essays written by the students and edited by Lamb was published as Couldn’t Keep it to Myself: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters (cover, right; promotional material for the book, below).

A second volume, I’ll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison, was published in 2008.

“I’ve learned more than I’ve taught in terms of what life is like if you have a much less than perfect childhood,” says Lamb. “It’s been eye-opening for me.”

“In this unforgettable collection, the women of York describe in their own words how they were imprisoned by abuse, rejection and their own self-destructive impulses long before they entered the criminal justice system. Yet these are powerful stories of hope and healing, told by writers who have left victimhood behind,” states the book’s description on Amazon.

In the class, the women use their writing to open up about their pasts, and sometimes about their own battles with mental illness.

“I am not a therapist, but I do witness the therapeutic value of their writing,” says Lamb. “I see these transformations they make over time, facing their demons…the terrible things they’ve done and have been done to them.”

This Friday, Lamb will detail the life-altering experience he has had with these women in a talk at The William W. Backus Mental Health Forum at the Hartford HealthCare East System Support Office in Norwich.

He will join a panel discussion entitled “Can’t Keep it to Ourselves: A Community Dialogue on Mental Illness,” along with several other mental health experts.

“The experts who actually know what they’re talking about, I’m hoping they will carry the load,” Lamb says with a laugh. “[I will discuss] my work with the women, and how and why I gravitate towards the subject matter I do.”

(Lamb with another group of students from York Correctional Facility, below.)

The other panelists include Kathleen Flaherty, a lawyer, mental health consumer and advocate; Jim Sorensen, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Southeastern Connecticut Chapter, and Chris Erskine, Mental Health First Aid instructor at Natchaug Hospital.

“Can’t Keep It to Ourselves: A Community Dialogue on Mental Health” is part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health Series, which was conceived in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in December 2012.

The panel discussion begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 16. It is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required. Call 860-892-6900 to register.

For more information on the forum, email alice.facente@hhchealth.org.

Visit Wally Lamb's website at www.wallylamb.net.

Contact me by email at khartman@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

 

Best-Selling Author Wally Lamb to Speak at Connecticut Mental Health Forum

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