A subject many people often avoid is getting much attention at area libraries, including the Waunakee Public Library.

Through a grant from the Beyond the Page endowment, several programs are underway on the topic of mental illness.

Waunakee Librarian Gay Strandemo collaborated with the Black Earth and Sun Prairie libraries on the competitive grant to fund the program.

“There’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about mental illness and how it pertains to various aspects of public life,” Strandemo said. “A lot of people feel like resources are scant. We decided to take a look at the history of this.”

Last week, as part of the What We are Going Through: Listening to Mental Illness series, the Waunakee Public Library presented Healing Through Storytelling, featuring Karl Stewart, who survived his own traumatic experience.

On Sept. 26 at the Waunakee library, Karen Jespen will present Stories from the Field: Mental Resources in Dane County for Kids and Families. Jespen was a social worker with Journey Mental Health for 34 years and has worked in adult and youth crisis centers and with foster parents of children with the highest needs.

The final program at the Waunakee library will be on Nov. 7. It deals with how to identify and respond to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The “What We Are Going Through” series is intended to examine the topic of mental illness. The Beyond the Page website offers the following description:

“Rather than taking a scientific, medical or political approach to discussing mental illness, these programs explore the intersection of culture and mental illness from a humanistic point of view. With a wide variety of programs – from film screenings to live presentations to book discussions – this series presents diverse experiences of individuals with mental illness in an effort to increase awareness and sensitivity to mental health issues and to reduce the pervasive stigma of mental illness.”

Several programs and events are taking place throughout area libraries through the spring. For a full schedule of “What We Are Going Through” at all participating libraries, visit the website, beyondthepage.info

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