Monday May 29, 2017

Why Lenore Rowntree and Lynne Van Luven want to talk about mental illness

Lenore Rowntree (left) and Lynne Van Luven (right) discuss their updated and reissued collection of personal essays about mental illness.

Lenore Rowntree (left) and Lynne Van Luven (right) discuss their updated and reissued collection of personal essays about mental illness. (Jesse Cahill/Brindle & Glass/University of Victoria)

Listen 11:13

In 2013, Shelagh Rogers talked to Lenore Rowntree and Lynne Van Luven about a collection of personal essays on mental illness. Rowntree, a Toronto author and playwright, co-edited the collection with Andrew Boden and contributed an essay. Van Luven, a former University of Victoria professor, is also a contributor.

The book has been updated and reissued as Hidden Lives: True Stories from People Who Live with Mental Illness.

Lenore Rowntree on collecting personal stories

There were a few people that I wanted to approach and I didn't have the nerve, partly because one of the publishers wanted Andrew and I to track down some famous Americans. That felt nerve-wracking to us. We decided not to. We didn't know how to approach somebody and say, "We think you're acting like you maybe have a mental illness. Would you like to write about that?" That didn't work well. But the call for submissions that we put out got a very good response. Certainly more stories than we could put in an anthology.

Lynn Van Luven on why she had to speak up

I'm at a stage in my own life where I've made a strange sort of peace with my depression. I understand it's going to accompany me to the grave, but I have a pretty good management strategy. I thought, "If I can't talk about this now, who will?" I almost felt a civic duty — not to out myself because I've been pretty open about it in the workplace and around people that I'm close to — that it could be a useful public service to talk honestly about depression. 

Lenore Rowntree's and Lynne Van Luven's comments have been edited and condensed.