23 Oct 2019

$15/$10 booking fees may apply.

Lower Town Hall, entrance via Druitt Street.

VENUE: Lower Town Hall, Sydney Town Hall

The Language of Madness – Big Anxiety Prize NATHAN FILER (UK)

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).

The Big Anxiety Prize is awarded to a creative thinker advancing the discussion of mental health. 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, Nathan 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.

In 2020 The Heartland will be reissued in paperback under the title, This Book Will Change Your Mind About Mental Health.

Following the talk, Nathan will discuss and challenge current orthodoxies around causes, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness with a panel of experts.

Chair: Professor Jill Bennett, The Big Anxiety, UNSW

Respondent: Dr Richard Schweizer, is a Policy Officer for the NSW Mental Health Commission and One Door Mental Health who will speak from his own lived experience of schizophrenia and recovery.

Dr Emma Tseris, lecturer in Social Work and critical mental health theory at the University of Sydney.

Dr Mark Cross – Consultant psychiatrist, Big Anxiety presenter and SANE board member.

Presented with UNSW Centre for Ideas.

Workshop: To understand more about the experience of psychosis and experience a simulation of voice hearing, join a Hearing Voices workshop, prior to the lecture 3pm-5.30pm in Lower Town Hall.

Artist Biography

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.