2018 Press Release

VICTORIA EVENT TO FOCUS ON MENTAL WELLBEING                                                                                              

Storytelling focused on mental wellbeing is front and center for a Victoria project coming to the Mary Winspear Centre on October 6 and 7.

In an event founded and organized by Victoria poet and advocate Emily Olsen, participants in The Connection Project will use a collage of visual and performing art, spoken word and poetry to share their personal experiences with challenges to their mental health.

“This event aims to add to and illuminate the larger and necessary conversation currently underway about the state of our collective mental health. For me, it’s a message of hope for people who are either dealing with mental health challenges or are trying to understand a loved one with mental health challenges,” Olsen said.

“This is also for people trying to find a place of support and resources. It’s all about making everything okay and not so shrouded and stigmatized.”

Olsen said she’s inspired by the idea that through sharing and connecting with one another, through telling our stories, we are better off as individuals, as families, and as communities.

Since age 15, Olsen has struggled to manage anxiety and depression. At 23, she spent time in a psychiatric ward because of a breakdown, complete with hallucinations, thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

“After this incredibly difficult winter, perhaps the hardest in my whole life, I found my ‘rock bottom.’ I met myself in a despair unlike any other,” she said. “I’ve come to a new awareness and understanding about my own experience with mental illness. I’ve discovered I must talk about it, and in talking about it, honor all versions of myself; at all ages, in any emotion, encompassing all inner judgments of self … There is always a space for compassion, there is always a space to love a little deeper.”

The Connection Project is an event inspired by all of this, and by the idea that through sharing and connecting with one another, through telling our stories, we are better off as individuals, as families, and as communities, Olsen said.

“I want to share how I made my way back from that very lonely place. I realize the many gifts that have come my way because of this experience, and most importantly, that I must share my story, to know that I am not alone.”

Speakers for the event include Emily Olsen, Joni Olsen, Ian Bruce, Jeff Custeau, Elizabeth Hall, Ocean Johnston, Ryan Painter, Wendy Picken. There will be featured art by British cartoonist Ella Baron, and music from Karen Lee White and Leslie Gentile.

“I invite you to come and explore some incredible storytelling. It is my deeply held hope that this event will illuminate our collective journey toward an expanded awareness of our minds,” Olsen said.

The Connection Project is an important conversation about mental health and its impact not only for the individual but also for loved ones. With over 20 years’ experience in the health field, I have yet to meet an individual who has not experienced anxiety, worry or fear, which are normal everyday human emotions. But imagine what life would be like for someone who lives in those states daily and feels helpless to one’s own thoughts and emotions. In the past, the stigma surrounding mental health has often been a barrier to helping individuals with mental health challenges find the support they need. On some level, we all we know what it feels like to be alone. When we remember this, it makes it easier to come together to provide a safe place to share and connect around mental health.”

                               – Angela Strank is the founder of Live Your Best Life and Dream Quest. She is also a Transformation Expert, intuitive Healer and Speaker. angelastrank.com


“I believe The Connection Project is action on the topic of bringing the conversation about mental illness into everyday discussion.  Even I thought, “No, that’s not relevant to me” until I reflected that mental illness issues – mine, my family’s and my friends’ have had an impact on my life – yet I’ve never talked about them…here is an opportunity to share…thanks, Emily.”

– Ian Douglas Bruce, Ecologist – grateful for the opportunity to help people help the environment.

The event is set for Sat., Oct. 6, 2018, at 7 p.m. and Sun., Oct. 7, 2018, at 2 p.m. in the Charlie White Theatre of the Mary Winspear Centre. Tickets are available at the Mary Winspear Centre Box Office for $15. Proceeds from the event will go to the Saanich Peninsula Youth Clinic. “The clinic is somewhere for youth to go. I would have loved something like that when I first had onset signs. I want to make sure they’re seen and supported … I think what they’re doing is pretty amazing,” Olsen said.


For additional information, contact Emily Olsen at  250-896-7880 emilyjeanetteolsen@gmail.com