Tackling Mental Health through Poetry
by Harry Wojciechowski, Creative Development Producer at The Edge
Throughout October, we’ve been trying to help raise awareness of the importance of mental health – but it’s not something that can simply be confined to one day, one week, or one month alone. One can’t simply put the whole matter back into a box; we need to take the time to take care of everyone’s mental health day in, day out. Issues around mental health affect so many people in so many ways – so it’s something that needs to be cared for every single day.
We need to be kind to ourselves, and we need to be kind to each other, whether it’s at work, at home, or in our own time. The increased awareness of mental health illnesses and issues around the world is some progress in itself – but we can all still do so much better in trying to achieve greater understanding and better care for more and more people around the globe.
We’ve talked previously about events that raise awareness, and about films we’ve made to address mental health in workplaces the world over, but here we want to give the stage to other voices. As the old saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword, and so we’ve collated a selection of poems that explore issues around mental health. These deal in tough subjects – but it’s for that reason that we urge you to take the time to give them a listen:
Another Way: A moving piece by Salford-based poet JB Barrington in support of a male suicide awareness campaign for Doncaster Council. Just because things were different ‘back in the day’ doesn’t mean they were better.
Joey: You may be familiar with Neil Hilborn after his heart-breaking poem, ‘OCD’, went viral. Through the story of a childhood friendship, ‘Joey’ explores the impact of class on how some can afford treatment – and how too many can’t. It’s a cruel and unnecessary barrier, especially when many mental illnesses are already trying to convince you that you aren’t worth it – but you are worth it. Everyone is.
Heart Cry: In his own words, Samuel Cole originally wrote this ‘with a sole intention of speaking generally about raising awareness about mental health. I have struggled with anxiety in the past, but have now thankfully overcome it’ We’d urge you to listen to his words.
Living With Mental Illness: Written by Ronald L. Banks, he was compelled to write this story about a young woman’s struggle with mental illness to help those also facing similar battles.
You’re more than a reflection: A powerful spoken-word poem performed by Priscila Hernandez for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019. A young spoken-word artist from South East London, this is a powerful expression of her personal experiences, as well as those of others – and we believe hers is a voice that needs to be heard.
Heads Together: This last contribution isn’t a poem per se, but we think it’s important and worth sharing. Over 300 radio stations in the UK came together to play this important mental health message at the same time – and we’d urge you to give it 60 seconds of your time.
Unsurprisingly, this is just a tiny fraction of the huge range of amazing pieces written by people around the world – but we hope it gives you the desire to want to explore more widely.
The more we can understand each other, the better we can help each other.
To quote the ancient Egyptian philosopher, Philo:
‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.’