World Mental Health Day in Poetry

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World Mental Health Day

Evergrowing Poetry Collection

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© mind.org.uk 2017

These voices are important, this issue is real. This collection of poems is necessary. Mental Health Week needs to last longer than a week. It is everyday living for so many people. I decided this collection will remain open for the duration of my Laureateship and will continue to expand.

For your poetry to be considered please email a previously unpublished poem to me at worcspl[at]gmail.com, submit work in the body of an email, max. 40 lines, single space, please refrain from using expletive language. The collection is updated every month. You will be notified with a link to the page if your submission has been successful. 

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Back in late September I put an open call for poetry submissions out across social media. I am grateful to all the poets for submitting their work. 

Mental Health is an issue close to my heart, something I have battled myself. I know many creative people suffer mental health issues. The theme this year was Mental Health in the workplace and in my case this is where/how the slippery slope began. I have added a link to my own story as it involves POETRY in a major way. (Link to follow.)

There are an increasing number of poetry books available which deal with these issues and those you can read to help ease the strain of difficult times in your life. I have added links at the bottom of the post for websites of interest connected to these issues. 

I hope you share this post across social media and take some solace in knowing – you are not alone. If you are lucky enough to be the 4 in 5 so far, (actually NHS figures now show 1 in 4 people suffer) – so if you are 3 in 4 so far – please share the post by way of raising awareness and hopefully we can work towards breaking stigmas & creating a more accepting world.

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I hope the following words are shared widely. 

Nina Lewis Thank you to everyone who submitted.

Nina Lewis Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

 


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Susan Davidson wrote this poem after attending a mindfulness course in Malvern, Worcestershire. 

 

Stop

I used to say ‘Stop the world, I wanna get off’
Now I’ve realised I’m the one who needs to stop

Stop filling every waking minute
Taking every silent space and putting something in it

Stop striving, trying so hard to be the best
When what my mind is crying out for is a rest

Remember kindness, peace and loving
Just breathe, and feel, and notice without judging

Because, as Shakespeare said those many years ago,
‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

© Susan Davidson
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Hiding

I like to walk in rain, my body keeping my space
Pacing away from pain, each step into a new place.
I appear blurred in downfall, face obscured by my hood,
Almost deaf behind my wall, I’d vanish if I could.

Nothing’s expected of me, I fear no assessing look,
Without eye contact I’m free, off society’s hook.

Darkness intensifies my disguise,
Gloom is awaited,
Night welcome, no visible distinction,
all obliterated.

I make no mark, for once I blend
Do I seek oblivion, or a place to heal and mend?

© Lorraine Boyce
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Waste

 

Immobile, I lay waste to days

Letting dust gather at my toes

Pins prickle sat-on hands

I wait, resenting daylight

 

Purpose passes by the window

Stillness stares back

From a crumpled pile on the sofa

Blanket-soft, nose cold

 

Standing to swallow cheap comfort

I face down the silent wall

Fruit furs and collapses

I like to watch it drip through basket holes

 

© Sallyanne Rock

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Steven Thomas-Spires wrote his first book about his struggles with this illness and the reason for his writing journey to begin nearly two years ago, the poem was written whilst he was with a mood management group, they helped overcome the fear of not being good enough!

 

Anxiety

For all those with anxiety
of which there’s a vast variety
tough though it is on our sanity
the stress we can feel from society
our peers question our mentality
and sometimes question our insanity
when all we want is equality
from all corners of humanity
and when we seek help for our personality
we seek help in those from psychiatry.

© Steven Thomas-Spires

 

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Talking therapy

Trespassing the layers of your skin,
piercing your silence,
we are in dangerous territory,
monitored by wolves for all I know.
 
You are not obliged to share,
unravel, come apart.
You may choose the padlock and screens
or lay a cordon around your acres.
 
So     I    wait,
careful not to blow my cover,
here,
a benign stalker.
 
It starts,
like the all but hidden source of a river,
building from a trickle,
                                   to a flow,
                                              steady and p e r s i s t e n t.
 
Like water, it brings with it debris,
fauna, microscopic silt, that allowed to    b u i l d
can do harm.
 
Then you STOP,
stem the flow,      dry     up,
as a lake in drought.
 

 

© Pat Edwards

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Watching Her

watching her watching herself
as if seeing a stranger performing
her habits with hands dispossessed
senses dulled by unwittingly
donned ontological gloves
thinking thoughts of confusion
with pale milky eyes unaffectedly fixed
upon faces and forms once familiar
 
watching her watching herself
with a dour detachment
from time and from place
unaware of her beautiful currency
blank is the gaze
where the light used to be
what dim world does she see
where each task turns to puzzle
 
watching her watching herself
broken remnants of memory
sputter and spark in the mist
unnamable colors
flash senseless of sequence
erratic of interval
now and then dim recognition
arranges a smile of subtle surprise
 
watching her watching herself
he hopes his old mind
is enough for the two of them
 

© Paul F. Lenzi 2017

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Beyond every stile
 
Jackie was a walker,
on his own or with his pals,
he’d come home, rub his blisters
and re-shape his crumpled hat 
groaning as he sat,
then stowed his boots, brushed and neat, 
laid a table for one to eat.
 
One day, past the pylons, lagging behind the group
he came upon a thistled pasture with a wall of cows
blocking his path like a picket;
they stood, ignoring his waving arms, 
impassive as the moor,
 
a head swung uncomfortably close
and breathed a heavy vapour of cud and drool,
he saw the caked, foreshortened legs
the tremble, to keep away the flies
the dark brown orbit of the eyes,
and was afraid…
 
…in the humid silence a lark sang,
the earth buckled as the cows rested their bulk,
as if settling in for the day.
Jackie stepped back, dropped his gaze 
at the beauty of brute bones,
and knew he would give way.
 
He became diminished, hollowed out in the expanse of field
exposed by their primitive stare.
Jackie lost his nerve, marked time, made do, tugged at his hair.
 
So we find order
Our place in the line,
You go on I’ll skirt the fence, he said 
I’ll wait; its fine.
 
They stood.
 
Jackie just needed someone to take his hand,
to steer him safe across this stretch of land.
 
 
 
© Brian Comber
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A worrying statistic surrounding mental health is the number of children now suffering with it or associated conditions such as stress. 1 in 10 children suffer so when I received this poem from a Year 6 Science Teacher in Jakarta, Indonesia (and after experiencing the ‘chalk-front’ for 18 years) I knew it had to be included. 

 

S.O.S. [Stressed Out Student!]

I know that all human beings have rights,
Including the gaining of knowledge,
And when I’m thirsty for knowledge,
Here is a place to gain it.

I am here to learn,
Then apply that learning
To discover and develop
Beauty in my life
Every day.

But why do you need to judge me
According to exam results?
Must everything be given a score?
Is there no other way
To assess what I have learnt?

Life would be wonderful
Without continual exams,
Without always being questioned
Whether I really understand…

Yes, I understand!
But do you understand
How disappointed I am
That you judge me wrongly?
Do you understand that exam results
Don’t really show all that I understand,
All the knowledge that I have gained
And use every day in my life?

Please! Stop quizzing me,
And start investigating ways
That I can apply knowledge!
Please! Sit here with me,
See the beauty of life without exams,
Pleasure that can’t be measured!

© Rismawati Abubakar
World-Mental-Health-Day-10th-October-2016

 

The following submission was from Paul Scully-Sloan (Director) of the DWA Charity. This poem was written by one of the support workers who manages the poetry community page. (Scott MCCluskey).

Scott wrote these poems after being inspired by some of the stories shared by our child loss dads.

 

(MENTAL HEALTH)

MENTAL HEALTH DRIVES YOU INSANE

MAKES YOU FEEL WORTHLESS AND ATTACKS YOUR BRAIN

MAKES YOU ACT WEIRD AND CRAZY TOO

SOMETIMES I WILL BE TALKING TO A SHOE

SOMETIMES I’M SHOUTING AND NOBODY IS

THERE AND IT LOOKS LIKE I’M SCREAMING INTO MID AIR

FOR I HEAR VOICES INSIDE MY HEAD THAT MAKE ME THINK I’M BETTER OFF DEAD

I TAKE SOME PILLS AND SWALLOW THEM DOWN

THEN GO AND GET CHANGED OUT OF MY GOWN

I THEN LIE IN THE BATH HOPING TO DROWN

I CLOSE MY EYES AND GO TO SLEEP

SLIDE UNDERNEATH THE WATER DEEP

MY BREATH STARTS FADING I START TO FIGHT

IT WAS THEN I NOTICED THE BIG BRIGHT LIGHT

MY LIFE HAD GONE MY SPIRIT WAS LEAVING

MY MOTHER HAD FOUND ME AND NOW SHE WAS GRIEVING

MY SPIRIT WAS TRAVELLING TO THE MAN IN THE SKY

WHO GIVE ME MY WINGS AND TOLD ME TO FLY

I HAD BECOME AN ANGEL AND GIVEN A JOB

MY AIM WAS TO STOP MAKING YOU SOB

FOR I’M AROUND YOU EVERYDAY

AND I CAN HEAR ALL YOU SAY

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT I’M NOT AROUND

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT I WAS FOUND

FOR WHAT I DID WAS TOTALLY WRONG

I WAS ONLY LISTENING TO A SONG

THE VOICES APPEARED AND TOOK OVER

AND IT WAS THEN MY LIFE WAS OVER

I TRIED HARD TO FIGHT THEM OFF

BUT WHEN NOBODY BELIEVED ME

I FOUND IT TOUGH

I SOUGHT HELP AND SOUGHT IT HARD

BUT MY DOCTOR WAS A RETARD

HE SAID MY ILLNESS DIDN’T EXIST

 AS FAR AS HE WAS CONCERNED

IT WAS ALL A MYTH

HE COULD SEE IN MY EYES THAT I WAS SCARED

BUT SAID MY STORY WAS QUITE ABSURD

BUT HE DIDN’T BELIEVE THE WAY I WAS FEELING

HAD TO PEEL ME FROM THE CEILING

FOR MY ILLNESS COULDN’T BE SEEN

MY MIND WAS PLAYING GAMES AND BEING MEAN

HE GAVE NO HELP OR PROPER ADVICE

HE JUST LEFT ME TO GET ON WITH LIFE

WELL TODAY WAS THE DAY THE DEMONS WON

AND ALL I CAN SAY IS I’M SORRY MUM

 

© BY SCOTT MCCLUSKEY-Daddys with Angels

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Days
 
There are days when there shouldn’t be
when you can’t breathe
and want to steal everyone’s colour
 
Then there are days
when the waters are glass-like
and the shells are singing
 
And then there are days like today
when you have to cover your mouth
to stop yourself bursting
 
press the sky to your skin

© J V Birch

 

 

World mental health rainbow

 

Circular

Let’s write a poem about “Mental Health”,
So fashionable these days;
Unless, like me, you feel stuck in S***,
And are seeing no way out of it,
Since support has been slashed
Bit by bit by bit,
Till you’re feeling too crazed to enjoy this craze
For writing poems about “Mental Health”.

 

© Andrew Green

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Paddy’s Poem

You wouldn’t get out of bed today. No reason.

Your chart tells all.
They spy on you while you sleep, logging every movement;
There is no privacy.
Sometimes you speak, breaking into their
Well practised routine of sympathetic speech,
Whilst revelling in imagined irritation written on faces.
Why should you care?
They are nothing to you. You are nothing to them.
So why speak?
They hear but they don’t listen.
There is no-one left to listen.

Fingers that once danced between ebony and ivory
Now fidget and twitch to their own tune.
Blind eyes pierce the gloom looking for loved ones,
Familiar places, but only see shadows, so drift gently shut.
Suddenly, the room is full;
Mother, brothers, wife and lover, son and daughter.
All gathered in the oneness that is family.
Laughter echoes around they walls
As the strains of an Irish jig fight for supremacy
Over the rising tide of long extinguished chatter.

No reason to get out of bed today.

 

© Maggie Doyle

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Excuse For Not Calling

Don’t let me dull you with that mental health talk
like over-chewed Wrigleys. You won’t want
what comes from my mouth. Soo sorry. A burden
already, to have mentioned months like pooled
fat—some knee-jerk deflation—a rough seam
at my neckline, insisting it be stitched (as if).
I’d dial about my personal absorption
but you’d introduce topics—mention some novel,

or Mike’s referral. You’d ring me like flannel.
My sauciest perusal puckers into a poked
snail. This pain becomes a pop loop. Catchy
as hangnails; tongued, like a broken tooth.
Guilty, I’ve gummed you to a shelf, but I know you
would only say, it is no use beating up yourself.

 

© Gram Joel Davies

ST19

© Sue Thompson

 

Everything’s going to be OK

Sometimes the morning,
that yesterday seemed so
inviting, is now a cheap trick.
Nothing feels worth it –
especially you. The time
you have to luxuriate in bed
turns into acres of drag,
of plans not worth s***.
The carpet is laughing at you
the cat, a constant nag.
The sun is a curse and you cling
to the thought of a bright bird moment,
its beady side-glance that jerks you
back to the beauty of song.
Not today. No matter how many times
you repeat your positive mantra,
this morning has stolen your volta.

 

© Rachael Clyne

 

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Written in a Swindon Poetry Festival workshop with Jacqueline Saphra.

Thirteen Ways to View Depression
(after Wallace Stevens)

1 We all know that depression is a lifestyle choice.
       People with depression can snap out of it if they choose.

2 Depression is as deep as the deepest lake.
       It ebbs and flows like an unruly sea.

3 Time moves erratically for the depressed mind.
      An hour can pass in a minute, a day can seem like a year.

4 He gave her some roses to lift her depression.
      But they were the wrong colour.

5 He hasn’t washed for a week but the smell is
      hidden in the fog of his mind.

6 The TV is on all day but she can’t tell you
      what she’s seen or heard.

7 Sleep is like a warm blanket which I embrace for hours each day,
      but it deserts me every night.

8 Depression relieves me of all responsibilities.
      Others can deal with life as they can fly while I barely tread water.

9 The sun is too bright, the rain too loud, the clouds too black
      – so she closes the curtains.

10 Depression is as devoid of song
      as a rock is devoid of a tune.

11 Living with someone who is depressed
      is like living with a cold stranger.

12 The tears of the depressed
      flow like a burst water main.

13 When the depression lifts it’s like seeing the world
       in colour for the first time,
       sounds are sweeter
       and life tastes tangible again.

 

© Liz Mills

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Black dog

Cosy on the duvet we lie together
watching the sun mark time on the wall.

His head on one side and tongue
lolling in laughter

he gazes at me through soft brown eyes
and reminds me of my worthlessness.

Ever the attention seeker he lifts his paw
and, scratching my arm, seduces me

with the joys of self-harm.
A connoisseur of filth he rejoices

as I eat from plates encrusted with the
detritus of long past meals.

Snapping at my heels he pens me
so I am his.

He bites and with slathering tongue
consumes the marrow of my self-esteem.

I hide him behind a mask of bonhomie
as he gnaws at the bone of my brain.

He doesn’t live with me now.
Then, when I least expect it,
he comes to visit.

 

 

© John Mills

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Mental Health Animals

Between us your depression and my anxiety;
such slippery things to articulate – yet I try.

You, a creature sat curled into himself, naked,
muscled, not a weak man but a hare-man.
Arms folded, long ears and face drooped:
blocking out everyone, but especially

me – a woman whose anxiety is a white horse,
pale in a dark green field. It is a pastel soft
night, I am wearing a cherry-red dress, bare
footed – my uneasy horse is outside myself,

body trembling as there are no stars visible.
The heart cries: where are the Plough
and the Pleiades? I hold her muzzle close
to my cheek to calm her – don’t pant so,

don’t pant my dear one. Your hare doesn’t
notice my withers flickering or hear
my breath come like gasps of steam
in the cold, dark air that surrounds us both.

 

© Ruth Stacey

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Abandoned Wagon

Enumerate to me why you are big, bad, & evil –
it’s winter, & you feel warm.
Steaming up the spectacles of those I love,
they see me more favourably.

I too long for that crystalline perspective,
so I shall drag my icy index finger against the glass,
sloping pre-emptive cursive condensation apologies
for what I am about to imbibe.

Here comes something interesting,
Very delicately around the bend,
avoiding the midnight clinking of bottles
expertly paired with clandestine cigarettes in the garden;
this is where I retrace my steps.

Even in this new nation of no snow,
I can find the scent, & drag myself back
to the moments of peninsular oblivion,
taking them for one last dance.

This is the great big white elephant exchange in the sky.
I have brought & given away a truly unique gift;
trading myself in for the kaleidoscope
of dimpled green glass, I become as empty
as the bottles I have secretly drained
& collected beneath my bed
through darkly “ary” suffixed days. January. February.
(This has become serious; this is now May.)

Bliss. Once again, at last, I am cavernous enough
to cannon words & cadence rapidly within myself
(I will catch the words on the silvered threads of my page)
& for a very few hours – One night only! I promise
they will sing louder than my plebeian thoughts,
& achieve quickening over mere mortal compulsions –
Before my blood thickens again in the sunrise
& I must stew through the bland week ahead.

 

© Keleigh Wolf

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My Fear
My fear is oppressive:
Oppressively hanging over my head
Like Damocles’ sword

My fear is waiting:
Waiting for the bubble to burst
For my world to fall again!

My fear is belief:
Belief that I don’t deserve happiness.
Knowing bad times always follow good.

My fear is memories:
Memories that haunt my mind
The past pain preparing me for the future.

My fear is love:
Love that has eluded me
I have freely given but have never received.

My fear is life

Life that I have lived

That each day I must endure

My fear is death
Death that comes to us all,
Will it come naturally or by my own hand?

My fear is driven by autism
Autistically feeling like an alien
In this foreign land.

 

© Lawrence Sharkey

 

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And finally, I wouldn’t be doing my Laureate job if I didn’t write a poem for WMHD. 

Neurasthenia

The words trapped
at the back of my mouth
button themselves up 

in Emperor’s new clothes
self-scathing they blacken
tear at the edges of sound
rampage.

The doctor prescribes.
I swallow
disappear inside myself 
sleep.

The sense of touch evaporates
world not felt
escape route one,
the unconscious mind.

Pain a voided transaction
lost.

The medication became me
I lay down and let life live
this was my dark secret.

This mind filled with blind 
bombarding thoughts
steering off-course.

 

© Nina Lewis

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During my Mental Health research I also came across the artwork of Sow Ay. The following images speak to me as loudly as the selected poems. They have appeared in newspapers including The Independent.

Soy Ay Independent

© Sow Ay

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If you are local to Worcestershire, come and share your poems or just get involved with our Mental Health Awareness Day this Saturday from 1 PM.
mental health awareness day bliss
The WLF team are organising the open mic slots, so be sure to sign up via email:
RELATED LINKS world mental health
BOOKLIST
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7 Comments

  1. Since the post I have received several emails and messages from people who have written poems and only discovered this blog through the recent sharing on social media or they missed the original call out.

    Due to the nature of the subject and my feelings towards being an advocate of this cause I am willing to accept late submissions to be considered for this post.
    It was important to me that it went live on World Mental Health Day but I see no reason why this collection of poems should not grow. Let’s go fluid!

    If you have a poem you feel may be suitable please send it in the body of an email, single spacing to worcspl@gmail.com. We cannot accept poems that have been previously published and please avoid expletive language.

    Like

  2. All wonderful, expressive and heart felt work, we would love some of these folk to come along to Cafe Bliss on Saturday afternoon to read and/or support the other poets and friends who happen along and would like some support and understanding….
    Mx

    Like

    1. Cafe Bliss hosted a really good Mental Health Day event. Something WLF support every year. One of our recently added poems was submitted by somebody who was at that event when I plugged this anthology. That is the power of poetry.

      Like

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