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Speaking Up: How Poetry Can Give a Voice to Mental Health

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Poetry allows us to use the nuance of language to talk about some of the most difficult feelings that humans can experience. Poetry helps us shape our loss, heartache, and even our depression, in the form of free verse, haiku, iambic pentameter. It forces us to confront our innermost thoughts and feelings, and provides a comfortable format to be able to share them with others. Below we explore the power of poetry in our modern day society.

Poetry as a form of comfort: Reading poetry can transport you out of your own world and into someone else’s. There’s something very soothing and comforting about the repetition and rhyme. For some, it can be a source of great comfort and relaxation. Writing poetry can help you get to the heart of thoughts or feelings of your own you don’t quite understand, or those that you want others to better understand. It can help us navigate these muddy waters, to find a kernal of truth about ourselves, humankind, even the world itself.

Poetry as a shared experience: Poets allow a certain amount of vulnerability in penning their deepest thoughts, desires, and struggles. In letting their audience in to themselves, they open the door to allow for a deep connection with their readers. And sometimes it’s just what we need to hear. Finding comfort in the knowledge of a shared pain--whether it’s through poetry, prose, or song lyrics, can help us put words to our own pain and suffering. As Coleridge once said, “poetry is the best spoken words in the best order.”

Poetry as a platform for change: While poetry can be a source of comfort, it can also be a powerful tool for societal change. Through spoken word, many have become more comfortable sharing about important topics like mental health and the internet has helped to spread these messages. Sabrina Benaim’s "Explaining My Depression to My Mother," has had nearly 4.5 million views, evokes feelings of empathy and understanding from others who too live with conditions like depression and anxiety, and helps to educate and inform those who might not understand it.

We all have the opportunity to give a voice to mental health in our own way. Starting an open mic night for mental health on your campus, reciting your latest poem at a local coffeehouse, or sharing a tweet or post you think will resonate with others experiencing mental health issues is a great way to keep the conversation going.

We’d love to hear your latest poem or personal expression about how mental health impacts your life. Simply add #SpeakUp to your post to help us start a community of understand, hope, and healing.


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