You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Mental health’ category.

Just want to share an insightful post by Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis, in which she shares some thoughts and poems on mental health (one of which I penned myself)

World Mental Health Day in Poetry

 

Today is World Mental Health Day, and this is an initiative led by Mental Health Australia to challenge the perception of mental health issues and encourage us all to view them in a positive light, in a bid to reduce stigma and enable more people to seek support.

 

 

Mental Health Australia aims to:

promote mentally healthy communities, educate Australians on mental health issues, conduct research into mental health and reform Australia’s mental health system.

And their Do you see what I see? is a clever concept, using strong visuals to highlight that we all see things differently and should work together to find common ground.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as:

a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

As Beyond Blue states, mental health is about wellness rather than illness.

For me, mental health is a delicate thing to be balanced and weighted against whatever life throws at it. Sometimes it’s tough and exhausting, so I write to help mine and travel, taking time out when I need to.

So, make a mental health promise to yourself today; it’s just as important as the physical one.

 

Just like you

 

She tries to fit in

pulls at her mouth to make it a smile

blinks her eyes hard to clear out the clouds.

 

She even pretends she’s alive

puts a bird in her heart so it chirps with a beat.

 

But she can’t seem to shut up her sadness

it speaks when she thinks that she is.

 

Copyright © J V Birch 2013

is today!  This is all about people connecting in a meaningful way to help anyone struggling with life’s ups and downs, which I’m sure we can all relate to at one time or another.

R U OK? is a suicide prevention charity in Australia, and its goals are simple and things we can all do to:

  • boost our confidence to meaningfully connect
  • nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
  • strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
  • be relevant, strong and dynamic

Suicide, like mental health, is a delicate thing not often discussed, so take the time to connect by asking someone R U OK? And not just today, make time every day.

Today marks the start of Mental Health Week, running until Saturday 15 October with World Mental Health Day tomorrow.

OYM Logo

The week is about shining the light on mental health by educating and engaging people through interactive events across the state, including community festivals, art exhibitions, music, theatre and seminars.

One such event is the Festival of Now, coordinated by the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia in Light Square on Friday 14 October, to bring the mental health community together, showcase the creativity used in the healing journey and reduce the stigma still associated with this multi-faceted condition.

Two of my poems, ‘Beautiful thinking‘ and ‘Session time‘, have been shortlisted for a Mindshare Poetry Award, which I’m thrilled about, but unfortunately I can’t attend the event because I’ll be interstate.  But I’ll be sure to check in after to catch a roundup of the day’s program.

So get involved wherever and however you can to help promote mental health, and keep yours healthy.

This is today, so why not take some time to check in on your own mental health and see how you’re doing? In aid of this, I went along to the Festival of Now in Rundle Park yesterday where the weather was absolutely gorgeous.

2015-10-09 15.28.56 

The festival celebrates mental health and well being in South Australia by bringing the community together through a range of activities and a reminder of the services available to them. So the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia was joined by Centacare, Mental Illness Fellowship South Australia (MIFSA), who also provided some fab beats, Headspace and Uniting Communities for people to talk about their sexuality and gender identity. And there was face painting, juggling, cooking, a magician, animals, art, planting and of course, the Mindshare Poetry Awards.

2015-10-09 14.13.26

This slot was hosted by Geoff Goodfellow and Melbourne-based poet Sandy Jeffs, both of whom shared some of their own work with a focus on mental health and the challenges it can pose (here you can read Sandy’s The Madwoman in this Poem). Alas, I was not fortunate enough to win an award despite having both a short and long poem shortlisted in the ‘Emerging Poet’ category. However, the wonderful Rachael Mead swept the board in the ‘Established Poet’ category, winning both the short and long poem award, so a huge congratulations to Rachael, who found out by me messaging her immediately after!

20151009_105035

20151009_105043

It was a good day, with a strong sense of community and togetherness to promote mental health wellness, because we should talk about this and openly share, no one should suffer alone.  So here’s to a mentally healthy day, and for every one that follows  🙂

Mental Health Week will run from Sunday 4th to Saturday 10th October with World Mental Health Day celebrated on 10th October.

OYM Logo

Coordinated by the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia, the week aims to educate and engage people about mental health through interactive events across the state, including an official launch, community festivals, art exhibitions, music, theatre and seminars. The ABC will once again highlight mental health through its Mental As production, a series of television, radio and online programs to get the conversations happening.

The Festival of Now, to help celebrate World Mental Health Day, will be held in Rundle Park, Adelaide on Friday 9th October, bringing the mental health community together to showcase the creativity used in the healing journey and reduce the stigma still associated with this multi-faceted condition.

And I have been fortunate enough to have been shortlisted for a Mindshare poetry award, with winners announced at the festival and invited on stage to share their poems with the crowd.

So please mark this important week in your diaries and join in wherever you can to help promote a positive approach to mental health and if needed, maybe even improve your own.   🙂

I recently found out about a project very close to my heart through Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed. To help promote Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK from 11-17 May, Sarah James will be using her blog to host With You In Mind. Sarah James

Sarah is an inspirational poet whose work has been widely published in a variety of journals, anthologies and newspapers, as well as in solo collections. The first, Into the Yell, was published by Circaidy Gregory Press in 2010 and won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards the following year.   Sarah’s second collection, Be[yond], was published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2013, who have also published her latest book, The Magnetic Diaries, earlier this year.

Like countless others, Sarah has her own stories of mental health that she shares on her site and through her work, something I can relate to as I do the same in my own (try it, it can be very cathartic!).  So having been involved in the last couple of mindshare poetry projects to promote Australia’s Mental Health Week in October, I contacted Sarah to offer my support for her project and any help to promote it. I was then thrilled to be asked by Sarah to use my poetry film, Black dog, in an advance posting of her project.

So keep an eye on Sarah’s site over the coming week to read some fantastic poetry from the likes of Helen Ivory, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, Abegail Morley and Catherine Smith, all of whom have generously donated some of their work to this very worthy cause.

This was the title of an article by Pascale Petit in the current edition of Mslexia, and it was an interesting read.

Mslexia

Pascale has a long list of poetic achievements and some fantastic collections, including The Zoo Father and The Huntress, both published by Seren. The latter focuses on her mother, as does this feature, in which Pascale explains the emotional journey she took when attempting to write about her mother and the impact of the abusive relationship she had with her. Those familiar with Pascale’s work know that animals and the Amazon are strong influences, and to be able to write freely about her mother Pascale identified these with her, in particular a golden jaguar quickly followed by a snow leopard, wolverine, giraffe, etc.  By doing this Pascale managed to literally exorcise herself of her mother’s ghost, eventually being able to think of her and love together in the same space, thanks to Pascale’s love for the creatures representing her mother in her work.

And this is what I love about poetry – catharsis is one of its many facets, giving us the opportunity to transfer difficult people and experiences onto those things so much more familiar to us and that feel far less uncomfortable. There is much to be said about this painful and then pain-free process.

Pascale Petit

I met Pascale by attending one of her courses at The Poetry School a few years ago back when I was living in London. The session was called ‘Life Class for Poets’, and focused on generating poetry from image, be they still pictures or a moving life model, encouraging us to free write whatever they inspired within us.  I remember I produced some pretty weird and wonderful pieces, which I really should make the time to revisit and develop further.

I’m currently using Pascale’s Towards a Collection course booklet I brought and downloaded from The Poetry School website (I tried to enroll for the face-to-face course but by popular demand it was over-subscribed, so I was thrilled to find I could still access the materials).  For anyone looking to do this it’s an invaluable tool, and I particularly like the simple exercise of surrounding yourself with all the poems you’re thinking of including to look for themes, patterns, and a general sense of how they look next to one another. You quickly see what works and what doesn’t, those that belong and those that belong somewhere else.

This was the name of an Adelaide Fringe show we saw last night. And quite possibly the best one we’ve seen.

It is, in essence, the love story of Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn, with the central protagonist depression, a mental illness suffered by Tim, which unbelievably can still be taboo today.

Bryony and Tim

It begins with how they met, moved in together and then Bryony’s discovery of Tim’s medication hidden in a rucksack. And then everything unravels – the story, the set and the couple – as they act out the effect Tim’s illness has on them both. Throughout the performance we hear snippets of recording as Tim explains his seemingly benign childhood, when and how his behaviour changed and the impact it had, culminating in a breakdown at the dinner table one night and his mother sending him off to the doctors. Tim is quickly prescribed anti-depressants with little information, let alone anything about the side effects they will have, and remains on these for six years, covertly, before meeting Bryony.

It was a powerful performance, punctuated with humour, dance, song, interesting head wear and the kind of raw emotion rarely seen these days because it was real, it was happening and it is there. And this rawness connected the audience, an almost tangible sense of acceptance and understanding because let’s face it, depression is not something most people can, like or will talk about – it’s best kept in a box. Open it we say.

To help celebrate Mental Health Week in South Australia, Mindshare hosted “HeadRead” on Wednesday night for the entrants and winners of their recent “When Words Come to Life” poetry competition to perform some of their work.

 

poetry

 

The evening was brilliantly compered by Jude Aquilina, a wonderful poet who has published several fantastic collections and Nina Pearce, an MHCSA administrator who has been working tirelessly to help coordinate events throughout the week.

I was the second to read, and managed to do so with confidence and without issue!  I read alongside new and established poets, some with very poignant stories to tell, but all demonstrating a battle with the self and the impact of an unhealthy state of mind.  The whole experience felt almost cathartic, a real sense of opening up and removing the mask that some are better maintaining than others.  This took courage, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.

The session finished with showing the films of the winning entries (lookout for a little black dog, images courtesy of wonderful artist Fran Sherman).  All were very different, a beautiful kaleidoscope of images and words, again with some  very powerful moments that left an imprint long after the screen went dark, like closing your eyes on the sun.

It felt good to read my work, and to network, and share and listen, definitely an aspect to help maintain my own poetic mental health, and one that will almost certainly provide inspiration for future pieces.

And today is World Mental Health Day!  So take some time out to check in on your current state and make that mental health promise to yourself now.  It can be as easy as just taking the time to look after yourself, which could be getting more sleep, regular exercise, eating healthier meals but essentially, do whatever makes you happy.

smiley face