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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.

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

Mental Health Week in South Australia starts on 5 October and there are a range of events to get involved in across the State – breakfasts, book launches, walks and even “Odd Socks Day”, to promote the fact that we all have “odd” days!

 

OYM Logo

 

The week is organised by the Mental Health Coalition for South Australia (MHCSA) and will begin with a balloon launch to symbolise the “letting go” of the stigma still associated with this often invisible condition, with the purpose of the week being to raise awareness of the impact it can have on the daily lives of people, their family and carers.

Mindshare are helping to host the creative events, which include “HeadRead” taking place on Wednesday 8 October at the Coffee Pot on Rundle Mall, where entrants and winners of their recent “When Words Come to Life” Poetry Competition will perform some of their work alongside the short films based on the eight winning poems.

I have selected 3 pieces to read for the event, as my winning poem will be heard during the film I helped to create.  These poems convey a variety of states in respect of the delicate balancing act of the self with its mental well-being. This will actually only be the third poetry performance I have ever done, but I am very aware of the public profile poets require today, even if they do prefer privacy and solitude!  So I will get in some practice and keep my eyes open for further opportunities to “speak” rather than just write my work.

After a lull in creativity, I was thrilled to learn that I am one of eight category winners in the above competition recently run by Mindshare. The prize is turning your poem into a digital film (you may recall I won something similar with Mindshare last year so they must like my style!).

When words come to life

So last weekend I attended a workshop working with a small production team to storyboard my poem and develop it into a short film. We explored elements of image, music, breath and movement, and the place you have to get to when reading your piece aloud. This was new to me as ‘speaking’ my work is not something I often do (and when I do it’s to myself), but it made me focus on exactly what I wanted to convey. Something else new was working on an Apple Mac! Being a Windows-based girl this required quite a bit of patience and time (and not just mine!), so I am very thankful to the Mindshare team, Tracey Davies and Mona Khizam, and also to the wonderful illustrator Fran Sherman who produced all the images for my piece.

The films will be aired to the public during Mental Health Week 5-11 October, and I for one can’t wait to see the final cuts!