Did you know that one in five people will suffer from a mental health issue at some point during their lifetime? That means some of your friends and family--including you!--may be struggling with one right now. Read the action guide below for facts about mental health, and to learn how you can use poetry to address mental health in your life and community.
- How. Mental illness affects the way a person’s brain works and how they react to certain events. Sometimes people are born with a mental illness, like bipolar disorder. Other times, certain events like being bullied at school or overall stress can trigger a mental illness. This can result in an eating disorder, depression, or suicidal thoughts for example.
- Who. Some people who have a high risk of developing a mental health problem have low self-esteem or hate the way they look. Other people at risk include GLBTQ teens who are often bullied for their sexual orientation, or teens or do not have a stable support system like family or close friends. Experiencing a big life change--like moving to a new country, losing a parent or close friend, experiencing war or violence, or parents returning from war--can also put someone at risk for developing mental health problems.
- Background. A person’s race or class can impact how they are affected by a mental illness. For example, some people can’t afford mental health care—even if they have insurance. In some communities, mental health problems carry a stigma that makes it more difficult for people to talk about their problems and seek help. Further still, it can be hard for people who don’t speak English to find a provider who they can communicate with; for some immigrants, it’s even more difficult to find a provider who understands their culture.
- Know how to help. People who know someone with a mental health problem often do not take notice of the signs, or are too late to help. You can help yourself and others by understanding the facts about mental health and knowing how to find help.
- You are not alone. If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, remember that you are NEVER alone. Talk to an adult--like a school counselor or health care provider--about finding help in your own community.
- Poetry! What are your experiences with mental illness? Are you affected by the stigmas that surround it? One of the best ways to process these feelings to write about them with your poetry, just like these poets did.
- Inform. Now that you have the facts, it’s time to inform others about mental illnesses. Why not start with poetry? Post your poem about mental health to PowerPoetry.org and you could help change someone’s life--or your own--for the better.