How Poetry Can Teach Us About Mental Health

Poetry and mental health go hand-in-hand for so many of us because poetry gives our hearts a place to express our experiences in a healing way. Poems offer us a safe space to process our pain and vocalize our hardships. Poetry is a beautiful gift we get to share that has so much to teach us about the topic of mental health. 


1. Poetry ignites our compassion and helps us see others in their struggles. 

Poetry evokes emotion in its readers, and it provides an opportunity to open up through vulnerable storytelling and honest reflection. When we read a deeply personal poem, it challenges us to see the world from the writer’s perspective. And even though we may struggle with different things or battle different hardships, there is a vulnerability to poetry that calls us to compassion for one another. 


2. Poetry offers a therapeutic outlet for processing emotions. 

Journaling and writing are great tools when processing pain or challenging circumstances. Writing poetry, in particular, is a great option—and it is not reserved only for established poets and writers. Poetry teaches us that our words matter and our experiences often shape them. Poetry gives us the opportunity to create art out of the things we’ve been through. It teaches us that our mental health is worth fighting for, and sometimes, the best starting place is pen and paper. 


3. Poetry helps give us the words we don’t know how to express otherwise. 

Poetry is a powerful shout into the darkness that says, “you are not alone.” Oftentimes, we find ourselves resonating with certain poems that so eloquently express the feelings we didn’t know how to convey. Poetry can serve as a starting point as we try and open up our hearts to conversations about our own mental health challenges. When we don’t have the right words to say, we can look to a poem to help us find our way and navigate difficult conversations. Poetry teaches us that we deeply desire connection with one another, and poems provide us with the proof that we are never navigating our struggles alone. 


4. Poetry raises awareness for mental illnesses and the importance of mental health. 

Poetry is a highly personal and vulnerable art form. Every time a poet decides to share their experience with mental health, it helps encourage others to do the same. Our journeys are different, and our mental health struggles may manifest themselves differently, but every story and poem helps us to gain a deeper understanding of another’s struggles. Every poem is a brave declaration to the world saying, “Pay attention. This matters.” And those are the words everyone needs to hear about their mental health: it matters. Poems help prioritize mental health as a topic that is always worth talking about and deeply important to share. This type of advocacy through poetry can help remind us that our mental health is worth protecting. 


Poetry has so much to teach us about mental health if we open our hearts to its message. We can learn how deeply our connections to one another matter and how we can have compassion for each other’s stories. Poetry teaches us that words can be an integral part of healing and that other poets can help us find them when we don’t have the strength to speak. And, lastly, poetry teaches us about coming together to normalize the fight for mental health: for ourselves and for our community.