How can creative writing help individuals struggling with their mental health?

Each year for National Poetry Day, third-year mental health nursing students explore the use of creative writing, in particular poetry, as an alternative medium for mental health nurses to consider using with clients in clinical practice.

Four students studying at a table with laptop

The use of creative writing in its various forms has been seen to resonate with our mental health and wellbeing. Many individuals have, and currently use, the written word to help express their emotions and experiences to develop a deeper level of self-awareness. This in turn does offer some support towards becoming more resilient in the future.

How do our mental health nurses use creative writing?

Over the past few years, our mental health nursing team have incorporated sessions looking at the power of ‘narratives’. Looking at developing awareness and appreciation of creative story writing, in particular poetry. We look at how this can offer an alternative medium for mental health nurses to consider using with clients in clinical practice. With the express purpose of seeing beyond the ‘activity’ itself and recognising its therapeutic value. These sessions coincide every year with National Poetry Day. This is the annual mass celebration which takes place on the first Thursday of October and encourages anyone to enjoy, discover and share poetry. This year theme was Vision.

We start with a discussion and presentation on the potential uses of creative writing within mental health nursing. We recognise examples of many famous authors and poets who have struggled with their mental health, but found solace within the written word. We encourage our third-year mental health nursing students to try to create a piece of poetry and to experience first-hand how poetry can offer a deeper spiritual meaning to ourselves and the world around us. Here are some wonderful examples of this year’s poems from our students to inspire you to give it a go.

 Boy, Boy in the outdoors

Poem by Ella Morley, third-year mental health nursing student

There once was a young boy,
Who didn’t know which way to turn,
He was so stubborn and fearful,
He didn’t want to grow or learn.
 
Knowledge and wisdom were given,
Help was at his feet,
But the poor young boy just couldn’t believe, 
That life could be so sweet…
 
He hid, he stayed silent.
“I Can’t”, were the only words he would breathe.
The thoughts racing through his head
‘I hate the world; I just want to leave.’ 
 
As time passed, the now man, has a new view on life,
He has built a home, has children, a wife.
He sees now that he has a purpose, a reason to be here,
A reason, that the poor young boy, just couldn’t make clear.
 
Even now, with all he has, the man spends days in despair,
He and his family wondering,
‘How can this be fair?’ 
 
The Man knows now to get outside, 
Breathe in the air, smell the freshly cut grass.
He knows now, after all that,
It Will Pass.

 Autumn , Autumnal views

A Quiet Rage by Stacey Moore, third-year mental health nursing student 

It started with a dream, a far-off vision
Of which I have no control, I cannot make that decision.
 
The silence here is deafening, yet I’m screaming as loud as I can
In the hopes that blindness will hear, for this is who I am.
 
This world you have created, with complacency as your virtue
Ignorance is no recommendation; it should not be an attribute to pursue.
 
I am not a statistic to be counted, nor a problem that needs to be solved
Times have changed just look at how far we have come, look at how we’ve evolved.
 
I once had a dream, that turned into a vision
It is not for me to control; how can I make that decision?
 
You want to live in a normal society, yet normal is just an illusion,
What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly, you’re vision a webbed delusion.
 
Take this message and heed my advice, or do with it what you will
Your wilful ignorance is what creates a world so fragile and so ill.
 
Autumn teaches us that change can be beautiful, so we need to work together,
to educate the uneducated and make a change to last forever.
 
There once was a dream that with time, became a vision
Together we can take control of it, but only you can make that decision.

 Cows, Cow in a field

Poem by Sera Jenkins, third-year mental health nursing student

Peaceful, tranquil, and beautiful. 
This is how I would explain the area which I live. 
Luscious views of green fields covered in multi-coloured flowers. 
The smell of freshly cut grass. 
The noise of cattle grazing and sheep chasing each other. 
 
As I walk my dogs, I see the flowers bloom into amazing colours and blossom into beautiful sights. 
This is where I learnt to cherish and respect life. 
Watching the flowers bloom remind me of how we can grow as people and turn into something beautiful. 
 
In order for a flower to bloom with such beauty, the flower must work hard in gathering the nutrients that it needs, and it may experience damaging weather.
This damaging weather reflets the hard times in life, the unplanned experiences.
Yet the flower survived and bloomed into something truly amazing.
The life of a flower is only short, yet it may bring so much joy to the people which come across it.
 
This is the same for every person that comes into your life. 
You are unaware of the joy you bring to others, as others are unaware of the joy, they bring to you. 
 
Now this flower may live a happy life in the field where it has grown, or it may be cut, to end up in a vase to lighten up someone’s day. 
No matter where the flower may depart, when they have lost their petals, this flower has lived its ‘life’ creating happiness, joy, and memories, and so shall we.

 Gateway building, Lancaster Gateway building

Seen/Unseen by David Rawsthorn, third-year mental health nursing student

Pictures pass around the world in 0.80 seconds,
8K/4320p.
An industry of people advertising nothing but themselves,
Seeking the warm glow of a stranger's 1s and 0s.
A couple of virtual bucks in the virtual hat.
While she sits alone,
The sun beading across magnolia walls.
Year after year.
The son can't quite squeeze in a visit,
Until she has already left for the final time.
And so she departs, unobserved,
Save for a square inch in the Gazette.
 

Are you interested in studying mental health nursing?

We offer a BSc Mental Health Nursing course and a MSc Nursing with a pathway in Mental Health (Pre-Registration) course. Here at the University of Cumbria we will enable you to gain all of the knowledge and practical skills you need to become a confident and qualified Nursing and Midwifery Council registered mental health nurse. It's time for you to make a difference, visit our course page today for more information on the course, call 0845 606 1144 or email enquirycentre@cumbria.ac.uk to speak to an expert and plan your career.