Last week I ran a poetry workshop in an Adult Psychiatric Rehab hospital for World Mental Health Day. Wonderful people – wonderful poems – used a variety of prompts and read poems by Frank O’Hara and William Carlos Williams for good measure! A wonderful woman called Sarah set it all up.
Conversations ranged from memories – holidays, favourite food, families etc.
They were all keen to hear new poems as well as to write free verse, poetry in stanzas, experimental haiku etc. They were prepared to share some of their writing in the group and a buffet lunch was included!
I know something about mental health not least because I have suffered from depression myself from time to time. but I recovered. These episodes prompted an interested in therapies and self help. Eventually I studied to become a counsellor and several years later a Master NLP practitioner and a hypnotherapist. I worked with two charities and a for Primary Care Trust.
Mental health issues often occur quite unexpectedly. Years ago two members of my own family committed suicide
The first death, affected the whole family some of whom never really got over it. Suicide was also very much a taboo subject.
I hadn’t written very much poetry at that time but remember I wrote a poem to my uncle, the grieving dad. It was something to do with picking pink roses to take to the funeral and he wrote an incredibly touching one back. I learned much later he had never written a poem before.
The second person attempted suicide in midlife, he was older, with a family but divorced. He got in touch from a psychiatric hospital. He had not told anyone else and after being discharged we became close friends. He asked me to promise not to tell his parents about it in their lifetime, a promise that I kept. He died of natural causes some time ago
Although I am not particularly religious I remember the phrase ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ My old granny was a methodist and always quoting godly things!
I guess we are all vulnerable.
Since my partner and I moved to the south coast we have been aware of two more suicides. A local artist killed himself in his camper van eight years ago and another man tried to commit suicide late at night with on overdose and drink on the beach. Luckily I heard about it and called the emergency services in time!
Ok people get ill but I think some situations are aggravated by isolation. There has been a significant breakdown in people feeling part of a community and looking out for each other’ in general.
We were aware when we moved here that people have lived here most or all of their lives and already had a network. Why we wondered should they include older newcomers? As someone said ‘without a dog or the school run it was never going to be easy!’
Fortunately we inherited friendly neighbours, We didn’t need to be close friends but just ‘look out for each other.’ Later we shared informal social events. We are also lucky that we have a family, sons, daughters in law and grandsons who visit us. Eventually we joined things and met new people and created a ‘social network’ as it is called these days. After a few years two of the original neighbours died but we found it natural to hold out the hand of friendship to the new people.
Looking out for each other is surely fairly easy and can take many forms, as simple as initiating a small conversation on the bus! Dare I say also using social media in a supportive way!
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