The Mighty Logo

8 Brave Poets Who've Put Mental Health in the Spotlight

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

To honor National Poetry Month, we wanted to celebrate modern poets who’ve put mental illness and mental health in the spotlight. They say out loud words we’re used to hearing in whispers, and give us permission to tell our own stories — however we chose to.

Thanks to these poets for sharing their words with us. Missed someone you love? Tell us about them in the comments below.

1. Neil Hilborn

Who he is: Neil Hilborn made waves when his performance of “OCD,” a slam poem about falling in love when you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, went viral. He also writes about living with bipolar disorder. A College National Poetry Slam Champion, his debut full-length poetry collection is called “Our Outnumbered Days.”

Our favorite lines: 

The first time I saw her, everything went blankAll the ticks, all the constantly refreshing images, just disappeared / When you have obsessive compulsive disorder, you don’t really get quiet moments

2. Blythe Baird

Who she is: Blythe Baird represented Chicago as the youngest competitor at the National Poetry Slam. Her poem, “When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny” tells the story of when she developed an eating disorder as a teen.

Our favorite lines:

When you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story / So when I evaporated, of course, everyone congratulated me on getting healthy / Girls at school who never spoke to me before stopped me in the hallway to ask how I did it / I say, ‘I am sick.’ / They say, ‘No, you’re an inspiration.’ / How could I not fall in love with my illness?

3. Yashi Brown

Who she is: Yashi Brown is an author, poet, speaker and active leader in the mental health community. She writes about living with bipolar disorder. Her recent book of poems is called “Black Daisy in a White Limousine.

Our favorite lines:

I’m severely severe in all clinical severities / Those severely large psychiatric books with new severe terms every day have to say that I wouldn’t know them if they ran up and severely slapped me in the face / They’re like unidentified flying objects. 

4. Sabrina Benaim

Who she is: Sabrina Benaim is a writer, performance and teaching artist, whose home base is Toronto. She enjoys breaking down stigma, which she does in her piece about explaining depression to her mother.

Our favorite lines:

Mom, my depression is a shapeshifter / One day it is as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear / the next it’s the bear / One those days I play dead until the bear leaves me alone. 

5. A.S. Minor

Who he is: A.J. Minor is a United States Army veteran, TedX speaker and mental health advocate. He writes about his borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder to show others they are not alone.

Our favorite lines:

Sometimes I’m drowning so deep in an ocean of medications / that all I want is to feel like me again / I want to pull him out of the water, breathe life into his lungs / and tell him, ‘No, you can’t give in.’

6. Taz

Who she is: Taz is a spoken word poet from the United Kingdom. She writes honest, confessional pieces about her experiences with depression and self-doubt.

Our favorite lines: 

For as long as I can remember / I’ve always had this void in my life / This empty feeling deep, deep inside of me that you can’t quite shake / no matter how hard you try / It’s what consumed and eats away at you/  You have great happy moments and just when you think things are fine / Surprise / The feeling always comes back.

7. Jeanann Verlee

Who she is: Jeanann Verlee is a poet, editor, and former punk rocker. She currently lives in New York City. She is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow and the author of “Said the Manic to the Muse” and “Racing Hummingbirds.” In her poem, “The Mania Speaks,” she writes from the perspective of her mania.

Our favorite lines:

I gifted you the will of gun powder / a match stick tongue / and all you managed was a shredded sweater and a police warning? / You should be legend by now

8. Bharath Divakar

Who he is: Bharath Divakar is a spoken word poet and a mentor at National Youth Poetry Slam in India.

Our favorite lines:

Dear Depression / you’re my oldest friend of 12 years / and you hate to be alone / so you brought along sickly friends and cousins of yours / panic, anxiety, mania, social phobia and made me believe my life was a party / a party where I was the cake people would leave half-eaten on paper plates.

9. *BONUS* Our Mighty Contributors

I Am Not Like You: Life With Mental Illness

Explaining My Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Poetry

Hello, I Am a Person: A Poem About Anxiety

My Life With Anxiety: A Poem

The Thing About Depression Is…

Originally published: April 8, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home