Updated: Mar 20
Hello me lovers,
In this country, it seems there's a lot we can't agree on - is it 'scone' as in 'gone' or as in 'bone'? Should you put sugar in tea? Is a poem a poem if it doesn't rhyme (to which we reply, 'Of course it is!')? - but something we can all agree on is that things have been pretty pants recently. Our heads and hearts have been put through the ringer as we've been separated from those we love most, had to start accessing absolutely everything via a Zoom link, and not been able to access vital in-person services. Excuse the cliché, but our worlds have all but literally been turned upside down, and we've been left reeling.
For reasons that will become clear over the next week or so, when I'm hoping to have shared a post telling you all more about the amazing person that was Maggie, this competition isn't just about promoting the power of poetry. This competition is also about promoting positive mental health in young people. For many years, this has been a cause close to my heart, as I've recovered from significant mental illness in order to be living the life I live today (well, the life I lived before there was a pandemic, and am very much looking forward to hopefully getting back to *fingers crossed* soon enough!). Since meeting my phenomenal poet friend Anna-May and learning about her experiences, and in particular, about her daughter Maggie, being able to use my love of poetry to reach out to other young people emotionally has become all the more important to me. Of course, it's incredibly important to Anna-May too. So we aren't just here for you as young poets. We're here for the whole of you, for the brilliant individuals you are.
Here are some helplines that you might find useful - pandemic or no pandemic, diagnosed mental health condition or no diagnosed mental health condition. These wonderful organisations are available as and when you need them.
Mind is a charity aiming to ensure that no one has to face a mental health problem alone. They can assist you in finding support for your mental health, getting to grips with a mental health diagnosis, or simply just providing information on mental health, which is, even nowadays, deeply misunderstood. Mind also have local branches, which provide support to the people who need it most. Find out more here: https://www.mind.org.uk/ (Here is Mind's page specifically for those aged 18 and under: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/for-children-and-young-people/ )
Papyrus is a charity that aims to raise awareness of young suicide, and prevent it. For individuals under the age of 35, Papyrus provides a Hopeline, which young people can call if they are having suicidal thoughts, or those who care for them can call if they are concerned and need advice and support. They also run suicide prevention projects within communities to provide much-needed education, and campaign in order to change national social policy to reduce the occurrence of young suicide. Find out more here: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/ And, on any day of the year, between 9am and midnight, you can call the Hopeline on 0800 068 41 41, text on 07860039967, or email on email@example.com. There's even a web chat service you can access here: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/hopelineuk-webchat/
Samaritans are a confidential service where you can chat about anything you're going through. It's a common misconception that you have to be suicidal to contact the Samaritans - whether or not you've had thoughts about not wanting to live, Samaritans provide a non-judgemental listening ear to anyone who needs one, for any reason. Find out more here: https://www.samaritans.org/ You can call them any time - day or night - from any phone, for free on 116 123. You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and they'll respond within 24 hours, or write them a letter in order to get your thoughts and emotions out on the page - I'm sure a lot of you reading this will know how therapeutic that can be! - and they've now also got a brilliant app you can download and use to keep track of how you're feeling and access self-help recommendations.
Childline is there for any young person, up until their 19th birthday. As they say, 'whatever your worry, it's better out than in' - you can speak to them about anything worrying you, whether you think it's big or small. You can give them a call on 0800 1111, or have an online chat with a counsellor. Find out more here: https://www.childline.org.uk/ (Things are working a little differently due to Covid-19, but Childline are still there for you if you need them.)
Self-Injury Support is there for those who identify as women or girls, to provide support over phone, email, text or web chat. At the moment, there's a lot of information on their homepage about coping with poor mental health and self-injury during the pandemic, so anyone who self-harms as a coping strategy can read and feel visible. They also provide education, training and resources regarding self-harm, to raise awareness help tackle the stigma surrounding the subject, which many don't feel able to talk about. Find out more here: https://www.selfinjurysupport.org.uk/
CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) is leading a movement against suicide. In particular, it addresses male suicide, and runs campaigns to get men talking about their feelings, such as The Best Man Project and #DontBottleItUp. It provides support for anyone who needs it via the CALM helpline on 0800 58 58 58, or the CALM webchat which can be easily found on their website. Both of these services are open between 5am and midnight, every day of the year. Find out more here: https://www.thecalmzone.net/
Please do all you can to stay safe and well, keep your loved ones close (even if it is via Zoom) and allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. Just because you think someone has it worse, it doesn't mean you can't be sad, or frightened, or angry, or lonely. And never forget: you are enough. Not to mention talented - the poems we've received so far are excellent, and we can't wait to read more.
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