It’s Mental Health Week And This Poem Says So Much

Mental Health Week runs in early October, with dates varied depending on location. During this time, YFH will use its platform to raise awareness on the issue. Get help here.  If you’d like to share your story, anonymously or openly, click here. It will help someone.


Written by Emm Roy in 2014, ‘The First Step’ is a collection of thoughts on surviving: surviving the world, surviving mental illness, and surviving the thoughts in your own head. It includes notes and poetry. Some of it is happy. Some of it is motivational. Some of it is empowering. All of it is honest. The below is an excerpt from the 71 page book, a poem that describes so well the illness that we often misconceive.

“Mental illness

People assume you aren’t sick
unless they see the sickness on your skin
like scars forming a map of all the ways you’re hurting.

My heart is a prison of Have you tried?s
Have you tried exercising? Have you tried eating better?
Have you tried not being sad, not being sick?
Have you tried being more like me?
Have you tried shutting up?

Yes, I have tried. Yes, I am still trying,
and yes, I am still sick.

Sometimes monsters are invisible, and
sometimes demons attack you from the inside.
Just because you cannot see the claws and the teeth
does not mean they aren’t ripping through me.
Pain does not need to be seen to be felt.

Telling me there is no problem
won’t solve the problem.

This is not how miracles are born.
This is not how sickness works.”

Having read the poem, one of our associates surmised her feelings rather succinctly.

“This poem felt like a kick in the guts – not just because I’ve been on the receiving end of the exact same misunderstanding and condescension in response to my own struggles with sadness, but because I realised I have done the same thing to others. There is a real frustration in seeing a friend spiral into mental illness, someone whom you otherwise consider so brilliant and empowered, and believe they could do anything in the world if only they could get out of their own heads. I have felt this myself and have witnessed my own compassion morph into impatience, something I’m a little ashamed to admit. But that’s the truth of it, isn’t it? We can never really accept sadness for what it is, because we don’t want to feel it – and hearing a friend, or someone who speaks out about their mental illness, say that they want to be happy, but they just can’t be, feels like a form of psychic rebellion. We’re terrified of not being ok, so we flinch at being told we’re not.”


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