What's your mental health journey?

Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola has launched #MyMentalHealthJourney, a campaign to encourage  young people to use poetry to share their experiences with mental health.

One in eight children has a diagnosable mental health condition and many more go through times when they struggle to cope. Poetry is often the thing we turn to when we need some comfort so Theresa wants to encourage all young people to use poetry, to share your mental health journey and discover that there are other people out there facing similar circumstances.

Thank you to everyone who took part in this campaign. Please do take a moment to read a selection of the poems we received below…

For advice on facing mental health issues, there is a wealth of advice and online resources provided by our friends at YoungMinds.


Writing your poem

Theresa has some top tips for writing your poem:

1. What are you writing about? – It helps to know what you are writing about before putting poem to paper, or fingers to keypads. It is easy to get trapped in our big ideas, the campaign is focusing on our mental health Journey, decide what that means for you! You could capture a moment in your life? Or you could describe the journey as a whole? Or you could write about a part of the journey that is important e.g healing, growth? Also the poem doesn’t have to be about your own personal experience, so don’t feel any pressure! It does help to have an idea of what you want to share.

2. Create memorable imagery – The poems that will be shared as part of campaign are quite short, try using descriptions that create interesting and memorable images! Think of a different way to describe the mental health journey you are highlighting and celebrating. For example, you could describe it like a train journey, or plane journey, or you can use specific imagery that you like e.g. space, nature, video games etc.

3. Have fun writing many drafts – Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t pleased with the first poem you write, practice makes you better! Also, sometimes it takes a few drafts to get the real gems for the final poem.

4. Make use of your poetry toolbox – Are you familiar with simile, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia? The list goes on and on. The poetry toolbox is so exciting! Maybe try writing lines using one of them you like, and if you like the line you could use it in the poem, or that line alone could be the poem!

5. A poem doesn’t always have to rhyme – Whenever I teach in schools the first thing most students ask is ‘Miss does my poem have to rhyme?’ The answer is no, but if you love rhyme then go for it!

6. Read other poems – Follow the hashtag and read other poems for inspiration! The internet provides such a wide resource, you can watch poems being performed on YouTube, or read poems online, or if you have books even better! Sometimes the best inspiration and learning comes from taking in other poems. This is a wonderful opportunity not just to write, but to get to read and hear more poems too.


Poetry is an amazing way to share how we see the world, and realise we’re not alone in how we see it.

Theresa Lola, Young People's Laureate for London

Project Poems by Theresa Lola and poets across the world

Two Photographs

Theresa Lola

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Two Photographs

In the older photograph
my eyes are two frowning pockets,
and my chest only housed knots and clauses.
I used fast shutter speeds to capture photographs
before sadness spilled into the frame.
I was never one to track progress, but today I did.

Before taking that selfie, I bent the sun
toward my face and poured it into my void
like cement filling the cracks of a wall.
My troubled teenage years lingered in my throat
like a shoplifter in a supermarket aisle.

What a difference 5 years makes, today
my skin is no longer a carousel of masks.
Praises be to a thick syrup of therapy,
a puree of prayer, peelings of coping mechanisms.
a cup of my mother’s honeyed voice

In the second photograph
The white space is filled with a safe noise.
My shoulders are firm and upward,
My eyes are two glowing pebbles.
Not even an edit can smudge this moment.

© Theresa Lola, 2019


Brittany Roberts

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One day soon 
Let the guilt and self-blame we wear – 
Willingly somehow – 
Like an ugly crown of thorns 
And blossom 
And transform into the 
Halo we deserve: 
A beacon of 
Light and 
Nestled in our hair.  


Let the weight of the past 
that clings to our back 
And presses down 
upon our bowed spine take 
Root, and sprout
That keep us afloat in the here and now, 
Launch us towards 
A future 
Unblemished by 
Echoes we would rather not 
Have ringing in our ears.  

From those scars – still fresh – 
Run deep 
Beneath that patchwork of sticking 
plasters on our skin, 
[From which 
Still bleed]  

rivulets flow; 
They are our lifelines, from which 
Healing will come.  


Let us erase the definition we have
Created for ourselves –
Those confines for our
Heart and soul –
Reclaim our bodies with
Self-love and

And finally 

We find

We are at peace. 


© Brittany Roberts 2019

Man Up


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Last night

i cried for the first time in five years

a poem started like;

all i can do is try to survive

hours sink into days

watered months grow into years


hate birthdays

new years

solitude anniversaries

occasions not to celebrate


my spirit, a bluebird pecking on gravestones

searching for life

our death, a working progress

conception, the most alive I will ever be

i plan on dying in the pages

run your fingers over my mouth


my lips play chords if you read the notes

then I stopped.


as men, we spend the majority of our life

trying not to cry

you wonder why we die younger

all our life told to man up

that really means limit your human emotions

be stronger

why would I ever want to man up

the strongest people I know

are all



© Stein



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I spent too many years,
For the jeers that I was not perfect.

I cried too many tears,
For the sneers that I was too perfect.

But I have washed the crushing smears,
Conquered the possessive fears…

There is no such thing as perfect.



My River Recovery


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Rivers of thoughts, run in my head. 

Once clear liquid, but water turns red. 

Actions painted out, sence of a play.  

Negitivity doesn’t, leave in the day.  


Poisoned words, lead to scars on the skin.  

A tally chart of, the times that they win.  

To bring back sorrow, I look at my arm.  

For I found comfort, within the self harm.  


To get rid of toxic stuff, in and out your head.  

You need another river, to rid of the red.  

It’s hard to recover, don’t let pain win. 

For a need for help love, isn’t a sin.  


© Melantha


Elspeth Wilson

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Standing in a love-island swimsuit adorned

with saltwater; more holes than surface

untouchable by anything other than the sea

itself. In the heatless light of the changing

room, I met my own eye full-frontal and told

each part of me that I could hold it. Everything

is unthinkable until it is so; my sixteen-year

old self couldn’t see a world where more of

my existence could be a good thing. Tendrils

still reach for the stigmata of my mind and

something lurks in the depths of my stomach

at night, but among the waves I learn that I

built this body and I can live in it. That bodies

are homes and this one is cosy. Put the kettle

on when you get in; everything turns out



© Elspeth Wilson

Mental health advice and resources

If you are struggling with mental ill-health then there are resources and independent advice available from young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds, including their YoungMinds Crisis Messenger.

If you need to speak to someone urgently, then you can call Childline confidentially and for free on 0800 1111.

For parents looking for advise and support, YoungMinds run a free Parents Helpline, available on 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4pm).


you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.

Warsan Shire, Young Poet Laureate for London, 2012-13

Project Partners




Headed up by Jeff Boardman and Peter Hellicar who bring a wealth of knowledge across the disciplines of concepts, creative, marketing, strategy and data. BUREAU is keen to use its experience and knowledge to make a difference in culture and causes. They have chosen to steer their skills and team to work on things in culture with organisations and brands whilst championing and partnering with causes they admire.

YoungMinds is one of the UK’s leading children’s mental health charities committed to improving the mental health and emotional well-being of children and empowering their parents and carers. For further information please visit


My troubled teenage years lingered in my throat
like a shoplifter in a supermarket aisle.

Theresa Lola, Young People's Laureate for London