Silent Voice

There are many advantages to expressing yourself creatively. Have you ever wondered why for example poetry and art is so expressive, why it brings about such strong feelings in the person reading/seeing it? When you’re angry, upset, frustrated – or happy for that matter – do you ever grab a pen and just write it all down? A letter to a friend, a journal entry, a poem…

We were asked by WoPoWriMo to write something about the advantages of using poetry to express creatively some of the struggles faced by those suffering from mental health problems. Many of those reading this will already be poets – experienced or budding – so you will already be aware of the advantages writing creatively can bring to your own mental wellbeing, whether you suffer from mental ill health or not.

There are many studies highlighting the positive effects of writing or expressing oneself creatively to overcome difficult times – and indeed art therapy seems to be increasingly popular. That creative outlets are so encouraged in many branches of care speaks volumes to its effectiveness. An example of such a study is Mcardle, S. & R. Byrt (2001) “Fiction, poetry and mental health: expressive and therapeutic uses of literature” in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, Volume 8 Issue 6, Pages 517 – 524; however there is an abundance of literature out there supporting these advantages.

The National Self Harm Network’s ‘Silent Voice’ poetry book is an anthology of poems written by members of the charity’s support forum. It is a collection of works, written by those with personal experience of self harm, exploring a variety of topics and feelings. It is a collection, which encompasses both the positive and negative emotions which may be felt, exploring both the despair of darker days, as well as hope for the future. As stated in the foreword, it’s a book in which ‘the reader is invited to follow a journey from the darkest time through recovery from self harm – through times of sadness and happy moments, with humour and compassion.

“Self-harm happens when we can’t communicate our feelings, when words fail us, and pain is written out instead upon the body. But words don’t fail these young writers; they deal honestly with the pain, frustration and anger that lie behind such desperate acts. I hope the writing itself has helped them come to terms with their feelings; I’m sure it can go on to help others, whether self-harmers themselves, or the people who love them.” – Jo Baker, author of ‘Offcomer’,’ The Mermaid’s Child’ and ‘The Telling’, and lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University

The idea for the book was conceived from the support forum’s Creativity board, a place in which people are encouraged to find alternative outlets for emotions, through the use of poetry, words and art. Self harm is complex and an individual’s relationship with self harm will vary greatly. However the charity takes a pro-active stance in trying to help members find an alternative form of expression and outlet for emotions and believe that activities like poetry can be an effective aid in helping a person move towards recovery and help reduce the incidences of self harm.

We have seen from many of our online members how writing – in general, although poetry seems to be the most popular way of expressing oneself on our Creativity board – has helped them express some of the thoughts and feelings they never dared talk about elsewhere. It’s helped many come out of their shell and eventually express themselves (through poetry or otherwise) to family, friends or health professionals which has meant they have been able to get the help they need and deserve.

It is hoped that Silent Voice will highlight the link between creativity and mental health, in a positive way, highlighting a productive outlet for emotions as well as raising awareness and understanding around the subject of self harm.

You can purchase the book for £5.99 including free postage and packaging within the UK. Please contact us for details of postage and packaging outside of the UK.

Cheques and postal orders can be sent to PO Box 7264, Nottingham NG1 6WJ, made payable to National Self Harm Network. You can also pay via PayPal: if paying by PayPal please note that you are required to also send an email to to inform us that you have made a payment.