Mental Health Poetry Competition


To mark University Mental Health and Well-being Day, taking place on Wednesday 20 February 2013, we asked for your poems on the subject of 'voices'.

Open to all students, whether you have experienced a mental illness or not, prizes are available for the top five most thought provoking poems. The entries made are as follows:


Do You Remember Mad Tom?

Do you remember Mad Tom?
In the days before the smoking ban,
When yellow smoke stained the
White walls of the Greene Man?

Do you remember Mad Tom?
He’d feed his beer to a blind Black Dog,
That no one ever saw,
Beyond the heavy thick smog?

Do you remember Mad Tom?
Who said Black Dog would one day bite back,
As we stroked smoky air,
And laughed because he’d cracked?

Do you remember Mad Tom?
When he heard the bell for closing time,
None laughed at Black Dog then,
Instead they all just cried?

Do you remember Mad Tom?
It appears that Black Dog got his bone,
And fear’s now a dog bark,
On a lonely walk home.

The Invisible Man

Crowds walking by, below the dark window
Stained, matted with pain, constant aches;
The Lifeless drip of acid rain lives on my sill—
Far above the concrete row of floating eyes.

They see me beyond soot-grey, unclean, unwashed
Through a window clear, yet my view untended,
Angle unchanged, hidden behind the dark glass still—
This caked, rough patch of grit-laden brown earth.

And so they look but cannot truly see the man
Behind the pane, who lurks shadowlike
Inside his own mind, walls oil slick black—
A dark cage that binds the invisible man.

Me. Me

He followed me to school today,
I like going to school with you,

I tried to tell him to leave me be,
You don’t really want me to leave you,

But he never listens to me,
I’m the only one who really knows you,

People think I’m crazy,
They’re the crazy ones,

They can’t hear him like I can,
You don’t want anyone else to hear me,

Telling me to hurt people,
That girl was teasing you,

Telling me to hurt myself,
You didn’t listen to me,

I don’t know who to tell,
You don’t need to tell anyone,

I don’t think they’ll believe me,
They’ll try and split us up,

All I know right now is Him,
You don't need anyone else but Me.


If you think that either you or somebody you know is being affected by a Mental Health issue, there are plenty of people you can talk to anonymously, right here at the University.

The University Counselling Service and Nightline - the student run listening service, are both great places to start seeking advice.


In the looking glass

Don’t look at me with blackened eyes
from your mirrored world, where there are snowdrops
bobbing under azure skies

and nobody knocking inside your head
with voices made of sticks and stones.
Stop crying like you know

it hurts. Behind your glass with love and friends,
never alone. Fix your hair- it looks a mess;
clean up, get washed, get dressed.

Don’t tell me that you understand-reach out and tightly hold my hand.

Give me bread and give me choices
Talk to me in sweeter voice

Giving a Voice

Silently suffering
Quietly praying
That everything will sort itself out

Gently whispering
Cryptically telling
Too many deafened ears

The signs are there
Very timid and scared
Hidden from the gaze of the world

A passer-by with a heart and an eye
With a feeling for things going wrong
Stretches their hand and offers a line
Where so many people have not

The art of listening to the voices from the Heart

Pressure and many voices
All requesting for
Choices, many choices!

Stop screaming at me…

The only voice I wanted to hear now
Is begging to be listened to on its own

Dear voices from the heart
From now on, you are my choice!
I will let you speak louder
But please help me to stop keeping you apart



We have had a great response to our first Mental Health and Wellbeing poetry competition. All authors will stay anonymous, but prizes will be given to the top five entries shortly. 


Those voices


Those voices, as recognisable as my mother’s face.
It’s those bad people again
Out to get me.

They tell me I’m losing my mind.
I tell them it’s my vision that I’m losing as I squint my eyes
To see increasingly blurred objects.
The fuzzy outlines of my once revered cuddly toy.
It doesn’t look quite the same no more.

I find myself regurgitating thoughts out loud.
Re-living experiences inside my head, re-visiting memories and sounds
An old school pal’s laughter, the familiar sound of Mrs. Smith’s voice.

I talk to walls to inject some life into their vacant souls.
They respond, keeping alive our 2-way conversation.
On the odd occasion, I even have the urge to smash right through them.

You think I’m mad, don’t you? Eccentric. Loopy. Schizo even.
I belong in the nuthouse. I’m crazy, they say.
Who would believe a crazy person?

I reach for the pillow. You grab it.
This time, there is silence.

The Nightmare Voice Of My Depression

You start to see the cracks,
When the chaos in my mind,
Opens up into your soul.

My madness pulses and oozes inside of you, Until you burst into flames.
You feel like you're being stabbed in a cage.
No escape from the madness inside my rage.

Biting through flesh just to get away.
Drop by drop,
My blood trickles into your eyes,
Infects you like a parasite.
Sipping at the cruelty in your humanity.

Fire burning, choking, welcoming,
Until dust in the wind.
Yet my ashes follow that line of blood,
Burning through your skull.

And death, not welcomed, not feared.
Shall we say goodnight and let the screams begin.

She sees what she hears

She sees what she hears
She feels what she sees
Imagination gone wild
Creativity thwarted in the thorns of phantasm.

Now she thinks in mazes, a single colour gives a thousand hues.
So, they spoke to her like Freud, and whispered “psychosis”
Just because she pours emotions in spurts
They call her every acts of spontaneity “derangement”

Her laughter they always view with sarcasm
But do not forget, that this same mind has once thought of beauty
Always remember, that this same mind has also dreamt of love
Although it took this turn, nurture can call it back

It’s just a journey in the wrong direction
Give her a map with love and care
Never letting her recede any further
Knowing fully well, that this mind and body united in health is lovely
Wait patiently till you can say “welcome back” when she sees the light anew.


Lying down 

Lying down; eyes closed;
A thousand voices around me.

Some shout; some argue,
Some calm; some angry.

I get up; move to the window,
Some say “go on jump”,
Some say “Stop, don’t do it!”

Never alone,
Women, men, children,

Always there,
Always watching me,
Always judging me.

She’s lying down; eyes closed,
A thousand voices in her head,
Always telling her what to do.

And yet here I stand,
A real person,

A real voice,

Questioning voice

have you heard the news today?
what he’s saying over there?
what her eyes say she’s not saying?

do they hear you?
what do you say?
do you say anything at all?

they’re all talking about it.
the weather -
the effect on the mating patterns of birds:
the black bird, the blue tit,
robin, wren and wood pigeon.
all in my garden -
cohabiting happily.

hear me now.
who are you:
what you say?
what you do?
...what you don’t?
tune in for the next instalment

My crazy is not crazy

My crazy is not crazy
I have not heard voices;
The reverberating sound
That comes not from the ears
But the centre of the skull,
As loud as day
And as frightening as hell.

Well, maybe I’ve heard them
Once or twice
But you know how these things go.

My crazy is more oft my own voice
Telling me that I am a
But if it is mine, I can try to control it I am shouting louder than the voices in my head.
I will fight this.
I will win.



Who is that, Why

Who is that, Why
Are you playing with my mind
My thoughts are to and fro-ing
And myself I cannot find.

You catch me, weak
And cast over me a spell;
Escaping from its grip
Has become a living hell.

Please someone, help
I want to be set free
I feel so all alone
But I know I am not me.

Hearing voices

‘Stop it,’ you say
as water rushes, down, over, across
taking off layers like peel off an apple

and you want to
you do

Say something



drop the pebble into the pool
experience the ripple


I’ve been having visions

I’ve been having visions and night terrors
But only fairly modest ones
I thought I heard a taxi driver say something weird
I heard an irregular ticking noise when I lay down in bed that may have been the central heating
And I smelled a fart when there was none there.

Then it got weirder actually
A few minutes later I went to the conservatory and my dad was there
He said “do you get that? You see it’s not just me”
I said “what?”
He said “the dog farted”
I didn’t smell it that time.

I’m in a catch 22

I’m in a catch 22
I’m afraid of going mad
If I have legitimate reason to be afraid then I might be nearly mad on the verge of sanity and so really should be afraid
If I’m not on the edge of madness then I no legitimate reason to be afraid
In which case I’m afraid of something that isn’t real and am a bit mad
Either way I’m both frightened and/or mad
It may be a catch 23.

Can we have a famine please

Can we have a famine please
Lots of flies lots of disease
Walk for miles beside the roadside
Eat the grass in the divide.
Watch the bones grow, flesh recede
Watch the women eat the weeds.
Can we have some lack of food?
I am in a famine mood
Shall we have the cats for dinner?
Collect the spiders when you’re thinner
Hunger hunger everywhere
In the water and in the air.


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