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Hussain Manawer: How the power of poetry can help combat mental health issues

Group hug with mental health campaigner Hussain Manawer. Credit: Hussain Manawer

Mental health campaigner Hussain Manawer explains how he uses the power of poetry to transform lives and describes how he was first inspired by a teacher at school.

By Hussain Manawer

I wouldn’t say I that I was a perfect student at school.

I was a little reckless.

At times I was a nuisance and it’s more than fair to say I was an academic underachiever.

Looking back, I can see why it might be easy for teens to fall into an emotional spiral when it comes to exams and getting into a good university.

Add to that the unique, modern stress of social media and it makes for a pretty difficult social and emotional maze to escape.

As a teen, I used to write ‘bars’ on my planner and a teacher suggested I did something with that talent.

Selfie with mental health campaigner Hussain Manawer. Credit: Hussain Manawer

I soon found that poetry helped me navigate my issues, changing and shaping my life, and giving me that outlet to escape my mental torment.

Fast forward a decade and here I am, making it my personal mission to go into schools and share my experiences of how poetry can help combat mental health issues.

I’ve delivered workshops to students both here in the UK and across the world, talking to young people about self-expression and the importance of sharing your mental health concerns, something even as adults we struggle with.

The one thing I’ve found however is the power of poetry to break down even the most subjective of experiences - such as feelings of loneliness and hopelessness - and offer a means of communication to help articulate difficult topics.

By describing the feelings associated with depression or anxiety through the use of metaphors, similes and wordplay, children and teens are presented with a language free of taboo, opening up a conversation between teachers, parents and their kids.

Conversations that may once have been difficult to have.

Bullying is no longer restricted to the four walls of a classroom. Young people don’t just have the physical reality to contend with, there’s also the online world that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When the potential for bullying spans far beyond the school grounds, and with already limited resources from the education system, as a society, we can help bear some of the burden on teachers.

It’s difficult to be part of our children’s online world as well as their day-to-day, but by providing a means of self-expression for them for when they’re feeling vulnerable, it means that even when it’s impossible for us to be present, we can still offer support, guidance and most importantly, an ear to listen.

We can pick up those warning signs early and open a discourse that can prevent issues and problems from escalating.

I will forever be grateful to my teacher for providing me with a remedy to my troubles because without him, who knows where I’d be?

Those children sitting in the classrooms today will grow up to be our doctors, nurses, teachers and MPs.

They are our future so let’s open the channels of communication and further guide them on their way to success.