Many people I grew up around suffered from mental health issues due to poverty, drugs, stress, and war. Economic status doesn’t protect many people from mental and physical deterioration caused by drugs or trauma inflicted by armed conflict.

Growing up in Los Angeles, it was possible to be hanging out inside a mansion one night and riding through some questionable alley on another. The experiences contributed greatly to my perceptions of reality and how the world works. When it comes to troublesome environments, everybody deals with it in a different way, some embrace it, others ignore it, some try desparately to escape, and others fight ceaselessly to change it.

Many turn to art as a creative outlet of their fears and frustrations. Graffitti and rap were a big part of the culture growing up. Not everyone was a vandal and violent wordsmith however. Many grafitti artists had spots where they obtained permission to spray paint and the majority of people I remember preferred Wu Tang Clan or Wyclef Jean over Tupac due to the excessive violence in his lyrics.

Poetry was another big part of my adolescece and has continued to be an outlet on and off throughout my life. As the years passed and I put more distance between myself and the environment of my youth, poetry was one of the things I kept from that era.

Expression of your innermost thoughts and desires is important for mental health in my opinion. For many, it is difficult to express emotions in a gramatically correct twelve hundred word essay but poetry does away with most writing rules enabling the author to just write.

Of course, there are some rules like rhyming the end of every other sentence or the 7,5,7 syllable rules in a haiku. While these rules may initialy create a mental block, the more you write, the more you are able to challenge yourself. You don’t have to publish everything you write and eventually you can try advanced challenges like having the middle of a sentence rhyme with the end of the next and rhyming again in the middle on the following.

These expressions of emotions and the logical challenges required for rhyming are a great natural stimulant for your brain. I believe that written expression can create neural pathways that make it easier to express yourself during a counseling session. In theory a professional counseling session is a verbal expression of emotions so it’s not too far fetched that the two can relate to one another.

Creative writing also enhances my ability to think clearly. Completing a poem feels similar to how running and athletic activity enhance brain function through the release of natural chemicals in the body. When I find it hard to think clearly or I’m low on energy, I know a good run or exercise session will help with both issues. Poetry is a good way to get me past a mental slump when I’m too fatigued for exercise.

Writing down a poem also allows me to focus on what I’m feeling without having to worry about why I’m feeling it or how to deal with it. After the poem is written, or started to complete another day, I find it much easier to focus on resposibilities, friends, family, and goals for the future. All the positive or negative emotions distracting me from what I need to do are on paper and can be revisited later.

Poems and creative expression do wonders for mental health. They can help put your mind at ease when going through particularly dark times. Visually seeing your thoughts on paper can help you realise how gloomy your thoughts currently are and motivate you to turn your thinking around. They can also inspire you to continue down a certain path when your thoughts are particularly inspirational.