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your voiceyour rightsyour choice

Launching our poetry competition, Healing Words

10th July 2017

The image is a close-up of Joanna Scanlan, actress and writer

Joanna Scanlan, actress and writer, is a judge in our poetry competition

Healing words… the journey to wellness

Creativity – the innate ability to create new things or ideas – is an essential part of our humanness. There’s now increasing evidence to show how creativity is beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing. It can help us feel more able to cope with stress, build a sense of confidence and self-identity, and find meaning in the world around us.

Since 2010, we’ve been promoting creativity as a means of supporting mental health recovery through the popular Speakeasy magazine, which features art and poetry written by patients on mental health wards.


Our poetry competition

To celebrate the success of the magazine, we’re holding a poetry competition called Healing Words in partnership with Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) and supported by the University of Westminster. The competition will showcase the poetry of people who have experienced mental health problems, and their family or friends. It will chart their journey to recovery from the darkest days of mental illness to the point of recovery – and all stages in between.

Significantly, it will celebrate the value of creative activities in the recovery process as a way of engaging the imagination, reminding people of their capabilities and value, and building a sense of identity and social worth. If we raise sufficient funds, we will also publish a book of poetry afterwards.


Powerful voices

The voices of people telling their personal stories will be powerful. They will be joined by other powerful voices. We are privileged that Joanna Scanlan, renowned actress and writer, is supporting the project – see the video she’s made about it at the bottom of this page.

Joanna has written publicly about suffering depression and acute anxiety. She says, “At one of the worst periods, one morning I woke up and it came to me that I needed to write. I needed to put my words on paper… I also sought out the words of other people who had been through many similar experiences to me… What I found in the process of writing is that I came to understand much better my own feelings… and that helped me get better from that particular episode.”


Awards ceremony

Joanna will read the winning poem at an evening of celebration on Thursday 28 September 2017. We are delighted that Gill Manly of Ronnie Scott’s fame will also perform at the event. Gill often talks about her challenges with her mental health in her performances and on her radio shows.

Joanna Scanlan and Gill Manly are both on the judging panel for the competition. Joining them as judges are Claire Murdoch (Chief Executive, CNWL), Alexandra Warwick (Professor of English Literature at the University of Westminster) and Melanie Scagliarini (international development worker, blogger and filmmaker).


“Poetry helps so many people. It also inspires us, raises us up, comforts us in times of hardship or sadness. It’s another way of touching emotions and feelings that perhaps sometimes other mediums just can’t reach.”
Claire Murdoch, Chief Executive CNWL

Our request to you…

Please spread the word, so that as many people as possible can take part. You might have experienced mental health problems, or you might know family or friends who have. Or you might have contacts who work in mental health services, support groups and survivors groups across London. Help us let people know about this celebration of creative approaches to recovery.

You can download leaflets and posters to forward on to people you know, or to print out. If you would like us to send you printed copies, please call Jo Kay on 020 8969 3000. If you’d like to make a donation to support this event please contact Judith Davey CEO,


How to enter

All the information about entering the competition is here. For more information, call Jo Kay on 020 8969 3000.