How one graduate turned her mental health struggles into poetry

23 June 2021
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Our graduates

Olivia White started documenting her thoughts to help deal with her mental health during her time at university; what started as a form of therapy has evolved into White to Grey, a poetry collection that was published by Austin Macauley in December  

Wcaught up with Olivia to discuss how her collection came togetherwhy poetry is central to managing her mental health and what advice she has for aspiring poets. 

There are days I struggle to make the words fit together, but all writers hit that wall at some point.

What’s the inspiration behind your poetry and what drives you to create? 

My writing usually comes from emotional experiences I’ve had or when I’ve an anxiety episode. I either note down on my phone how I’m feeling and then find a way to turn it into poetry or at night it’ll come naturally to me, and I’ll write it in my journal.  

White to Grey all started with writing down a few words and emotions in a rough style diary when I was feeling low. I noticed it became a therapeutic process for me, so I continued to do it and decided to tie it in with my Final Major Project, which was based on psychosis and mental health.  

I knew that mental health was a huge issue in the news at that point and that there were many like me that struggled. After writing many poems, I decided to create a book for myself and found that the style of my poetry wasn’t being explored yet.  

I wrote my emotions in a raw and dark form and I knew this would be a good book that could show others that they are not alone. 

How did you develop your skills as a writer? 

For my course (Fashion Photography) I always had to write about inspiration and the meaning behind a photograph or an artist.  

All the essay and research writing helped develop my skills and improve my writing. Alongside this, I would use the University’s library to look at books for research but to also grab some poetry to inspire me. 

There are days I struggle to make the words fit together, but all writers hit that wall at some point.

All the essay and research writing helped develop my skills and improve my writing.

What advice would you give to an aspiring poet? 

I would say to just keep writing poetry and ask friends and family for advice on the work you’ve written. If you’d like to get published, then send your work out as many Agencies and Publishers as you can. There will be a lot of no’s but eventually you’ll get a yes because there will always be someone interested in your work. 

Do you have any advice for students who might be struggling with their mental health it now? 

Unfortunately, I didn't share my feelings a lot with others at the Uni and I didn't know how to tell anyone, as a lot of people do not understand what anxiety is like.  

However, I did express mental health in my Final Major Project and was able to talk to my lecturer about it.  

The advice I would give to other students struggling would be to find your therapeutic process and to also tell your friends how you're feeling even if you're scared to.  

A therapeutic process could be writing down your feelings, reading a book about mental health, doing yoga or anything else where your mind is distracted. You need to tell yourself that you are not alone and that it’s just in your mind. You’ll be fine.  

I also give myself days where I relax and don’t meet with anyone, give yourself a pamper day to unwind and keep your mind at peace.  

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