The University of Westminster has partnered with London charity Advocacy Project and the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) to launch #HealingWords, a poetry competition for people and their families experiencing or who have experienced mental health problems. The deadline is 5pm on Monday 11 September.

The competition follows the journey from the darkest days of mental illness to the point of recovery – and all stages in between, with entry categories divided into: Darkest days; Good days and bad days; Being well; and Best illustrated poem.

The judges include Alexandra Warwick, Professor of English Studies at the University of Westminster, Joanna Scanlan, renowned actress and writer, Gill Manly of Ronnie Scott’s fame, Claire Murdoch, Chief Executive at CNWL, and Melanie Scagliarini, international development worker, blogger and filmmaker.

Joanna Scanlan will read the winning poem at an evening of celebration on Thursday 28 September 2017, and Gill Manly will also perform at the event.

#HealingWords celebrates 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.

Professor Alexandra Warwick said: “We are really thrilled to be working with the Advocacy Project on the #HealingWords poetry competition, and I am especially excited to be one of the judges.

She added: “Poetry sets language free and poetry can be liberating and therapeutic for people with mental health problems. Language and poetry don’t have to be precise and accurate, and fix things down. Poetry encourages meaning, it encourages variety of expression, it allows all of those fleeting experiences, those momentary impulses and ideas to be captured but not imprisoned. It allows the exploration of all of those different emotions in all their varieties.”

The deadline for submitting entries to [email protected] is 5pm on Monday 11 September. Entries can be written, recorded or videoed. The poems should be no longer than 25 lines.

Learn more about the #HealingWords competition.

Watch the video of Professor Warwick explaining how poetry can help the healing process of people with mental health problems.

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