World Mental Health Day poetry competition winners announced

Categories: School of Health and Society

The winners of the University of Salford's student poetry competition for World Mental Health Day have been announced.

The competition, which is now in its second year, is run by the Counselling and Psychotherapy team in the School of Health and Society at the university. It was launched at the university's Creative Therapies Conference back in October 2019; an event which celebrated and explored how creativity can be used therapeutically through every age of life.

We have four winners, who are all second year students:

  • Abel Brooks (Counselling & Psychotherapy)
  • Sally Barrett (Social Work (DA))
  • Brittany Hoie (Counselling & Psychotherapy)
  • Megan Keegan (Adult Nursing)

The competition was judged by Vee Howard-Jones, Head of Counselling and Psychotherapy and Debbie Lewis, Lecturer in Counselling & Psychotherapy. Vee said, "The poems that were sent in were of a really high calibre and it was a joy to read them. They were so good, we ended up with four winners! This included an extra prize for the ‘Covid-19 kindness’ category which was awarded to Megan Keegan for her beautiful poem about working on a Covid-19 ward."

All four winners will receive a £20 high street/book token.

You can read the winning poems below.


Life is Strange by Abel Brooks

life is strange

time works differently now

rubber-banding into an endless sickening uncertainty

i get messages from people i haven't thought of in years

they're so anxious to make contact with someone


time passes

although it doesn't feel like it

because nothing changes 

(apart from the growing death count that i try to ignore)

now, it's the little things that mean the most

i see my neighbour on her balcony

and when she waves at me

i feel like i exist

and realise with a start how important it feels

i call my friend

a doctor, a man i respect

and his gentle words reassure me

far more than any amount of press releases

i receive a package

a friend has sent me flower seeds

and a little note

their own way of giving me something beautiful

i attend my lectures

talk to my classmates again

and leave knowing

that i'm not alone in feeling this way

and i look in the mirror

and promise myself

to be kind to myself

no matter how much or how little I achieve


in the end

these little kindnesses are what keep us sane


Tender Acts by Sally Barrett

I am running through fields of long grass

chasing ideas of orange tip butterflies

the effort comes naturally.

I consider practicing kindness when I get home.

I will do the dusting

in our spotless house he loves me

more than yesterday

A butterfly with orange tips is flying

round the yard out back

dropping ideas everywhere

like dandelion clocks in late Spring

I kick up the dust, my trainers sparkle

ideas sneak over the gate

kindness leaves traces of tiptoes

I am running down alleyways

chasing ideas of red admirals

the effort is oblique.

I will pay him in kind tomorrow

with a book or game of scrabble

A red admiral is flying ahead of me

I follow, looking up to the sky

catching ideas of kindness

in a wicker basket for strawberries

I kick up the dust.


The Grind by Brittany Hoie

Next time you think about your hard edges

Take a pumice stone

And softly grate away at the anger

The jealousy

The fear

The tender agony

The lack there of

Grind it down

Until you find the soft


Sweet as candy centre

And press your hand right in the middle

Feel you own heart beat

And breathe


To all the people I've helped deliver end of life care to - past present and future... by Megan Keegan

💙 🌈 💙

Here are my thoughts during Covid-19.

I'm a little Cygnet; part of the SWAN team.

I'm here to sit with you; your family don't want you to be alone.

Would you like to hear their voices? Let's ring them on my phone.

I've sent an identical one to your family, so keep hold of this knitted heart.

Hopefully this will comfort you, while you have to be apart.

Your family have asked for a little lock of hair.

They want us to arrange the chaplain, to come and say a prayer.

They don't want you to feel afraid.

My breath fogs up my visor, as I watch your breathing fade.

I'm sorry I look like this, it's to keep myself and others safe from the virus.

I'll put the radio on, let's listen. I'll sing the chorus.

Please don't struggle, you're doing your best.

Myself and the nurses, we'll do the rest.

Here, give me your hand, I'll hold it tight.

Your family know you love them.

Sweet dreams, goodnight.

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