Changing Our Lives delivered a series of poetry events in Palfrey, a neighbourhood in the metropolitan borough of Walsall with a population of over 16,000 and of which approximately 95% are Muslim. The poetry focused on mental health and well-being. Although the project was open to all, we worked with schools and community leaders within the Muslim community. We took this approach as we know from our local work and national research that mental health inequalities are prevalent within Asian communities and myths surrounding mental health continue to impact negatively on people’s lives and communities as a whole.

We equally wanted to explore how poetry can be developed as both a creative and cultural experience with individuals and communities, where poetry may rarely be written, spoken or read. Taking poetry workshops into this community helped us to explore the ways that young people were able to use a creative arts medium to tackle issues around mental health, challenge stereotypes and increase awareness. Working with schools, community leaders and an established poet, we tailored each poetry workshop to the needs of the individual group.

 Here’s a taste of what the Palfrey community said about the project:

“The poetry slam inspired me to have an awareness of things I didn't know about mental health!”

“I've learnt that mental health difficulties can happen to anyone.”

“It's amazing how everyone came together and worked together with poetry.”

Siraaj Nadat, Senior Quality of Life Facilitator at Changing Our Lives said: 

We need to talk about mental health more so people in the community become more aware and this will help people support each other with mental health difficulties. Some people in the Muslim community are afraid of what people will say if they mention mental health, but mental health is everyone's business so we need to start a conversation about it. We need to use this work as a springboard for future conversations in our local community."

Mareesha Morris, MP from Sandwell Mental Health Parliament, who was involved in the delivery of this project told the audience:

“Mental health is just as important as physical health, and looking at the work that young people have done producing their own poems around mental health, I strongly believe that young people are the catalyst for change in attitudes towards mental health.”

Click here to read 'Beyond the Stigma'