17 Depression poems

This blog post will explore what Depression poems are as well as list out a few well known and award winning Depression poems. 

We will also briefly discuss what Depression is, it’s Diagnostic criteria, and the risk factors that make people more susceptible to depression. . 

What are depression poems?

Depression poems are literary pieces that are written as a way to reflect on one’s experiences with Depression and other mood disorders. It is also a creative medium with which an individual can express their thoughts and feelings related to living with this disorders

These poems that are written by many individuals who are living with and have been affected by depression also help create awareness about the condition and what it is like living with the condition. 

Jay Griffiths in the article “Poetry can heal – it helped me through depression.” for the Guardian, writes of their own personal experience with being diagnosed, treated, and living with depression. 

Griffiths writes that “Poetry is the kindest companion” that can help heal and make one feal whole while also helping one connect with other people against the threat of loneliness that depression brings. 

Expressing one’s experiences through poetry with respect to depression can help eradicate the stigma surrounding depression as it creates a conversation related to the condition and the living and phenomenological experiences of the disorder. 

Most poets reflect one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours related to the disorder and how it affects one’s ability to maintain relationships, meet the demands of their day to day lives, and also their own sense of self that has been affected by this debilitating condition. 

Here is a list of Depression poems that have been written by many notable, classical writers, as well as those written and performed by contemporary writers of their own experiences with depression. 

Ode on Melancholy by John Keats

This poem is one of Keats most celebrated poems that offers advice to people who struggle with depression. E urges people not to deny the condition, nor block it out but rather accept the realities of depression and seek out meaning and beauty in this reality. 

The poem also reminds people  that everything passes including this struggle and so does the beautiful things in life and urges people to take time to appreciate the good things and focus on the positive. 

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist

Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;

Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d

By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;

Make not your rosary of yew-berries,

Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be

Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl

A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;

For shade to shade will come too drowsily,

And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud;

Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,

Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,

Or on the wealth of globed peonies;

Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,

Imprison her soft hand, and let her rave,

And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die;

And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips

Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,

Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:

Ay, in the very temple of Delight

Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,

Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue

Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;

His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,

And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

Alone By Edgar Allen Poe

This particular poem was inspired by Poe’s orphaned upbringing and it describes the feeling of being alone- both physical and psychological which is a feeling that many people with depression feel because they feel misunderstood, unsupported and their condition tends to ostracise them.

Alone

From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were—I have not seen

As others saw—I could not bring

My passions from a common spring—

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow—I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone—

And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—

Then—in my childhood—in the dawn

Of a most stormy life—was drawn

From ev’ry depth of good and ill

The mystery which binds me still—

From the torrent, or the fountain—

From the red cliff of the mountain—

From the sun that ’round me roll’d

In its autumn tint of gold—

From the lightning in the sky

As it pass’d me flying by—

From the thunder, and the storm—

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view—

Emily Dickinson’s ‘It was not Death, for I stood up’

This particular power gives a powerful description of the feelings of despair and depression while also describing what depression is not nor what it is and she explains with exactness the nothingness and despairing hopelessness that many people with depression feel. 

It was not Death, for I stood up,

And all the Dead, lie down—

It was not Night, for all the Bells

Put out their Tongues, for Noon.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh

I felt Siroccos—crawl—

Nor Fire—for just my Marble feet

Could keep a Chancel, cool—

And yet, it tasted, like them all,

The Figures I have seen

Set orderly, for Burial,

Reminded me, of mine—

As if my life were shaven,

And fitted to a frame,

And could not breathe without a key,

And ’twas like Midnight, some –

When everything that ticked—has stopped—

And Space stares—all around—

Or Grisly frosts—first Autumn morns,

Repeal the Beating Ground—

But, most, like Chaos—Stopless—cool—

Without a Chance, or Spar—

Or even a Report of Land—

To justify—Despair.

“Explaining depression to a refugee” by muna abdulahi

In her poem Explaining Depression to a Refugee Abudlahi describes the refugee experiences and covers issues related to depression and the feelings of hopelessness and voicelessness. 

Her poem also brings to light how culture tends to play a role in how mental health disorders such as depression is seen, observed, and viewed as well as the stigmatisation of mental disorders. 

You can watch Muna’s spoken word performance here

Explaining depression to my mother” by sabrina benaim

“Explaining My Depression to My Mother” is a spoken word poem that describes how it is like to describe a mental health condition or a medical condition that cannot be seen on the physical body to someone who is not informed. 

In this particular poem, the poet describes their experience of explaining depression to family members and friends- particularly their mother- which is an experience that many people share due to their lack of awareness and the stigma surrounding mental health disorders such as depression. 

You can watch the spoken word performance here

“You can’t be depressed” by neil hilborn

This particular poem is one that brings to awareness the fact that depression can affect anyone, in all walks of life, and at times there are people in our lives that has their own struggles.

You can watch Neil’s spoken word performance here

“He Resigns” By John Berryman

Age, and the deaths, and the ghosts.

Her having gone away

in spirit from me. Hosts

regrets come and find me empty.

I don’t feel this will change.

I don’t want anything

or person, familiar or strange.

I don’t think I will sing

anymore just now,

or ever. I must start

to sit with a blind brow

above an empty heart.

“The swimming lesson” by mary oliver

Feeling the icy kick, the endless waves

Reaching around my life, I moved my arms

And coughed, and in the end saw land.

Somebody, I suppose,

Remembering the mediaeval maxim,

Had tossed me in,

Had wanted me to learn to swim,

Not knowing that none of us, who ever came back

From that long lonely fall and frenzied rising,

Ever learned anything at all

About swimming, but only

How to put off, one by one,

Dreams and pity, love and grace, –

How to survive in any place.

“Still life with antidepressants” by aaron smith

The afternoon light lights

the room in a smudged

sheen, a foggy-eyed glow.

The dog digs at the couch,

low-growling at the mailman.

I’m spelling words with pills

spilled consolidating bottles:

yes and try and most of happy:

Maybe I’ll empty them all.

A woman I don’t know

is having a drill drill into her

skull. To get rid of the thing

requires entering the brain.

How to imagine a story

that ends with that ending?

I don’t know how to live my life,

but at least today I want to.

What is Depression according to the DSM- V?

Depression or clinically known as major depressive disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, is a  serious mood disorder where people affected by it experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. 

Apart from these emotional distress, people with depression can also experience physical symptoms such as chronic pain, or changes in their behaviour such as social withdrawal or slowed movements.

For someone to be diagnosed with clinical depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Let us look at the various symptoms that must meet the criteria for a diagnosis of depression. 

What is the DSM criteria for Depression diagnosis?

The Diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed) DSM-V outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. 

The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. 

These symptoms should indicate change from normal functioning. 

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

To be diagnosed with depression, these symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. 

These symptoms should also not be the result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

What are the Risk factors and comorbidity risks?

Some of the risk factors that makes the development of depression or MDD more likely in individual include:

  • Temperament: High levels of Neuroticism related personality traits or temperament makes it more likely that a person will develop depression in the face of life stressors. 
  • Environment: Early life experiences which were negative such as parenting styles, trauma in childhood, lifestyles, poverty, peer environments put individuals who experience them at a higher risk of developing depression. 

However, it is to be mentioned that adverse events close to the development of an episode is not a reliable guide for prognosis or treatment development. 

  • Genetic and physiological risks: People whose immediate family has also been affected by the disorder has a higher risk- two to 4 percent higher risk to develop the disorder with heritability approvimatedly 40% higher and relative risks higher for early onset. 

Conclusion

This blog post has explored what Depression poems are as well as list out a few well known and award winning Depression poems. 

We have also briefly discussed what Depression is, it’s Diagnostic criteria, and the risk factors that make people more susceptible to depression. . 

FAQ related to Depression Poems

What is the most depressing poem?

One of the most depression poems is “Spring and Fall,” written by Gerard Manley Hopkins written  in September, 1880.

Is poetry good for depression?

Poetry helps depression as it is a tool for helping others understand depression, end mental health stigma, express themselves, and also self reflect.

How does poetry affect mental health?

Poetry can be an effective and positive tool in coping with mental health problems as it can  comfort and boost mood when people are under stress, as well as process trauma and grief. 

References

Griffiths.J. Poetry can heal – it helped me through depression. 18th June 2016. TheGuardian. Retrieved on 6th january 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/jun/18/poetry-can-heal-it-helped-me-through-depression

Jensen.K. Depression Poems To Get You Through Tough Times (& Understand Those Struggling!). BookRiot. 18th January 2020. https://bookriot.com/depression-poems/

Smith, J. (2018, May 31). How Poetry Helps Depression and Could End Depression Stigma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, January 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2018/5/how-poetry-helps-depression-and-could-end-depression-stigma

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