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A Brief But Spectacular take on destigmatizing mental illness through poetry
Geoff Bennett: Jeanann Verlee uses her work to bring awareness to issues surrounding mental health. She's also authored three books of poetry. And, tonight, we will see her performance at Lincoln Center in New York.
Jeanann Verlee, Poet: I live with bipolar disorder, complex PTSD, chronic anxiety, and also autoimmune disease, all of which are rooted in trauma.
I write a lot about mental health awareness, trauma survival, and domestic abuse and domestic violence. My poem "The Mania Speaks" is written in the voice of my own mania speaking to me.
You clumsy bootlegger, little daffodil. I water you with an ocean and you plucked one little vein, downed a couple of bottles of pills and got yourself carted off to the E.R.
What I do through poetry is I try to bring awareness to give a broader spectrum of information to the public and to work at reducing stigma and hopefully getting rid of stigma altogether, because we're all here and we're all fighting and we're all struggling together.
I channel that work through my poetry in an effort to not only work through my own issues, but also to hopefully give some access to others who are living with mental health, who are rape survivors, who are domestic abuse survivors, and give them a space where they feel compelled to engage in their own stories and bring their own stories to life.
You should be legend by now, girl in an orange jumpsuit, a headline. I built you from the purest napalm, fed you wine and bourbon, preened you in the dark, hammered lullabies into your thin skull. I wrote the poems, I painted the walls, I shook your goddamn boots.
It's an aggressive piece hoping to illustrate what it can be like for some people who live with bipolar disorder and the command that mania takes over our brains.
You know better than anybody I'm bigger than God.
(Cheering and Applause)
Jeanann Verlee: I think the stigma I most worry about and would love to see annihilated really is, don't be afraid of people who are battling mental health issues.
We are not evil. We are not broken. It's just a part of who we are. And just like somebody who may have diabetes, it's part of who they are. It doesn't define all of who they are.
My name is Jeanann Verlee, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on destigmatizing mental illness through poetry.
Geoff Bennett: And you can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.