Poetry for Personal Power is a program coordinated by the Heartland Consumer Network, Missouri’s Statewide Mental Health Consumer Network. We are an advocacy organization of people with mental illness who are working to change the mental health system to a recovery oriented community of hope. We are working in partnership with Wellness Wordworks, the American Jazz Museum, Custom Color, and Park University. Funding was provided by the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
We were funded for the 2010 – 2011 and the 2011 – 2012 school years and we currently have funding pending for next year as well as a very small research grant to prepare a descriptive academic publication about our program.
The main idea of this program is that people can use wellness tools such as exercise, spirituality, mindfulness, volunteering, gardening, or of course, poetry, to get through tough times in their lives. We are gathering stories and poems about what people do in positive ways that helps them build friendships and feel better. See http://poetryforpersonalpower.com for a full program description, with video links and stories about how people get through tough times in their lives.
- This program is a stigma reduction campaign designed to share the information that people can use wellness tools such as poetry, exercise, spirituality, mindfulness, and community involvement to build friendships and get through their worst times. This is based on SAMHSA’s “What a Difference a Friend Makes” campaign and is targeted toward people that are 18 – 25 years old.
- During our first year, we hosted 10 “Poetry for Personal Power” information exchange session at First Fridays in the Crossroads District of Kansas City, one of the busiest art walks in the country. We had rolling bicycle based health fair display booth and asked people to tell us mental health stories and freestyle poems made up on the spot on the streets of Kansas City.
- During our second year, we hosted 15 university based “Poetry for Personal Power” open mic contests at universities throughout Missouri. These are performances, workshops, and poetry contests all combined into one evening or weekend event. We had funding for feature poets as well as cash prizes for the best poems about overcoming adversity in our lives.
- Our funding for next year will have us host 10 additional poetry open mic events at Missouri universities during the fall semester. During the spring semester, all of the poets who have placed at our events in all of our years will be eligible to become program hosts to plan their own events. This will be a a pilot to a self-supporting national expansion.
Here is a video explaining why the program was designed. This video shows Poetry for Personal Power Program Manger Corinna West during a feature at Jazz Poetry Jams at the Blue Room at 18th and Vine in Kansas City, MO.