One of the vital parts of putting an anthology together is the research. I’ll spend hours seeking out incredible, thoughtful writing and art by a wide swath of talented creators. For (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start The Conversation About Mental Health, this meant spending a good chunk of time listening and reading a wide range of voices, including digging deep into excellent depression poems.
I struggle with depression myself, and as a writer and (former) poet, I find myself drawn to poetry to find solace, to find comfort, to find solidarity, and to better understand my experiences — as well as the experiences of those who deal with depression in ways that don’t mirror mine at all. Depression poems offer up such a range of experiences and really put the period at the end of the statement that no single experience can get it right or accurately depict what a mental illness looks or feels like.
Find below a wide range of depression poems, from contemporary pieces to classics from well-known poets. These are ones that resonate, whether or not they’re ones that are necessarily perfectly relatable. Included are full poems, video performances, poets who are making a name for themselves, and much more. Readers who do, as well as those who do not, deal with mental illness will appreciate what’s out there.
Knowing these depression poems will dig into the realities of life with mental illness, proceed with caution. 300 million people worldwide struggle with depression. If you’re one of them or suspect someone you love may be, seek help from someone you trust.
Depression Poems For Those Who Struggle — and Those who want to better understand the illness
1. “It was not death, for I stood up” by Emily Dickinson
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.
2. “Broken Wing” by @WrittenByWill
3. “Tulips” by Sylvia Plath
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
4. “Explaining Depression To A Refugee” by Muna Abdulahi
5. “The Fury of Rainstorms” by Anne Sexton
The rain drums down like red ants,
each bouncing off my window.
The ants are in great pain
and they cry out as they hit
as if their little legs were only
stitched on and their heads pasted.
6. “Explaining Depression To My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim
7. “Having It Out With Melancholy” by Jane Kenyon
Often I go to bed as soon after dinner
as seems adult
(I mean I try to wait for dark)
in order to push away
from the massive pain in sleep’s
frail wicker coracle.
8. “Depression” by Rupi Kaur
9. “Monsters at Home” by Simonne Stellenboom
10. “You Can’t Be Depressed” by Neil Hilborn
11. “He Resigns” by John Berryman
Age, and the deaths, and the ghosts.
Her having gone away
in spirit from me. Hosts
of regrets come and find me empty.
12. “Depression” by Cara Delvigne
Who am I? Who am I trying to be?
Not myself, anyone but myself.
Living in a fantasy to bury the reality,
Making myself the mystery,
A strong facade disguising the misery.
13. “When People Ask Me How I’m Doing” by Rudy Francisco
14. “McDonalds Is Impossible” by Chelsea Martin
Eating food from McDonald’s is mathematically impossible.
Because before you can eat it, you have to order it.
And before you can order it, you have to decide what you want.
15. “Every 40 Seconds” by Patrick Roche
16. “Sadness” by Erin Hanson (e.h.)
They say that happiness will find you,
But I think sadness finds you too,
It sneaks up on you in the darkness,
Just when you think you’ve made it through,
It opens holes in what was solid ground,
The kind you never know are there,
Until you go to take another step,
And find you’re standing over air,
17. “Depression” by Phil Kaye
18. “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.
19. “This Is What It Feels Like To Be Depressed”
20. “Six Months After Contemplating Suicide” by Erika L. Sanchez
Admit it —
you wanted the end
with a serpentine
greed. How to negotiate
mist, the fibrous
21. “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
22. “Living With Depression” by Dan Roman
23. “This Might Not Make Sense Now, But Don’t Worry, It Will” by Noah Michelson
for Paolo Fanoli
When I ask Paolo how to draw the line between
not wanting to live anymore and wanting to die,
all he’ll quietly commit to is “that isn’t funny.”
I’m worried I worry him.
24. “Real Depression” by Atticus
25. “Depression” by Rage Almighty
26. “Depression” by Alison Pick
I come by it honestly,
an heirloom passed
from my father
and grandmother before me.
27. “A Lesson” by Lang Leav
28. “Black Depression” by Deniero
29. “What I Could Never Tell My Mother” by Margaret Westenhoff
What I could never tell my mother
Isn’t her fault; it’s mine
It’s things wrapped inside of me, coiled like wire with the filament exposed
She could accept them – those things – I’m sure
Want more powerful and important reads about depression? Try fiction books about mental health, YA books that open up an honest conversation about depression, comics about depression, self-help books about depression, and adolescent depression books for parents.