Having experienced two serious depressive episodes, Rachel Kelly has made it her mission to help others avoid such trauma. Starting with her memoir Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me – My Journey Through Depression she has written a number of inspiring self-help books, and now she returns to poetry, which so often has helped her through her own life. “Reading poems can be a tool for wellbeing,” she says.

The new book is You”ll Never Walk Alone: Poems for Life’s Ups and Down. It is a selection of poems and writing, prefaced by Kelly’s thoughts on why she chose to include each one. The range is broad, from Sappho through Keats and Wordsworth to Mary Oliver and Derek Walcott, the author of her favourite poem in the book, Love. 

They are not all poems of consolation. "Since my Mum died four years ago, I have seen that we need to spend time on the good times as well. All emotions can be a bit frightening, even happy ones. So I wanted my book to cover that too.”

The effect of fiction on mental health is quite well recorded, but poetry has now, she says, been validated too. “There is interesting research into using poetry to encourage empathy for nurses and a 2020 study of children reading poetry - including one in the book Hope is the Thing with Feathers - found it made them less anxious, less fearful and at ease with their emotions and able to express them.” 

Rachel Kelly runs poetry workshops and is also an official ambassador for mental health charities Rethink Mental Illness, SANE, The Counselling Foundation and Head Talks. 

You can purchase You'll Never Walk Alone here

Further reading

How words healed me

How writing fiction freed me from a deep depression

Cathy Rentzenbrink's top tips to start a regular writing practice

The value of befriending sadness

5 things that helped me cope with depression