Dianna Paige ’19 has been an advocate for young people facing mental health issues since high school. Now, the psychology major and public policy and child advocacy double minor is engaged in a creative form of advocacy: her poetry is featured in a newly published book titled Stars: A Collection of Poetry.
The book is a compilation of poetry from 10 authors, organized by Joseph Fusaro, a mental health advocate and published poetry author. Paige met Fusaro at a conference of the National Alliance on Mental Health, where she read her poetry in a group session.
“Joe reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in submitting poetry to a compilation of poems focused on ‘finding light through writing’ amid the growth and struggles faced in battling mental illness,” she says. The book is available on Amazon.
Paige says writing poetry has been an important part of her recovery from mental health issues.
“Any means of self-expression is helpful in the recovery process,” she says. “Ignoring and suppressing negative emotions is counter-productive—instead, we have to face them head-on. This is both difficult and painful; coming to terms with these emotions and struggles can be easier for some individuals through creative means.”
Paige’s poems are eloquent statements on the realities facing those with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, as in her poem “3/19/2017.”
There are nights I want to scream but nothing
The words just echo off the walls of my hollow
chest, reminding me that I am
Still, I fill myself daily with
everything the doctor orders:
eight glasses of water
four and a half servings of fruit and vegetables
one hundred and fifty milligrams of venlafaxine
and the hope that soon I
will hear my own voice again.
After graduation, Paige hopes to create and implement mental health advocacy and education programs in schools and communities.
“Prevention through education is critical in reducing the widespread stigma and misunderstanding associated with mental illness,” she says. “Adolescents and young adults, who are particularly at risk, need to have access to resources and support systems; we have to talk about these critical needs or nothing will change.”