Actress Joanna Scanlan encourages people to get creative to improve their mental wellbeing

TV’s dark comedy queen Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It, No Offence) is no stranger to mental health problems. At a time when one in four of us will suffer with mental health issues Joanna is using her experience, of improving her own mental wellbeing through writing, to encourage others to get creative by taking part in The Advocacy Project’s Healing Words poetry competition this summer.

The poetry competition launches at the beginning of July and asks anyone who has experienced mental health problems – and their friends and families – to enter a poem into one of five categories, including Darkest Days and Good Days, Bad Days. The competition closes on 8th September and entries will be read by six judges including Joanna Scanlan and Gill Manly (of Ronnie Scott’s fame). The judges will choose the poems they are personally most moved by –  rather than what might be considered the ‘best’. Winners will be invited to an awards ceremony on 1st October  where they will meet the judges and hear their poems being read by them.

Joanna has written publicly about suffering depression and acute anxiety. She says,

“At one of the worst periods, one morning I woke up and it came to me that I needed to write. I needed to put my words on paper… I also sought out the words of other people who had been through many similar experiences to me… What I found in the process of writing is that I came to understand much better my own feelings… and that helped me get better from that particular episode.”

Watch her Healing Words video here.

The Advocacy Project’s Chief Executive Judith Davey says,

“There’s now increasing evidence to show how creativity is beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing. It can help us feel more able to cope with stress, build a sense of confidence and self-identity, and find meaning in the world around us. Our poetry competition will chart the journey to recovery from the darkest days of mental illness to the point of recovery – and all stages in between. Significantly, it will celebrate the value of creative activities in the recovery process as a way of engaging the imagination, reminding people of their capabilities and value, and building a sense of identity and social worth.”

To enter the competition visit

About The Advocacy Project

The Advocacy Project helps marginalised communities to speak up, understand their rights and make choices. Stigma, isolation and inequality are some of the biggest challenges faced by people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, dementia and eating disorders. We are working with people to address these challenges.

The Advocacy Project believes everyone has the right to influence decisions affecting their lives and we offer free, independent, confidential advocacy and user involvement services to people in London.

Together, we’re standing up for rights and supporting people to have a say on the issues that matter to them.

About the Healing Words poetry competition

The Healing Words poetry competition is an annual competition which reaches out to people who have mental health problems (or have recovered from mental health problems), their friends, family and carers to raise awareness of the issues of mental health. We’re inviting people of all ages to submit a poem (that must be shorter than 25lines) into one of the following five categories:

  • Darkest days
  • Good days & bad days
  • Being well
  • Illustrated poems
  • Spoken poems

The competition culminates with an exhibition and awards ceremony in early October on and around National Poetry Day (3 October). The exhibition, held in central London, will showcase the competition entries to the general public.

Event Details:

Competition Launch:                     Monday 1st July

Competition Closes :                     Sunday 8th September

Healing Words Exhibition:          Tuesday 1st October to Thursday 3rd October at Paternoster Square, London

Healing Words

Awards Ceremony:                         Tuesday 1st October, 6-8pm, Legal & General, 1 Coleman Street, London


Competition Judges

The judges will select the poems from each category that most move them and attend the Healing Words awards ceremony:

  • Joanna Scanlan- Actress & Writer
  • Mel Scagliarini – International development worker, blogger & filmmaker
  • Gill Manley – Jazz Musician and performer
  • Shaniqua Benjamin – Founder of Empowering the Voices of Young People. Writer & Poet
  • Sara Heald – CSR Director, Legal & General
  • Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO, CBE– Chair of the National Literacy Trust and Transform Society (an alliance of Teach First, Police Now, Unlocked, Think Ahead and Frontline

More Information


Twitter @TAPadvocacy  #HealingWords2019

The Advocacy Project