WordinGOW Poetry Slam raised funds for youth mental health service | Gallery

An elegy to the Courthouse Hotel, a ballad on Hassans Wall and intimate analyses of what creates happiness and gets us through the blues. 

On, Wednesday, April 19, the Lithgow Tin Shed hosted the packed WordinGOW poetry slam, where locals performed their own and others’ poetry to raise money for Lithgow’s new ‘Kick back and Relax’ space for young people

A crowd of over 70 people participated in the evening, part of April’s Subliminal festival, which involved frank discussions of mental health as well as the emotive power of poetry.

In total the evening raised $210 to go towards the new youth space and continuing the mini arts and mental health festival, Subliminal, into future years. 

14-year-old Rhiannon Marshall, who wowed the audience with her performance of Shane Koyczan’s poem ‘To this day’, said she welcomed Lithgow’s burgeoning focus on mental health.

“Mental health and the stigma surrounding it has touched my life and I'm glad that I can use platforms like tonight's poetry slam to raise people’s awareness of these big issues,” Rhiannon said.

‘To this day’ discusses the impact of school bullying on self-esteem and mental health. 

“Mental health care should be as important as physical health, and people should not be ashamed to ask for help when they need it,” she said. 

Audience member 24-year-old Gemma Ring, who has battled with severe depression, believes finding appropriate support services in Lithgow is difficult.

“It’s a pretty big issue at the moment. To get help you have to go to the mountains or Bathurst. LINC lost their funding for youth mental health services.”

“I go to a psychologist but you have to be able to afford them or have health insurgence to see most of them.”

She also believes attitudes towards mental health need to change.

“Some older people don’t understand what mental illness is, they think mental health is something made up by young people to get attention.”

Besides the youth hangout space being run throughout April at 172 Main Street as part of Subliminal, two health services, the Mountains Youth Services Team and Kirinari disability services, are moving into Lithgow in May. 

Anna Carter said the the ‘Kick Back and Relax’ drop-in space for young people would be running programs for young people on Wednesday and Sunday nights indefinitely. 

Local poet Reginald Reid, who performed two works from his book ‘Come Walk with Me’, said he supported the idea of a hang-out space for youth. 

“It’s a great initiative and advent for Lithgow. The challenge will be keeping it funded in the future and finding the support and resources that young people need.”

Jo Phillips who MC’d the night and performed some of her own poetry said she is planning to hold more slams in the future. 

Mr Reid said encouraging self-expression among Lithgow residents has health benefits in and of itself. 

“Poetry reveals your emotions unwittingly as you write it. Poetry helps mental health because it’s an escape.”