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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsReading was like a sort of a lifeline.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsPoetry almost taught me that it's OK to express yourself. With one line, something extraordinary happens, and somehow you begin to shift the chemistry in your head. It gives you permission to be still and to be contemplative, which is something that we need but we very rarely give ourselves permission for. But yeah, a few pages of the book at night can make all the difference. And just knowing that you'll have at that moment complete control, and that's very calming. One of the things that I'm interested in is poetry's ability to speak words we can't find. Yes, that's what it means, that's how it is, that's how I feel.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds I sort of remember that, but I've never been able to word those highest thoughts. He's 13th century, yet his voice is so modern and it so brilliantly described my experience that I just felt I'm not alone. Hooray. Because the thing about that sort of depression when you're young, as I was, is you're convinced it's only happening to you, and then you read something and people have felt much the same. And that's an enormous relief. And if you can put the worst things imaginable into some words which are beautiful, you kind of trap the monster slightly and you kind of put it at a distance. It didn't make me feel better, it didn't take my pain away.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds What I felt comforted by was the articulation of the grief experience that Shakespeare granted Hamlet. What I come back to is that if you're in hospital and the drugs aren't working, which was the position for me, and there's nothing else, at that point, to me, poetry is the lifeline because I don't know what else there is. What really good poetry does is it coalesces that which you did not know you were feeling into a body of feeling and words. So it's another way of saying that we have got 1,000 unformed poems inside us, which great poets bring alive from out of our experience.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds When one discovers a poem and a poet, you realise that they're encircling you and they're taking you in. And forever from then on, you will be part of their world, part of their creation, part of their achievement, and part of their way of looking at things. And it will never leave you. And that's an astonishing thing.

What can you expect?

We’ve put together this short video to showcase some of the wonderful conversations we’ve had with people who have contributed to this course, and which you will be able to watch, in full, over the next six weeks.

Those of you who signed up to the course at least a month before it started will have seen this already, but we think it’s so powerful that we wanted to share it again here, with everyone.

With contributions from the likes of writer and broadcaster Melyvn Bragg, author Rachel Kelly, actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry, author and playwright Mark Haddon, and poet Ben Okri this course will look at very personal and deeply emotional subjects like depression, dementia, heartbreak, stress, trauma and bereavement.

We’ll also hear from people like Lucy Clarke, Sophie Ratcliffe and Jack Lankester about how they have turned to novels, plays and poems to help them to cope in times of deep emotional stress.

During the course, we’ll get regular insights from medical practitioners Andrew Schuman and Simon Curtis, who explain the physiology of the different conditions discussed, and describe how our bodies react to stress.

Comments and discussions

Learning from conversations is an important part of the FutureLearn approach. You will learn from comments and discussions by reading others’ comments and responding with your own thoughts. Some steps there will be a more structured discussion. If you find a comment which was really useful or interesting, click the Like button!

Don’t forget, whilst robust debate is encouraged, it’s important that you follow the FutureLearn Code of Conduct and please be respectful to your fellow learners.

Time requirements

On the course page, we suggest that this course should take around 4 hours per week to complete if you choose to follow it over the 6 scheduled weeks. However, we’ve designed this to be a very flexible course, and we’d really like to encourage you to take the course materials at your own pace.

We’ll be uploading short extracts from all of the longer texts that we discuss, so there’s no need for you to read whole novels and plays. If you would prefer to read the texts in their entirety, of course, it will take you more time to progress through Literature and Mental Health.

Similarly, you can spend as much or as little time engaging in the course discussions as you’d like to, so please don’t feel that you have to read every comment that’s posted. You can make the discussions more manageable by choosing to ‘Follow’ the course educators, as well as some fellow learners whose comments you find particularly moving or insightful, and then filtering the discussions using the ‘Following’ button at the top of the thread. Some of you may choose to share your own personal experiences in the comment sections, but this is not a course requirement, and you should only comment if and when you feel comfortable doing so.

We won’t be setting any tests, assignments or quizzes on the course content, so do feel free to leave steps which don’t interest you, or which you think you might find upsetting rather than helpful. You will also be able to revisit course steps as many times as you’d like to; all of the materials will remain available even after the scheduled 6 weeks are over, as long as you don’t choose to ‘Leave this course’ on the FutureLearn ‘Your Courses’ page.

This video is from the free online course:

Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing

The University of Warwick

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: