Nine Depression Verses To Guide You Through Challenging Times

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Because of symptoms like distorted thoughts, feelings of loneliness, and anhedonia, many people associate depression with endless waves of reaching silence, isolation, and darkness. However, poets throughout history have used their art to express the experience creatively, attempting to help others feel less alone in their struggle. These poems may open a door for conversations around mental health and help readers feel seen in their experiences. 

Remember that the poems here are intended only to be a source of comfort and inspiration. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or another mental illness, it’s generally recommended that you meet with a mental health professional.
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Explore depression poems through the years with a therapist’s guidance
Nine poems about depression and mental illness
You may notice how poets from different times and places have captured universal feelings and experiences. Their words can provide comfort, understanding, and a sense of connection for those navigating the complexities of mental health. Below are nine famous poems that dive deep into the topic of depression, some expressing difficult emotions and others offering solace, hope, and understanding.
  1. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost

Frost describes a quiet moment in the woods on a snowy evening. The peacefulness of the scene is tempting, like the desire to escape from life's stresses and responsibilities. However, he's reminded of the duties and distances he still needs to cover. This poem may speak to the difficulties of experiencing depression symptoms like fatigue and anhedonia even while you have work, school, or family responsibilities to manage.
  1. "The Waste Land" by TS Eliot

When you think of April, you may picture blooming flowers and fresh starts. TS Eliot flips this idea by deeming April “the cruellest month,” suggesting that what's generally seen as positive can seem overwhelming when you're not in a positive mental space. The themes of memory and desire also show the tension between past regrets and future hopes, possibly representing being stuck between what was and what could be.

  1. "Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath

Lady Lazarus” is about bouncing back from life's challenges like the character Lazarus from the Bible, who was brought back to life. In this poem, Plath talks about moments in life when she feels defeated or down. Calling it an "art," she highlights how each person copes differently and may find their unique way to bounce back from these moments.

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  1. "Monsters at Home” by Simonne Stellenboom

“Monsters at Home” is a brief but powerful poem that reads: “You are my home. / But I know too well, that even / a home can house monsters.” As with every poem, it can have a variety of interpretations. In the context of depression, it could speak to the experience of feeling like your mind is betraying or harming you by producing distorted thoughts that make you feel worse. That’s why cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often recommended for individuals who are living with depression, since it aims to help a person learn to recognize and shift distorted thinking patterns.
  1. "Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith

Not Waving but Drowning” talks about a person trying to signal for help and everyone misunderstanding this action. It's a reminder that sometimes when people are distressed, their attempts to seek help, rescue, or “swimming lessons” might not be obvious. For example, someone might say they're "fine” when they’re actually not doing well and are in need of support. 

  1. "Refugee Blues" by WH Auden

Auden's poem describes the sense of being lost and not belonging, like a refugee might feel being away from home. A person might identify with this poem if they’ve experienced the sensation of being in a room full of people but still feeling alone or out of place. In terms of mental health, it can be interpreted as highlighting the importance of understanding and belonging. Even when surrounded by many, it's the quality of your connections and feeling truly understood that often matters most.

  1. "Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe expresses how he's felt different and isolated from others since he was young. Do you remember a time when you felt you didn't fit in or that your thoughts and feelings seemed out of sync with everyone else's? This poem speaks to that experience. It can be interpreted as reminding readers that understanding and accepting your feelings without judgment may be vital for mental well-being.

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Explore depression poems through the years with a therapist’s guidance
  1. "Search” by Emily Lee Luan

Emily Lee Luan’s poem is a raw look at the way many people cope with symptoms of depression today: by searching for information about them online. It’s a stream-of-consciousness piece that some people experiencing signs of a mental illness may relate to, since symptoms can be all-encompassing and frightening and may cause a person to look for answers. 

This poem also calls to mind the fact that certain mental illnesses like depression affect people of color and those of other marginalized groups at higher rates due to discrimination, trauma, and other lived experiences. This poem can serve as a reminder to seek professional support when you’re facing emotional challenges, as a therapist may help you break the cycle of negative thoughts and support you in processing difficult life experiences. 
  1. "“Hope” is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson

Dickinson uses the image of a bird to symbolize hope in this poem. She explores the idea that even in the most challenging times, a little voice like a bird's song tells her to keep going. No matter how tough things get or how stormy life becomes, hope continues to sing its tune. It's an uplifting reminder that even in your darkest moments, there may be a spark of hope for a brighter future. In the context of depression, it can represent the fact that effective treatment is available.
Potential mental health benefits of reading or writing poetry

Reading or writing poetry could be a form of self-care that has potential benefits for mental health for the following reasons.

Poetry puts feelings into words

Reading words written by someone else that describes how you feel can be a comforting experience, reminding you that you’re not alone. It could also be helpful to share a poem or a passage with a concerned loved one when you can’t find the words to describe how you feel.

Writing can boost your mood 

If you’re experiencing mental health challenges or difficult emotions, you might try writing down your feelings. Whether you jot down and then challenge negative thoughts, list the emotions you notice, or write a poem to describe your mood, it could benefit your mental well-being. Research suggests that many different forms of expressive writing may help a person relieve distress and improve psychological health.

Poems can offer hope 

According to a research paper on the topic, many people report “a loss of purpose and existential hope” as a symptom of their experience with depression. This illness can make an individual feel as if they’ll never be happy again, even if they’re logically aware that treatment is available and that this storm may pass. Poetry is one way to connect with the experiences of others—to remember that millions have received effective treatment for depression and felt a renewed sense of hope.
Finding support for depression 
Although poems about depression can sometimes offer a comforting respite from challenging symptoms, they aren't a replacement for professional help. Talking to a therapist can allow you to receive expert guidance and treatment advice for symptoms of depression or another mental illness.

That said, attending in-person therapy appointments isn’t feasible for everyone. Some people face barriers related to finances, while others may not have many providers in their area. In these cases, online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp can be an effective alternative. You can get matched with a licensed therapist and meet with them via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home—and for a cost that’s comparable to that of most insurance co-pays.

Online therapy has gained popularity in recent years, with numerous studies suggesting its effectiveness in addressing various mental health concerns. For example, consider a 2020 study that indicates that participants who engaged in online therapy for depression or anxiety experienced “sustained and clinically meaningful improvements” in their symptoms. 

Takeaway

Navigating the experience of depression can often leave a person feeling isolated and misunderstood. That’s why reading some of the best poems about depression can be such a comfort to those living with a mental illness, since it may help them feel less alone in their experience. Remember that seeking professional treatment online or in person is recommended if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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