Just in time for the very last day of May, also known as Mental Health Month, I wanted to share a poem from a writer, activist, and friend named Sam Riedel. This sonnet, titled “The Chasm of the Ill,” really captures how our society treats mental and physical health so differently, and the effect it has on people who are struggling with these issues. Here it is:
The Chasm of the Ill
There is a chasm we cannot traverse
‘Twixt sicknesses of body and of mind—
For though we save the lepers from the hearse,
Each cancer of the soul’s a chore to find.
No tidy surgery (we are resigned)
Can quell a malady inside the head;
It’s just the truth, though it may not be kind,
That rather soon, they’ll rot amongst the dead.
“You must choose to be happy,” they’re spoon-fed,
“And then you’ll see that things aren’t quite so bleak!”
Naivete! abuse on letterhead,
A sick cop-out: “We can’t help. You’re too weak.”
This chasm, made to keep our ills apart,
Serves only to destroy a loving heart.
If you liked this poem, you can hear an audio version of it here, or read more of Sam’s writing on her website.