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This article was originally published as:

Rickett, C., Grieve, C., & Gordon, J. (2011). Something to hang my life on: The health benefits of writing poetry for people with serious illnesses. Australasian Psychiatry, 19(3), 265-268. doi: 10.3109/10398562.2011.562298

ISSN: 1039-8562


110317 Physiotherapy| 111204 Cancer Therapy (excl. Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy)| 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified| 190402 Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting)


Objective: We aimed to explore the effect of a poetry writing program for people who had experienced a serious illness.

Method: For this study we randomly assigned 28 volunteer participants with a history of serious illness, usually cancer, to one of two poetry writing workshops. Each group met weekly for 2 hours for 8 weeks. The second group was wait-listed to enable comparison between the two groups. We used the Kessler-10, a measure of wellbeing, before and after the workshops and also interviewed the participants at these times.

Results: Participants responded enthusiastically and each group demonstrated an increase in wellbeing over the course of their workshop, moving them from medium to low risk on the K10. Participants enjoyed the challenge of writing and the companionship of other group members.

Conclusions: Psychiatrists, especially those working in liaison psychiatry, are in a position to encourage patients who have experienced a serious illness to explore writing as a way of coming to terms with their experiences.


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