'Pen to paper': Poet sharing mental health journey as form of therapy

A local poet is sharing his mental health journey through written and spoken words.

Ryan Antooa is putting his story into motion.

“The younger version of me or the young BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Colour) individuals that I grew up with would have benefited from the same type of information or wisdom that I’ve been happy enough to glean," said Antooa. “So if you have more, do more.”

After deciding to go to therapy in 2019, he found poetry as way to express himself. He published his first book of poetry, "Better In Tune With The Infinite," in May of that same year.

"My form of therapy to get pen to paper," Antooa said. "So anytime I was feeling anxious or anytime I was feeling a type of way, I would go back to the book and write and write and write.”

The book shot to number one on Amazon's Canadian poetry list.  According to Antooa, he wanted to help support conversations about mental health, and designated a portion of the proceeds to the Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo Wellington.

A creative outlet can be a useful tool when it comes to managing stress and anxiety, according to the CMHA.

“It can be a really brilliant way to process something. It’s time being creative and being quiet that is quite enjoyable for some people," said Meredith Gardiner, the Director of Service for the CMHA of Waterloo Wellington.

Antooa hopes by sharing his own mental health journey it helps others in the BIPOC community, especially men, open up and share how they are feeling.

According to Gardiner, it is about making sure people know that they're not alone.

"The ability to connect is available to anybody," she said.

Antooa’s second book, Chanel Blue, an ode to his Guyanese roots, was published last year. He's paying it forward this time to Sojourn House in Toronto, supporting refuges coming to Canada.

Moving forward, he hopes to connect with the libraries in Waterloo Region to get his books on their shelves and continue sharing his story.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can visit cmhaww.ca or here247.ca.