World Mental Health Day 2014

Linen Suite Mosseley Mill, Belfast.

Keynote speaker: Minister Wells.

Minister Wells said, “Almost one in five people will show signs of a mental health problem during their lifetime. That means it is likely a significant proportion of us will be affected in some way by mental health issues during our lifetime. In line with Bamford’s vision to put the ‘person’ at the centre of services, I want to ensure that all health abd social care services place the person and their family at the heart of care.

“I wish to congratulate Bill for writing this excellent book of poems. It is so important he can tell his story and be a voice for people who have not yet found theirs. Bill has dedicated his career to helping others overcome obstacles and he is proof that with help and support, many many people can move on from debilitating mental health issues and lead a fulfilling life.”


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Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health

“…At the same time, evidence abounds that mental health sufferers are not passive victims, but actively reconstruct their sense of self, partly through and in terms of their illness experiences, but also through renewed forms of identification and affirmation. Moving towards social inclusion, mental health service user groups like Rethink (2010), Sane (2013), NSUN (2011) and Mind (2013), activists such as Hungerian Gabor Gombos (Gombos 2011) and poet Bill McKnight (McKnight 2012), are voicing the experiences, rights and expectations of mental health service users across the globe.”

(Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health – Service Users’ Perspectives; ROBERTA MCDONNELL (2014) Palgrave macmillan).

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stigma conference poems

Dear Bill,

Your poems are wonderful. Prof Norman Sartorius and I lectured here in Gothenburg, Sweden for two days last week and I read your poems – four of them. I have read them at conferences and lectures, mostly for mental health staff and user organizations.

The poems capture the inner soul of mental illness as well as human longings and emotions, such as love, longing as well as rejection. I am very touched by your poems and so was my audience.

I am convinced that a larger audience would appreciate your work, at least in western Europe, where most people in the profession, and even a broader audience, know English quite well.

Good luck and, please, keep in touch.



PS: Sent 13 May 2009 – before my poems were published as ‘Loud Silence’.

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Praxis Care Befrienders and Volunteers 2014

Here are a few extracts from my address at the Praxis Care Volunteer Thank You Event held last night at the Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown, NI.

“If I had had a befriender, a volunteer to meet with for a coffee and a chat, this would have become the highlight of my week. And maybe this is true for some of you Praxis Care members? For me, anticipation would have been building all week – waiting to meet my volunteer and having the pleasure of going out with a purpose and coming home feeling good because of the enjoyment of a meaningful relationship and a satisfying interaction. What a feeling of self-worth, self-respect, self-esteem I would have had because someone was willingly, freely giving of themselves to meet me. And I would have looked forward to the next encounter with much hope!

Using listening skills, perhaps personal experience, empathy, warmth, love and understanding Praxis Care befrienders and volunteers offer help and support through friendship. The confident, caring Volunteer brings hope and hope can spark recovery. Recovery is, I suggest, wellness – living with illness.

One volunteer is worth a hundred conscripts. The quality, passion and committment of the Praxis Care volunteers and befrienders and their routine, consistency and selfless giving adds immensely to the Praxis Care members’ quality of living.”

Praxis Care befrienders and volunteers give of time, of skills of energy. At last night’s Praxis Care Volunteers Thank You Event 2014 feedback was that Praxis Care members are encouraged socially, emotionally and psychologically through social support.

I think it fair to say that a good evening was had by all. And well done Winnie – 25 years as a Praxis Care Volunteer!

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NICON conference, La Mon Hotel, Belfast

I had the privilege to open and close this Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Conference on 5th & 6th March, 2014. The conference theme was ‘Better Together’. Using poetry I stated that providers of services and receivers of services are all service users and must work together and serve together in a professional and public capacity.

I shall not give my script in full but try to give a flavour of my short five minute addresses…

Day 1

A nation of islands?

Islands do not interact.
There’s no exchange of views.
And that’s just great
For visitors are not welcome –
I’ve no interest in you.
I sing my national anthem to an audience of one,
And please myself on my desert isle –
Robinson Crusoe never had such fun!
My choice, my independence, are the order of the day.
I eat when I want.
I sleep when I want.
I don’t do any harm.
I don’t need any favours.
I don’t take any ‘stick’.
Autonomy’s all very well for a while,
But what happens
When I’m sick?

Self-help books didn’t work!

Positive thinking (gone pear-shaped).

I’m beautiful.
I’m clever.
I’m able.
I’m talented.
I’m witty.
I’m great.
Gee. I’m a pain!

I looked to psychiatry for help. Hope hoped for…

Mind’s eye.

Doctor, my mind is out of focus.
Like wearing glasses
That have a wrong prescription.
Will medication mend the blur
And give me back my vision?

A rather rude awakening. Hope dented…

Dr. Who.
I disclose to you.
You don’t disclose to me.
In this power imbalance lies an inequality.
Dr. Who, if such a relationship is to your credit
I simply don’t get it.

One day, whilst walking to work, a solitary seagull was crying out overhead. I felt uneasy, as if being laughed at. I mentioned this matter to a young psychiatrist. Hope dashed!


I told a doctor, “The seagulls are laughing at me.”
The doctor laughed, too!
(Who says laughter is the best medicine?)

Psychiatrists say that physical exercise is good for one’s mood. I say…

Keeping fit at 51?
I think I’ll take the car out for a run.

Day 2

A message to professionals – service users know who cares and who doesn’t care…

Mentally ill (but not stupid).

Squirrel Nutkin’s schizophrenic.
Some people say she’s bonkers.
But Squirrel Nutkin differentiates
‘tween hazelnuts and conkers!

But service users must remember that even staff can be depressed…


Monday morning’s come around.
Even the bloody computers are ‘down’!

Education. Education. Education.
There’s change in this nation?
What’s the latest blog?
Long John Silver has been superseded
By Sonic the hedgehog!

And even Sonic is last year’s thing. Change is supersonic! Let’s rise to the occasion. We are living in difficult times….Personally, I’m learning that hope is forged amidst trials – not before; not afterwards…


It is said
That the darkest hour
Is just before dawn.
In a similar vein
Growth and change
Can be gained
At the moments of greatest pain.

Mountain summit

It is too frightening to make a mistake.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to say what I think.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to let my anger out.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to trust.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to take a risk.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to love.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

It is too frightening to live.
And the mountain ahead is so high.

Aaargh!! It’s too frightening to be frightened.

And the valley below,
Oh! the valley below
Is splendid to the eye.


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NICON event

The Northern Ireland Confederation For Health And Social Services – NICON 2014 Conference is to be held on Wednesday 5th/Thursday 6th March at La Mon Hotel, Belfast.

I’m thrilled and honoured to be invited to open and close the NICON 2014 conference with poems from my book, ‘Loud Silence’.  This invitation is an opportunity to share personal experience of mental illness, stigma and recovery and as a ‘professional’ working in psychiatric services within the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust.

The NICON event is entitled, “Better Together”.  It’s about partnership, ie. Comm – unity  Care.

I shall post my two addresses on my blog after the NICON conference.  May these be of use to you.

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Some Christmas meditations…

This first poem is a reflection on the death of my dear friend “Frankie”.


On a grey day in a suburb
the church bells peel
for a widow newly departed.
Her body was lowered
into a watery grave,
but the sun shone through the clouds
like an anthem.
Downtown, shoppers set the tone,
and “jingle bells” is what the tills are ringing.

Bling Crosby

I’m dreamin’ of a white…

Q: Daddy, where does Santa live?

A: Santa’s address is stress!

Christmas 2013

No room in the…

May you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.


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