Cecilia Brain, M.D.

In his poems Bill McKnight has succeeded in capturing a very illustrative description of the main concepts of the core of stigma, such as self-stigma, associated stigma and societal stigma.

Several of the unfortunate pathways of stigma, prejudice and discrimination in mental illness are brought into the limelight by his sharp and analytic poems. Without mercy we are faced with the pain, injustice and sacrifice of the persons affected by the burden of a mental illness. The fear of being questioned, accused of being lazy or unwilling to try harder or not having an acceptable excuse for not feeling well, for not being like others.

With excellence he points out the tension between the patient and the caregiver- their aim for professionalism in a therapeutic alliance- in contrast to the patients need to bond, wish for real friendship, for naked honesty. How can these two be combined? He shows that it is to find a social network, family and friends and to back that up with the support from the professionals.

Bill McKnight has an unusual ability to see beyond the surface. He has the wisdom to convey poems that appeal both to me as a psychiatrist as well as to any person outside the medical profession. His clear vision creates poems that talk to our hearts as well as our brains. He conveys foresight and hope. He has the courage to show himself and dares us to confront our own fears and denials.

The short poem “Recovery” is one of the best descriptions of recovery that I have ever read. It explains the whole concept in a nutshell. It captures- in four words- the whole purpose of my professional strivings as a psychiatrist: “Wellness- living with illness”.

Needless to say this poetry collection, with the insight and honesty of the author, is an important contribution to increasing awareness and opening the doors to a fundamental shift within psychiatry and a major step towards decreased stigma in mental healthcare.

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