Author of Black Rainbow, Rachel Kelly, guest blogs for us, on an evening of fundraising and poetry.

Poetry and champagne filled Kensington Town Hall last week for a celebration of World Mental Health Day. The reception, hosted by the Mayor, Maighread Condon-Simmonds, a former nurse, saw grandees including Stanley Johnson – another Mayor's father – Su Sayer, founder director of United Response, Marjorie Wallace, head of SANE and novelist Sebastian Faulks get together to raise funds for SANE and toast the healing power of poetry.

Stanley Johnson read Alfred Lord Tennyson's ‘Ulysses’, citing it as the best invitation to persevere, especially in old age. Marjorie Wallace read a poem she had written herself, while the actress Shirley Anne Field read 'Sea Fever’ by John Masefield. My contribution to the night’s readings was somewhat cheekier: Christopher Logue’s ‘To the man in search of rural seclusion’. ‘When all else fails, / Try Wales.’

The evening doubled-up as the paperback launch of my memoir, Black Rainbow, which details my own experience of using poetry to keep my spirits up during a long battle with depression. All author proceeds from the book are being divided between SANE and United Response.

So much has happened since I partnered with SANE and United Response to set up two charitable campaigns linked to my book – the #healingwords campaign and the Postcards of Hope project – which both called upon the public to interact and share poems that have helped them. I hope in a small way these contributions have added to our attempts to understand mental health.

New technology has provided new means of addressing mental ill-health. I recently launched an app which puts into practice all the values and techniques I talk about in my book. There are consolatory poems and prose extracts for various stages of suffering: representations of what people might be going through at their worst to give voice to their feelings; poems to comfort; poems to give people the strength to get better; and finally, writing to help people cope with normality after depression, and guard against relapses.

Many don’t have the energy to read when they are at their worst, so I’ve made recordings of the poems, featuring readings by the actors Julian Glover and Isla Blair, and United Response’s own president, the beloved newscaster Martyn Lewis. There is also expert advice from a nutritionist on what to eat to relieve tension, help you sleep when you are finding it difficult, and improve your mood, along with guided sleep and relaxation audios by the digital meditation guru, Ross Puddle.

I’ve made have made the app free to download from the Apple App Store for the weeks following World Mental Health Day. Otherwise, all proceeds from the app will once again be split between United Response and SANE.

In the spirit of people recommending poems, I’ll leave you with a fitting one from Martyn Lewis, a great believer in the therapeutic value of words. ‘Slow Dance’ was originally recommended to him by the great News at Ten broadcaster Andrew Gardner, and Martyn uses it where appropriate in after-dinner speeches. It was written by an anonymous American teenager living with cancer, and invites us to slow down, appreciate the moment, and not to dance so fast, repeating this haunting verse:

You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

Rachel Kelly.

The Black Rainbow app is available for Apple and Android devices. Download it from the Apple app store and also from the Google play store. Follow Rachel on twitter @rache_Kelly or go to