"I aim to promote awareness and acceptance of these illnesses which are so often ignored. With knowledge and understanding, we can come out of the shadows and move forwards to a brighter future." ~ Mary Baker
Annette and Stu Baker lost their daughter Mary to suicide at age 15. Alongside her passions for horse riding and water polo, Mary found a real love for poetry through her English class at school.
I see myself in the poem as the primary holder of the key and for this, I carry an enduring sadness.
That Mary was unable ever, even in the depths of her illness, to reveal her pain and suffering leaves me as her mother with deep regret and sorrow.
In this, I believe she was protecting us from the knowledge that one day she would fly away.
Mary’s major school English project Out of the Shadows opened her eyes to what was possible for her to say in poetry that which she couldn’t and wasn’t able to physically convey with words.
I consider her poetry and prose about mental health as a gift and it has been the catalyst for our activism. Some have said she’s left a legacy.
This is a perfect time for her poem The Key to be published with Red Room. We know that they will ensure her poetry will be published in the right domain and we are both comfortable in that knowledge.
I first read Mary’s poem The Key three days after her death.
My overwhelming feelings were sadness, understanding, and gratitude.
Mary has expressed the anguish and pain of her mental ill-health and the role she and we played in the three years of battling an eating disorder in our quest to return to normal.
The poem doesn’t offer hope of recovery and the sadness for me is in understanding that our ultimately failed attempt to return Mary to full health inflicted a very heavy toll on her emotional wellbeing.
The key is used metaphorically throughout the poem both to denote our control of Mary’s freedom and the hold her illness has over her.
The repetition of the theme of being trapped and confined in the early stanzas of the poem builds an image of despair at the illness and the familial control.
In the final stanzas the poem talks of freedom, release, and trust in the unknown as if to offer an answer.
In the days following Mary’s death and in the depths of my grief we wrote to the two surviving poets whose poems Mary analysed.
The first response was from Les Murray who had suffered from depression and his letter has been a comfort to us.
His first sentence read: ‘What a filthy unjust thing mental illness can be, taking away a life that clearly had every reason to be happy and proud of itself’.
The aim of this project is to share lived experiences of mental health via poetry. Therefore, some of the content may potentially trigger some readers. If you require mental health support or assistance, a list of free confidential 24/7 support lines can be found here. You are not alone in your journey.