St. Paul teen uses poetry to heal, advocate for mental health awareness

A local high school student is bringing awareness of mental health through literature. 

Bobby Arnold, 17, recently published his first book of poetry. It’s a 91-page book of personal poems that led the young writer on a journey of self-discovery.

"I’m not the same anymore. No longer immature," said Arnold as he read from his book during an interview with FOX 9's Bisi Onile-Ere.  

The 17-year-old said that it's in poetry that he finds sanctuary. 

Reading a passage from his book, Arnold said, "No longer affected by toxic masculinity. I’m no longer angry, but yes, I’m still me." This is the St. Paul's Johnson High School senior's first published book. It’s a collection of poems titled: "The Falling Uprise." 

"It’s a journal, in a sense. It’s a journal of my mental health, of how it’s feeling and how you can connect with people," said Arnold. 

He began writing four years ago. "Yeah, I do cry and yes, it does hurt. Yes, my mental health is poor, yeah I do have insecurities, but I will suffer no more," said Arnold, reading a page from his book. 

Like most of society, life took a turn for Arnold at the start of the pandemic.  

"Like dealing with stress from school, outside stress and just a bunch of different things, it all kind of took a toll on my mental health and so I’d get out through my writing and my poetry," said Arnold.

Writing was a creative outlet that Arnold says served as a form of therapy.

"I feel that as Black men we forget about our mental health a lot. We forget about taking care of ourselves. We forget about things called therapy, there’s things called meditating, praying," said Arnold.

According to data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black youth have seen the fastest-rising suicide rates among any ethnic group in the last 20 years, with suicide among male Black youth rising 60%. 

"I was reading back, and I was like, ‘Man, there’s some poems about suicide and stuff like that.' I was like, 'Man, I’m in such a better place now. I feel so much better now,’" said Arnold. 

For him, it’s been a journey of self-discovery. Reading from his book, Arnold said, "I see the progress you’ve made, because I see how you shine."

He found healing in the power of words. "It helps people realize that they’re not the only ones suffering or going through these experiences," said Arnold. 

This young poet is now focused on his next chapter. 

"I realized that my purpose as a person is to help other people. Every time I get to help someone, help a student, or I get to help an older person, it feels my spirit with some type of joy," said Arnold.

Arnold's book is being sold on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. This fall, he plans to attend Augsburg University, where he'll major in education. He hopes to one day become a teacher. He credits the staff at Johnson High School for all of his success so far.