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St. Paul teen addresses mental health with poetry book

A teenage boy stands in front of a wall of library books, holding his own book.
St. Paul senior Bobby Arnold stands with his self-published book of poetry. (Photo courtesy of Bobby Arnold)

Bobby Arnold’s first poetry book, “The Falling Uprise” acknowledges the raw struggles of mental health, toxic masculinity, and burnout.

The 17-year-old senior at Johnson High School says he self-published the book because he felt his experience was something that needed to be shared.

“My overall experience as a student was taking a lot of college classes and trying to balance my social life, my school life, sports... And it was kind of taking a toll on my mental health,” said Arnold. “I was in a dark space for a little bit, struggling with certain aspects of myself. I know that there's a lot of people, especially within the Black community, that struggle with mental health and don't talk about it - especially Black men. So I felt like it was kind of necessary to put out my experience and to be vulnerable so other people can see that it's okay. It’s okay to feel sad. It's okay to feel depressed. It's okay to feel these thoughts. But it's not necessarily okay to sit and bottle them up inside of you. That’s toxic.” 

Arnold says he didn’t plan to become an author when he started high school. But he says his love for reading – specifically books by American author Jason Reynolds – inspired him to take his writing a step further.

Poem 19 from Bobby Arnold's collection "The Falling Uprise"

“I was thinking around [poem] 24-25, like man, ‘what can I do with all this?’ I just used to post them on social media to share the experience with people. And then I had the idea that I could write a book,” said Arnold. “I love reading so much, and I love writing. But I honestly didn't realize how much I’d like writing books until I actually did it. After I write a few more poetry books, I want to write a novel. And then kids books. It's just a good feeling to be like ‘I wrote this and I'm able to share it with other people.’ And it becomes beautiful.” 

Arnold says his original plan was to pursue marine biology. 

“I wanted to be a marine biologist because I love science and stuff like that. I love the water. I love learning about quarks and all that,” reflected Arnold. “And then, through my experiences in high school, I became known as one of the academic leaders and athletic leaders in my school. And my teacher was like, you’d be a really good teacher.” 

Arnold says he plans to head to college next year to pursue a double major in education and psychology. He says he wants to go straight for his masters so he can embark on his newfound vision of becoming a school Principal. 

But for now, Arnold says he is already working on a new inspirational book called “Introspective Love.”

“I paired [‘introspective’] with ‘love’ because when you look within yourself – the negative and the good aspects – you're able to be more self-fulfilling. You have to understand yourself and be able to love yourself first before you can love anybody else.”

Arnold says this road for him is just beginning and feels like a calling, and he is eager to see where it goes.

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