After last week's Mental Health Week, Eimear Kelly looks at how we can help.
Last week we saw another successful Mental Health Week, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on mental health & mental illness.
 
Firstly, I think we’re incredibly lucky to belong to a generation that are so open minded and willing to talk about these issues. It goes without saying that there are still ignorant people out there that don’t understand mental illness and refuse to properly educate themselves. However, compared to past generations, we’ve come such a long way and I hope we continue to improve.
 
We can only improve if people continue to talk, listen and learn. If you don’t understand mental illness, then please educate yourself. Speak to people and be open minded, read about people’s experiences and struggles, even Google it. Develop a decent understanding. If you’re too ignorant to even try to learn about mental health issues, then know that you’re not properly equipped to comment on the issue and that no one wants to hear what you have to say. If you’re willing to be open minded and understanding, then there shouldn’t be a problem.
 
Speaking about mental health openly is something that, in my opinion, should be encouraged from primary school onwards. I saw several tweets from students saying that World Mental Health Day wasn’t even mentioned in their secondary schools. If schools won’t even discuss the issue on World Mental Health Day, how are students meant to feel in any way supported at school? Students spend a considerable amount of time at school, shouldn’t they feel completely comfortable in an environment in which they spend so much time? Why not educate students on mental illnesses at this age so that they can properly understand what people go through? They would be better able to understand what their friend, family member or even themselves are going through.
 
The fact that it wasn’t even brought up by so many principles/teachers/schools, is truly appalling. It’s so discouraging for any student who may suffer with their mental health to go to school that day and not hear one single mention of the fact that it was World Mental Health Day.
 
I’m glad that colleges are so much more open minded and understanding. I attend the University of Limerick, and everyday there was events organised to celebrate Mental Health Week. They were free, of course, and covered a range of issues including body image, positive mental health talks, a cooking demonstration, mental health at work, etc. On Tuesday evening, the Light Up Limerick remembrance walk took place and was truly such a touching experience. I was so pleasantly surprised with the amount of people that turned up, from all colleges in Limerick, people of all ages. The efforts of the college and welfare officer were truly incredible and I like to think that this would make those who suffer with mental illness feel more at ease and know that they are not alone.
 
Talking is so so important, but also keep in mind that sometimes, people don’t want to talk. If someone in your life is struggling, let them know you are always there for them, but don’t pressure them to talk.
 
I think the mental health services in this country are horrific. We constantly hear stories of suicidal people being turned away from A&E, or panicked parents being told that there is no help there for their children. If you need to see a professional (counsellor etc), you are put onto a waiting list for months on end, and that’s if you can even afford to see a professional. This isn’t even an option for a lot of people because of the expense. People don’t always have months to spend on a waiting list- emergency cases aren’t properly catered for. The government has increased the mental health budget to 35 million, 20 million of which is from last year’s budget. Considering the amount of people that have been let down by the system, this is not enough. Our country is in a crisis when it comes to mental health. We need better services that are available to everyone regardless of financial status, class, age, or any other factor.
 
The government is letting us down, contact your local TD if you feel like there aren’t sufficient services available in your community. If no one speaks up, nothing will be done.
 
Please be mindful of other people’s mental health. Be there for your friends, family, and strangers. Everyone needs someone at times. It’s okay not to be okay but it’s not okay to suffer in silence.
 
Samaritans text service: 087 260 9090
 
Samaritans free call line: 116 123
 
Aware: 1800 80 48 48
 
National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House): 1800 247 247
 
Pieta House: 01 623 5606
 
Grow: 1890 474 474