The Irish have the gift of the gab about everything from Garth Brooks to Kimye's honeymoon... Just not about telling each other that no, we're not feeling all that great today, writes Dairne Black...

Ireland: A nation of talkers, yappers and chatters. You can’t keep us quiet sometimes. Except on certain subjects. We’re picky. Sure, we want to talk all about Garth Brooks, and Kimye’s arrival, but we don’t want to talk about mental health. It’s a taboo subject. One we don’t talk about, or shy away from.

It’s something, that for me, it’s such an issue of the time, and if truth be told, you can’t talk about it enough. Mental health, the health of the mind. How you feel about yourself. We live in a time where everything appears rosy, and life is just full of selfies and Instagram shots of icecream, of Facebook posts about how everyone is ‘loving life’. This isn’t the case for all of us. Some of us, aren’t ‘lovin life’ and I guarantee you, it’s more often than I care to admit it.

Mental health, to me is about being happy. You need to love yourself before you can let anyone else in. It took me a long time to learn that, and a long time to properly love myself. The older I got, the easier I found it. I didn’t just think I was OK, I accepted myself for who I was and realised I was someone worth something.

It’s OK not to feel OK. It really is. It’s OK to feel down, to feel shit, feel crappy, worthless and just generally down. Sometimes there are reasons, sometimes there aren’t. Maybe it’s that you got broken up with or had to break up with someone; heartbreak. Perhaps there are family issues, or friendship issues, fights and arguments, no matter how small can have a big effect on the mind. Is it work? The environment you’re in and the people around you. Or college, the course isn’t what you hoped or wanted, you’re doing aswell as you’d like.

The problems surrounding mental health and those who suffer from the illnesses associated with it, can be triggered by anything, everything and often nothing. No matter how much of a front someone puts up on the outside, none of us know what goes on in someone else’s head. The mind is a delicate, fragile tool. We as humans, and in particular young people, have expertly learned to mask and disguise what we are feeling inside, so often, for many of us, our mental health is neglected. If you cut your leg, you wouldn’t let it bleed or fester. The same attitude needs to be applied for mental health. If you think, in any way shape of form that something isn’t quite right, not adding up, please go and speak to someone. We put bandages on cuts, cream on burns, put a plaster on your mental health.

We need to be aware of our mental health. Learn how to manage our thoughts, and what goes on in our mind. I wish I’d known more of this when I was younger. This idea of a ‘happy place’ is one that everyone should have. When things get too much, go to that place. Whatever makes you feel happy again, or at least changes whats going on in your head at the time. For me, it’s watching Youtube videos of my favourite bands, something so simple. Sometimes, we don’t have the option, thoughts strike at any time. They can suddenly overcome us. We might not have internet at our fingertips, or our escape route there at the time. The key thing is to remember, they are just thoughts. Nothing more.

Mental health is about doing the best for your mental health. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you, not the ones who moan and bring you down. Sometimes you don’t realise it, but many so-called friends can be negative, and this has a knock-on effect on your mental, not to mention their own.

Exercise is another great way to keep the brain active and generally clear the head. It sounds clichéd but it does work. You don’t have to run, a gentle stroll does the trick aswell. Get some air into your lungs and just relax. It’s so important to do this during winter, because it’s a pretty grim season and despite the festivities of Christmas, the weather can play a big impact on mood swings.

Another tip, that I’ve started doing myself, is avoiding TV. There’s some amount of junk on our screens and it wasn’t until lately that I realised the impact it was having on me. Shows like Teen Mom or Made In Chelsea, full of depressing stories, and in general, not really making any particular point. My Mum used to ask me why I was filling my head with crap but at the time I was a way of relaxing, in hindsight, anything was better than watching girls bitch about each other.

We need to start valuing ourselves, and more than anything, realise, that you are enough. I can’t stress it enough, but you are. Ignore the flaws and imperfections, that only you can see anyway. Nothing matters other than you being you, clichéd as hell but true. Skin color, gender, sexual orientation, whether he/she likes me, friendships, all these conflicting issues that for so many cause so much strife.

As I said before, we’re a nation of talkers. Mental health needs to be talked about more. Teenager Donal Walsh comes to mind when writing a piece like this. He came to light as he embarked on a quest to make us all more aware of the gift of life, and how precious it is. He aimed to highlight suicide amongst young people, and what he did for mental health is something that had never been done before. Someone young, talking about a taboo subject; suicide.

Why don’t we talk about mental health? Why do we say “we’re grand” when really, we’re not. Are we embarrassed? Ashamed? Scared? Worried? Nervous? Or all of the above? We’re great at talking about things that are  happy, great and fun. It’s this talking about the negative stuff, the bad stuff, that ultimately leads to rich, wonderful good stuff. It paves the way for it.

God knows, being young is tough enough. Hitting puberty, and embarking on that journey into adulthood is one of the craziest and often most stressful periods of a young person’s life. It’s about handling it, juggling the balls, controlling what you can and learning to relax about what you can’t.

I think honestly there are superheroes inside all of us. We all have battles to fight and demons to conquer. No-one is alone in it. It’s time to talk about it and tackle things head on. As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. 

If you would like support with your mental health, please get in touch with your Student Union’s Welfare Officer so that they can direct you onto (often free) counselling, supportive organisations like Aware and Console or just simply have a cup of tea and a chat with you about what’s troubling you. They are there to support you.