Yet here in Ireland talking about any mental health problem you may have is just not the thing people do, people are afraid to admit publicly that they are struggling with something.
Why? The stigma attached to mental health, especially here in Ireland.
People are afraid that their friends and family will treat them differently, see them differently and act differently around them.
Once they hear someone has a mental health issue they sometimes think, “Oh maybe I shouldn’t talk about this topic in front of the person in case it triggers something.”
When someone has a broken leg, everybody knows exactly what to do. Yet when someone says they are feeling depressed or anxious or that they were diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder for example, people either do not know how to react or they are afraid to act.
There are four days left in May (as I write this) which is mental health awareness month here in Ireland and the ironic thing is that other than the people involved with organisations like See Change and First Fortnight, no one seems aware of the initiative.
I have kept an eye on the news, online and paper versions, throughout the month and I have not seen as much coverage of the initiative as there should be.
Many people who I have come across on the events and organisations that I have attended have put so much time and effort into changing the attitude towards mental health in Ireland. They have done so for years and have not got the recognition that they deserve.
Why are people so afraid of talking about mental health? Lack of understanding is the main issue as I see it to people being more receptive to mental health talk.
The idea of ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’ is one people always go on about when trying to understand someone’s situation.
However, when it comes to mental health that is hard to do due to the fact that no two people’s situation regarding mental health is the same.
There are so many different ways people can be affected and there are so many different things that can affect people.
Mental health is not just depression and anxiety no matter how prominent those two are in the media these days.
However, I do think that if people were educated about mental health, the what, the why, the how, etc. then they can begin to understand a family member or friend’s situation a bit better, as they feel more confident in themselves to be able to help.
If you are given information about Bi-Polar, Depression, Anxiety, etc. then hopefully you would feel comfortable to have tea and a chat with someone who asks or you may have suggested it to them.
Obviously you wouldn’t be able to solve all if any of their issues but you would be able to chat about the person and their situation without falling back on the well-worn clichés surrounding mental health as you would know more about the issue that affects the person.
Think about when you were younger, would it have made a difference if you were educated in what mental health is, how it affects people in different ways and the different types of issues that affect people.
I think it would have made me way more aware of myself and what my friends were feeling to a certain extent.
Obviously kids would not become shrinks overnight but they would be more aware about their own emotions and maybe their friends as they were given the information that helps them understand more.
That is why I think that initiatives like the Green Ribbon one deserve more national and local recognition as it is easier to make people feel comfortable to talk about and learn about mental health through raising awareness rather than having to roll out a large scale education scheme. Initiatives like the Green Ribbon one also target all ages whereas the scheme I described doesn’t.
‘’Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.’ ’-Vincent Van Gogh.
Initiatives like the Green Ribbon one are vital as part of the first step towards Ireland being more accepting towards the topic of mental health.
However, the volunteers can’t do all it on their own, they need backing from communities, local authorities and Governments to spread the message that talking about mental health is perfectly acceptable and normal.
1 in 4 of us are affected by mental health issues, myself included, you could be the local plumber or the president it does not matter.
Even a 2-minute chat while having a smoke outback with someone starts the conversation, small steps are better than none.
http://www.yourmentalhealth.ie/ is a good starting point if you want to start your own conversation sooner rather than later.