Ireland: A nation of talkers, yappers and chatters. You can’t keep us quiet sometimes. Except on certain subjects. We’re picky, 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 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 and the world around you. We live in a time where everything appears rosy, and life is just full of selfies and Instagram shots of ice cream, 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 as well 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 to mental health. If you think, in any way shape or 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.
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 as well. 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 it 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.
As I said before, we’re a nation of talkers, so 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. 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.