Fair play to Newstalk for undertaking a week of programmes and events to highlight Mental Health. The first of these programmes was aired this morning, and featured the wonderful Caroline McGuigan from Suicide or Survive, as well as two parents who had each lost a child to suicide.
It was heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measure to hear their stories and I felt privileged that they chose to share their tales with us. Their bravery was apparent.
In Ireland, tackling a mental health problem is still fraught with difficulty – not least the stigma that attaches to the subject of mental ill-health. Time and again, those of us who have suffered with mental health have spoken of how physical ailments are more socially ‘acceptable’; of how, if one had a broken arm or a broken leg, or the influenza, people would have no difficulty enquiring after your health and your progress. Mental health difficulties, though, are treated differently.
This stigma can also prevent people seeking help. It can be hard to ask for help when you feel that you will be judged for feeling low, or sad or suicidal.
Think, for a second, how you react to people who reveal they have, or have had, a difficulty with their mental health. Is it a negative, positive or neutral reaction? Upon what do you base it? Is it based on something you have heard? Something unsubstantiated? Your own experiences or the experiences of someone close to you?
See Change and Suicide or Survive are doing all they can to change the stigma associated with mental ill health in Ireland. It’s up to the rest of us to do our bit as well.