Sporting Green Ribbons: Mental Health Awareness Month Is Here

It’s time for a brand new month with fresh goals, plans ahead and adventures to have. Like all the other months of the year so far, it will fly by and before we know it, the sunshine of June will be upon us. We will mark a date in history with the upcoming referendum for marriage equality and no doubt, it will continue to be as hot a topic of conversation after the voting ballots have been counted.

While we surround ourselves with the excitement of debate, expected turnouts and, the fun plans of Summer holidays, booking days off and the usual ‘what to wear Saturday night’ conversations, there are those around us who want to start conversations we know nothing about. They are feeling lost, down, lonely and most significantly, unable to speak out for fear of what will be thought of them. These are the people suffering with mental illness.

1 in 5 people will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. These people could be you or I, our dearest friends or our closest allies. As you read this, I ask you to think for a second of someone close to you who has suffered with depression of some form. I have no doubt you thought of someone pretty easily. As I write this I think of my cousin who passed away at a young age from suicide, a dear friend who while living a normal life was struck with the helplessness of this illness and, my wonderful father who struggled for a large part of his life.

Thankfully, because of the work of charities and everyday people of this country, we’re starting to turn the tide. Now is our chance to make an even bigger impact as it is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a time of the year where we are encouraged to start more conversations about mental health, get involved in activities that improve education surrounding the issue and, pull together to lift the stigma that has plagued this country for generations.

25/4/13 Opening doors for people to talk. Minister of State, Department of Health with responsibility for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch pictured at the launch of the IFA lets walk and talk events, four walks across the country to get a National conversation on Mental health issues. The event is part of the National green ribbon campaign. Picture:  Finbarr O'Rourke NO REPRO FEE

Mental Health Awareness Month’s signature representation is the Green Ribbon. Not surprisingly, the campaign has already made a huge impact since its inception. According to Sorcha Lowry of seechange.ie who is the Campaign Manager, there have been notable differences in terms of the conversations had and the way people speak about mental health because of the Green Ribbon…

“We often hear that we need to talk more about mental health and the simple and free Green Ribbon provides a practical way of turning that into action. The 500,000 people who will be wearing Green Ribbons this month will not only be showing their support for the campaign but also leaving the door open for conversation. For someone who might be going through a tough time, just knowing that they don’t have to avoid the subject with you can make all the difference.”

To date, the campaign has caused a huge rumble surrounding this issue thus, creating more ease around the subject.

*Over 1.6 million conversations about mental health were started during the Green Ribbon campaign in May 2014.

*7 in 10 adults feel more comfortable having a conversation about mental health since the campaign.

*66% of people say the Green Ribbon campaign has encouraged them to start conversations about mental health.

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*62% have been hearing conversations about mental health among families and friends since the campaign (up from 52% in 2013).

*53% have been hearing mental health conversations in their workplaces since the campaign (up from 44% in 2013).

(Statistics based on research conducted by Millward Brown Landsdowne)

In case you’re wondering how you can get involved, learn more here. If you don’t have lots of time then a simple gesture for someone close to you might even help. Offer a listening ear, a helping hand or even just a cup of tea. Here’s hoping that next year, the statistics are even better. 

Image credits: Finbar O’Rourke