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As the ballots were counted this weekend, the topic of mental health silently echoed across this beautiful Isle as once again, its significance had to be highlighted on numerous campaigns over previous weeks. While voters struggling with depression sat alongside their families hoping to see change, celebrities such as Bressie and The Rubber Bandits pleaded to politicians via social media, letters and even videos to get more eyes on this topic. As someone who had been confident with her vote-choice earlier in the week, I quickly changed my tune as I realised those I was in favor of had very little to offer in terms of solutions to our crisis surrounding mental health and suicide. Now, as our new government gets comfortable in the Dail, all we can do is wait and hope for the best…
Or, is there another way?
Actually, there is.
I sat in House Dublin with a glass of bubbly in one hand and my iphone in the other as I networked and chatted to fellow bloggers on the fifth of February 2016. As per usual, I found it quite easy to connect with bloggers as we often have lots in common and are used to getting to know each other online. Of course, on this occasion, we were also there for an extra important reason – to raise money for Aware and to highlight an epidemic that is crippling the country.
Perfectly organised by Covet Mimi and wonderfully hosted by Snapchat star James Patrice, there were four inspirational speakers on the night – Meghan Scully, RoseMary McCabe, Jenni Murphy and Alan Quinlan – all sufferers of mental health challenges and all with an inspirational story to tell. They are survivors and each had found help for both themselves and those they’ve supported over the years. The main message was that talking about what’s going on for us is OK and that there is help out there – whether that comes in the form of medication, counseling or simply, taking time for yourself with tools such as exercise.
Banding together is more necessary now than ever. Going out into the world and trying to cure it of struggle isn’t what’s been asked here. Making a little difference by openly talking about mental health, reaching out to someone who might be suffering or sharing your personal story will get us one step closer to where we need to be.
Aware are always looking for volunteers and fundraisers around the country. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled.
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.
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.
*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
We are what we eat.
It sounds like a cliche but it’s true. Often though, when we consider this saying, it’s in the context of our weight, gut and even, skin. But what if, what we really need to pay attention to is how it affects our brains, our thinking and inevitably, our quality of life?
Since early childhood, I’ve struggled with my mental health. I’m prone to lows, highs and the occasional, temper tantrum. This has led to my obligatory development of self-awareness tactics to help me stay balanced and content. One of these tactics is food.
According to the UK Mental Health Foundation, nutrition plays a critical role in the maintenance of good mental health. The brain requires a balance of essential fatty acids—including omega-6 and omega-3—to function properly. An imbalance in these crucial nutrients has been linked to a number of mental health issues.
When considering our diet and what we need to introduce, it’s important to consider what we’re already intaking. This will mean we can adapt and replace as opposed to over-complicating our diet or stressing ourselves out.
Some foods to consider cutting down on (or out) which are quite obvious but need to be highlighted are below.
Super-size me is a movie that changed many people’s mindsets on eating fast food such as Mc Donalds. Strangely, doctors couldn’t believe (and made it clear) to Morgan Spurlock at the start of his 30 day ‘Mc Donalds only diet experiment’ that, there wouldn’t be a huge difference on his health. Fast forward to day 5 and there he was, feeling bloated, disgusting and DEPRESSED. Junk food, its contents and chemicals have a shocking effect on your overall health. Additionally, the trans fats found in fast food items displace omega fatty acids, thereby negatively affecting brain health and impacting mental well-being.
The internet is rampant with healthy replacements for fast food meals known as ‘fake aways’, whatever the type. SO, there’s no need to miss out.
When I say sugar, I mean processed sugar. The only food item that has zero nutritional or other benefit to your health are processed sugars. They affect your brain, make you hyper, give you a high, put you on a downer and make you feel unwell. I’m not being a hypocrite here, I do enjoy the occasional (or regular) cream egg however I know on certain days when my head is overly active or I feel particularly rubbish, I need to try to leave at least a couple of chocolates in the box and reach for something more beneficial to my health.
Instead of having a bar of milk chocolate, an alternative I’ve been trying lately is dark chocolate (at least 70%) broken up and mixed with some fruit and yoghurt. It satisfies my sweet tooth and is a much lower sugar intake than I would otherwise have.
I’ve read loads of articles lately that suggest caffeine is actually good for you. Speaking from personal experience, on a day I’m feeling anxious or am super busy, coffee tips me over the edge. Aside from this, it is addictive which has its own effects on mental health. Dependency on a substance, even caffeine can affect mood as one suffers withdrawals and anxiety when it’s not available (learn more from ‘Live Science’ here). This is why I’ve cut it out. Instead, I have decaf coffees, calming teas and avoid pain-killers that contain it.
Whatever the case, I ensure that what’s going into my body serves a benefit and makes me feel good in a real way.