I will be disclosing personal information in this post. I am terrified in doing so, but here goes anyway. I care too much about breaking the stigma surrounding the mental health agenda. This post was originally posted on LinkedIn for professionals.
People think I’m always happy. Bubbly, outgoing, fun. People think I’m always strong. Hopeful, helpful, inspirational. People think I’m always smart. thinking, strategic, clever. People think I’m always grateful. Praising, delighted, unwanting. People think I’m always motivated. Busy, hardworking, driven. People think I’m always there. Caring, kind, mindful.
That one word that flows throughout.
No one thing in this world is stagnant.
No one thing in this world is unmoving.
No one thing in this world is always.
People change. Circumstances change. Perceptions change.
At any one time the core of a humans being can be shattered beyond repair.
And all good things can come to a sharp halt.
Hope, joy and optimism replaced with:“What’s the point, we’re all going to die anyway?”
Kindness, mindfulness and caring replaced with:“I don’t care about myself so why should I care about others?”
Outgoing, bubbly and active replaced with:“I’m staying away from people and the world, I only make things worse.”
Working, educating and learning replaced with:“Where has it all got me so far?”
Strength replaced with tears. Hope replaced with fears.
Love replaced with hate.
Illnesses, grievances, accidents, finances, schooling, housing, community, relationships, careers, politics, colleagues, family, friends.
All interconnected, changing.
All factors which can change of how one is, and how they have come to be.
A strong word in a world that has no always.
A very thin rope holds the happiness of a human within its loop.
Perceptions that emotional stress or illness does not affect every one of us causes great barriers on the road to the prevention of such.
Preparation for the probability of stress caused by natural life is the only proactive measure.
Acceptability that life has happened to others is measured through the reactions of society and the eyes of the perceived.
Disruption to stigma is the only way forward.
Every being in the world will witness and go through stress.
Be it physically, emotionally or both.
Let everyone accept this.
It’s called life.
Let everyone change the perception.
Let’s be ready.
Let’s be thoughtful.
Let’s be open.
And most of all, let’s be kind.
This post is addressed to professionals, and to everyone else for that matter. So before I hear “this content is not business related” in the comments, I am addressing this now. This poem, by yours truly, is written for, and about, a very close friend of mine. The below article, based on this work, is completely suitable for posting here on this, a professional platform.
Because, it is people, not products which change the world. Behind every product, behind every business, is a person with an idea, a thought, a vision. Upon building upon this dream, other people become involved. And those people are connected to more people. And all of those people, to many, many more. Which is what this platform is all about. Connections. Every person along this journey each have their own dreams and visions. And lives.
Lives which can be full of happiness, full of aspiration, full of love. Full of travels, full of eating out with friends, full of shopping. Full of sports, full of arts, full of music. Full of relationships, full of family, full of friends. Full of career prospects, full of academic achievements, full of achieved bucket lists.
Lives full of, well, stuff.
But one day, that same life, in just a heartbeat, can suddenly become empty.
Just like that.
Much like a computer which turns on and lights up, everything externally may still remain as was upon first glance, but it’s only upon closer examination you find something just isn’t right anymore. The internal system is just not syncing correctly, there has been some memory loss and it doesn’t really know what to do anymore. The hardware is fine, the software isn’t.
You look for the signs. You backtrack. trying to figure out what caused the problem. Still unsure, you tentatively reach out to others for help. An online help service, a phone call to a friend, a dusty PC manual stuck in it’s box.
You do everything to fix it. All your work is stored on it. Photos of your children. You might even hear yourself say, “my whole life is on it.” It’s connected to loads of other PC’s. You’re afraid it might affect them.
It might have just been that a wrong button was pressed; it might be that a wrong code was input; a drink spilled – or worse somebody hacked your system.
All very logical reasons for how a perfectly perfect system could suddenly crash.
Much like when a human being crashes.
A high energy, fun loving, positive person you once knew, is suddenly, gone. Eyes empty with an over coated gloss to hide their pain, shame or anguish. They can’t keep up, can’t work like they did before, talk, chat or respond in the same way. They try to find the root cause. Ring a helpline, talk to friends, read self help books. Their changes are affecting those around them. What happened?
Life. Life is what happened. Life happens to all of us.
Life challenges everyone’s mental health.
Every single one of us have experienced stress at some stage. Even our birthing process is a physical stress our bodies go through. Think of a time you were worried about exams, health, finances, peers, family, relationships. Afraid of an injection, a spider, flying. Afraid of what your friends would think, your boss would think, your neighbors would think. Afraid of the past. Afraid of being ugly. Afraid of embarrassment, failure, guilt. Afraid of losing your job, your home, your dignity. Afraid of dying. Afraid of losing someone you love.
Yes, all stress inducing fears. And very real fears to the person who has them.
Yet, sometimes there are no fears.
Sometimes stress is caused by circumstances or situations. Break-ups, job losses, health issues – all can contribute. Bullying, be you an adult or child, can have the most detrimental effects.
The loss of your home. The loss of a loved one. The loss of a child.
The yearning for a child, not yet conceived.
There are no words.
No one knows what tomorrow may bring and this sometimes causes stress brought on by anxiety worrying about the unknown.
We all, at some stages in our lives, will go through some sort of stress. We have to break the ignorance that is stigma surrounding mental health “issues” as if it is something we have not ever experienced. This agenda needs to be addressed at a professional level.
People from all status’ and hierarchies need to start speaking up. We all need to admit to one another, and the world, that we all have experienced stress, and at times even, depression or anxiety. And then we need to learn from one another as to how we got past those feelings of despair or emptiness.
It is normal to feel empty sometimes. Completely and utterly normal.
I have felt empty.
But as soon as I started feeling fulfilled again, I knew I wanted to help others.
In 2012 I joined a new group on Facebook called EasySpeak. This private forum was founded by Dublin man Mark Dolan and he had just lost two of his best friends within a few weeks of each other through suicide. Devastated, he never wanted to see anyone have no-one to talk to and so he took action. It was a year or so after, and thousands of members later, when Mark decided to take a step back from this forum so that he could try and make sense of what had happened to him, and so since 2013 I have watched, minded and safeguarded this page for him, and for our 10,000 strong members, of which we call, EasySpeakers.
EasySpeakers comprise of people from every single background and walk of life. Business people, parents, grandparents, unemployed, students, politicians, teenagers – the list goes on – from all over the world.
EasySpeakers mind one another. They share stories, both anonymously and openly, to help each other heal and not feel alone. They share information about local resources and professionals. They share what worked and what didn’t. They share their good days and their bad days. EasySpeak has helped so many.
I know this, for a fact.
I know…because it helped me.
I was one of the first people to share my own personal story on EasySpeak. I spoke of how I had got through some extremely turbulent teenage years of which I very nearly didn’t survive. I spoke about the regrets, sadness’s and hurts that I had gone through, and that I had felt I caused along the way too. I spoke about my fears of my past. I spoke about how I then overcame PTSD and severe anxiety after my daughters heart surgery eight years later. I spoke about the moment when one of my closest friends helped me admit that I needed to talk to someone. I spoke of the most amazing two years I went through upon starting counselling. I spoke of how it was the most important thing I ever did.
For me. For my family. For my friends. For my life.
Sharing my story, helped me heal. Hundreds and hundreds of comments, private messages came soaring in. Old friends made renewed contact with me and I made peace with my past.
It helped others heal too.
The first night after I shared my story, I got a message on Facebook which made the hairs on my neck stand up. My friend wrote to me telling me that he had a bottle of vodka and pills beside his bed and that he was just about to take them, with the intention of overdose – but upon reading my story, stopped. That amazing person is still alive today, and I’m so glad to say, is happy and well.
Since 2013, I have since answered thousands of messages from others in bad situations. And all I do is listen.
I know people might want to know what my original story is and why I don’t share this story here, or publicly. But sadly, I am not yet ready to share it this way yet. The world isn’t ready. I am not so famous that I could get away with it.
You see, the stigma is very much alive and well. As I share this with you now, hundreds of people are posting their stories on private forums across the world. Desperately wanting to talk to someone who understands. Who can help.
Why do they not reach out to those they love?
I know why. Because as I write this, I feel the symptoms of anxiety creep up. Anxiety from knowing I have now opened up, and the world can now judge.
A world full of “professionals” that I now might have blocked myself from potential opportunities because of peoples perceptions of mental health “issues”. For those professionals that I have met and shared my story, they have often seemed surprised because I don’t seem like “that type of person”.
I have often wondered what is “that type of person”.
I often think of Robin Williams after such reflections.
I wonder now will people reading this suddenly think of me different. Perceive me as a “victim”. Or treat me like they have to “mind” me. Think I’m “not able to do my job” or that I would “look bad for business”. That I am a “risk”.
But one thing is for sure. I cannot put up an article or blog raising awareness about breaking stigmas if I don’t stand by it and speak up too.
I imagine a world where one day a boss or manager will sit down with a new staff member and have an open and honest conversation about the normality of “stress”. It can be something as simple as letting them know that everyone has a bad day every now and again and that the best thing to do is talk to someone about it. To ask questions if they’re unsure or to tell them if the job is getting too much. Start the conversation, and not be scared. Empathy can go a long way.
Believe me, I know. I have always done this with my team. It works.
My final message is this.
Think about who you are.
Think about how you treat others. Think about the stresses in your own world. What might seem trivial to you, could be huge for someone else, and vice versa. Think about how you reacted when I admitted I had been through my own difficult times. Especially if you already know me. And that you may have perceived me initially like that as in the first few sentences in my earlier poem.
Change your reaction to hearing someone has depression or anxiety. You’d be surprised to see that often, their reaction won’t be what you expect. Let us not be so egotistical to think that we will “never be like them”.
Fancy cars, houses and clothes one day. Recession; homeless.
Great health, social life, dances. Car accident ; wheelchair.
Dream vacations, romantic dinners, roses. Cancer diagnosis; respite.
In a heartbeat our world can be changed. Our mental health challenged.
All I ask from this blog is for people to be kind. Not superficially kind, but really kind. From your heart kind. We do not know what others are, or have, gone through.
Think of me as your daughter, your wife, your sister. Your son, your husband, your brother. Your lover. Your best friend. Your pet even. 🙂
If you can’t think of me as that, think of me as your business. People change the world, not products. Think of your staff, your colleagues, your bosses. Think of the potential just kindness alone can have in your workplace.
It’s only one little thing, that can mean so much.
I am only one person. I am only human. I am a survivor.
But I am not a survivor of a “mental health issue” – I am a survivor of life.
And I know, I am not alone.
Because you are too.
#playyourpart #alltogether #breakthestigma #kindness
For the record: I have learned enough tools through counselling to help me get through crisis moments and because of this I am doing great. I have bad days (don’t we all) which are most often caused by normal life hiccups and bumps in the road – amongst many health care appointments with the kiddies! I have learned one simple technique that if I make myself smile even if I’m having an “I’m late for work, have a headache and can’t find the paracetemol” type of days, people will respond to me positively which rubs off on me and actually makes me feel better! Talking is key, as is eating good food, exercising and keeping a balance in life. I personally love my work, I love my Zumba dancing and these have been my saviours to keep my head space happy – along with the love from my many family and friends, of course!
Wishing you all good coping skills for this thing we call life!
Thanks for reading! O x
If at any time, you or someone you know is in a crisis situation please go to your nearest A&E, ring 999/112 or got to nearest Gardai /Police station.
The following are some helpful numbers/websites in Ireland:
www.samaritans.ie The Samaritans 1850 60 90 90 Nationwide helpline and 24:7 text support service, 365 days a year, for anyone in emotional distress.
www.1life.ie 1Life 1800 247 100
www.grow.ie Grow 1890 474 474 – helps people who have suffered or are suffering from mental health problems
www.pieta.ie Pieta House – Email. firstname.lastname@example.org Phone. 01 601 0000 –
Pieta House offers a specialised treatment programme for people who have suicidal ideation or who participate in self-harming behaviours
www.aware.ie AWARE 1890 303 302 – Email. email@example.com
Support firstname.lastname@example.org Phone. 01 661 7211 -Aware is a national voluntary organisation providing support through depression.
www.reachout.ie Reach Out Ireland – Email.email@example.com
Reach Out is a web-based service that inspires young people to help themselves through tough times, and find ways to improve their own mental health and well-being.
www.headsup.ie HeadsUp – information on where to go for help in a crisis is now available through your mobile phone. Text the word HeadsUp to50424.
www.headstrong.ie Headstrong – Phone: 01 4727010: Headstrong works with communities to ensure young people between 12 and 25 are better supported to achieve mental health and wellbeing. It was set up in response to an identified need to address the issue of youth mental health in Ireland
www.heads-away-just-say.com Heads Away Just Say For young people in Northern Ireland, covering common problems to do with home, school and friends
www.parentline.ie Parentline Phone: 18901 927 277 Confidential helpline for parents and guardians
www.teenline.ie Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 Email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone. 01 4622124 Helpline. 1800 833 634
www.spunout.ie SpunOut – Email. email@example.com Phone. 091 533693
Spun Out is an independent, youth powered national charity working to empower young people to create personal and social change
www.aoibhneas.org Aoibhneas : Phone: 01 8670701 Provide facilities, professional help and support. Helpline offers a FREE professional counselling service to men and women who are suffering from violence in the home
www.cari.ie Children At Risk Ireland CARI Phone: 1890 924567 Provides many services, among them is the provision of therapy for children, young people and families who have been affected by child sexual abuse.
www.womensaid.ie Women’s Aid Phone: 1800 341 900. Offers confidential info, advice, support and understanding to women who are being physically, sexually or mentally abused in home
www.amen.ie/ Amen Phone: 046 23718 Support and information for male victims of domestic abuse
www.drcc.ie Rape Crisis Network Phone: 1800 77 8888 Provides support around any concerns you may have in regard to issues of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or childhood abuse
www.drugs.ie Drugs.ie Phone: 1800 459 459 Drugs and Alcohol Information and support
www.dap.ie Drugs Awareness Programme Phone: 01 8360911 Provides info, support and counselling in relation to drugs, substance misuse or addiction
www.al-anon-ireland.org/alanon Alateen Phone: 01 8732699 Support for young people aged 12 to 20 who are affected by a problem drinker
www.positiveoptions.ie Positive Options Provides info and contacts for organisations that may be able to help if worried about pregnancy
www.life.ie Life Helpline Phone: 1850 281281 Provides counselling to women with crisi pregnancies
www.belongto.org Belong To Phone: 01 8734184 Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGDT) young people
www.shineireland.com Shine Phone 01 8601620 Helpline. 1890 621 631 – services for autism
www.hse.ie/en/HealthServices HSE Infoline Phone: 1850 24 1850 Find out about many different services in HSE Mental Health Sector
www.mabs.ie MABS Phone:0761 07 2000 Offers free, confidential, independent and non-judgmental service for people in debt, or in danger of getting into debt, in Ireland.
SOSAD (Save Our Sons And Daughters) is an organisation with five main goals:Raise awareness of suicide in Ireland, Break the taboo surrounding suicide, Provide support and direction to those feeling suicidal, Provide support and direction to those approached by someone feeling suicidal, Provide support and direction for those bereaved by suicide.
SOSAD Drogheda. firstname.lastname@example.org Phone; 041 9848754
SOSAD Navan. email@example.com Phone 046 9031855
SOSAD Dundalk. Dundalk@sosadireland.ie Phone 042 9327311
SOSAD Cavan. firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 049 4326339
OTHER SUPPORT SERVICES PHONE INFORMATION
BodyWhys: Phone: 1890 200 444 Service Centre for providing confidential, non judgemental support for people affected by eating disorders.
ISPCC Teen Focus Phone 041 9833406 Youth mentoring and counselling for young people at risk (13-18)
Aisling Group International Phone: 046 9074300 For parents and carers affected by drugs and alcohol use by young people