Currently, we are seeing a momentous shift in our own approaches and attitudes to mental health. It’s everywhere, which of course is a hugely positive step in the right direction for Irish society. The last few years have seen a wide range of celebrities opening up about their own stories around their personal struggles and experiences with mental health issues. When we see these stories being told it helps us realise that issues around mental health do not discriminate, simply put nobody is immune regardless of age, status, bank balance or ethnicity.
The outpouring of experiences from some of Ireland’s favourite public figures has ignited a flame in many people of all ages to engage more with the mental health provision services across Ireland. There is a distinct visibility of mental health promotion in our day to day lives whether it is on TV, Facebook, and the papers or even under the guise of a stall in the shopping centre promoting events such as Pieta House’s Darkness into Light (which is happening across Ireland on May 7th this year). However, even with such an abundance of information signposting those in need where they can avail of help we are still at crisis levels in Ireland with no end in sight.
One of the key messages being rehashed is, for people, to talk and open up about what is weighing heavily on their minds, and to seek the advice of medical professionals that can help them in their recovery. While it might seem like a reasonable expectation that this would be a straightforward route to go, for many it is still not an option they would consider. In many cases, those who need help do not and will not reach out, sometimes due to a reluctance to show weakness or to avoid being labelled.
In recent weeks a powerful video has been doing the rounds on social media. The video in question is highly emotive and powerful, based on the personal experiences of Dublin native Doug Leddin. In the short piece, Doug reinforces the crisis facing Ireland at present and then reveals his own account of living through a decade of depression. We spoke to Doug soon after the release of his video, aptly named “Let’s talk about depression”.
In the YouTube video, Doug makes a powerful statement “The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one; how can we find an answer if we are afraid of the question?” I asked Doug at what point he was able to admit there was a problem. It took me almost nine years to realise it before then I never admitted to having depression. I often brushed it aside saying to myself “I’m only getting down and everybody has their bad days”, mine just seemed worse than others. I disregarded it, saying to myself “I don’t have depression, I’m not one of those people” and ultimately ignoring it just made me worse. It was only in the last two years I said to myself “you’re 25 now, you’ve been suffering through the pain for nice years and if you’re going to continue to fight it you won’t get better and you really need to admit to yourself that there’s something wrong”. We are all human and it’s ok to not feel ok. It’s bad that it took nice years but I feel it’s down to the way we are brought up in Ireland, you just don’t want to admit to having something wrong with you, nor do you want to admit to being “weak”.
I can safely say that a lot of people can relate this this, we just don’t want to seem like there’s something wrong with us and when we can’t even admit that to ourselves then how can we help ourselves? Doug then spoke about overcoming that fear of talking saying, it was just something I had to do, it’s a journey that we are on. His first step was to admit there was a problem, step two was to open up to people. Not just mum and dad, I talked to a few other people, two of them were my best friends and another who I work with but don’t see that often as I knew he had similar experiences with his family members so I felt he ‘get it’. Step three was to tell everybody else and at this point Doug had to decide how best to communicate this and when. For me the biggest fear was saying it to a few of the lads and then have them talking about me behind my back, that idea didn’t sit well with me. Doug then turned to his experience working in promotions and Social Media and considered putting up a status on Facebook outlining what he was going through but instead opted to create a video because in his working experience he knew that a video would be more captivating; he could get his story across and the tone of what he was saying could be read better. He said, there’s a sincerity in it, a realness. Doug informed us that he used Social Media because it gave him a sense of control over the situation and that he could walk away from the laptop if there was negative feedback.
I then asked Doug if he had been suicidal during his depression and what stopped him from acting upon these thoughts. Doug openly told me that yes, he had been suicidal at times. I had some very dark days where I didn’t want to wake up the next day, I wanted to go to bed and not see tomorrow, I just didn’t want to be here. When he was younger Doug often confided in his parents as they were aware of his suffering and of course were very loving and supportive. I was blessed in that regard to have a very string family and to have that comfort zone, but I often had to say to them “this is going to be hard for you to hear but I don’t want to be here tomorrow” or “I’d be better off not being here”. It was at this point that they brought me to the St. John of God hospital in Dublin and from there we were able to get the help and to talk me through it all. What really helped Doug was that his parents knew from the “get-go” and that’s what really saved my life, hem knowing, now that everybody knows I feel so much safer in myself.
While it seems easy for us to say talk or open up about issues there are many people that don’t always have somebody to turn to, or they simply don’t want to burden anybody else with their problems. Sometimes chatting with somebody neutral to the situation or even discussing it with a stranger can be a huge benefit. For anybody that finds themselves in this situation, there is still plenty of support available. As always, knowledge is power and if know how to access the supports it can aid you or people that you are concerned about in acquiring the help needed.
If you have been affected by any of the previous we at The Traveller’s Voice would recommend speaking to somebody who can help.
• Samaritans 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
• Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
• Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email email@example.com – (suicide, self-harm)
• Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
• Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)
• Travelling Counselling Service ( http://travellercounselling.ie/ )
By John Madden