Thursday, 3 December 2015

This Week in Mental Health... 6th December 2015

I have 5 articles for you from around the web this week. Many recognisable faces have been speaking out when it comes to mental health this week. It follows a public cry for help from Irish singer Sinead O'Connor last week. Sinead has publicly battled against her own mental illness for years. She has bravely spoken out about the reality of living with a mental illness and the lack of services in this country. But that's not enough to make the media sensitive to her breakdown. Strangely enough, Sinead O'Connor is my earliest memory of what mental health is. I used to read The Mirror every day after school, and like many a tabloid it loved sensationalist headlines. I remember reading about this 'crazy' and 'unhinged' individual. She was portrayed as incapable of being a mother, of being committed to hospital, of being a danger to herself and possibly her children. As a young teenager that was my knowledge of what mental illness was. Is it any wonder I was terrified of speaking up about my own feelings?

1) Parents – talk to your kids about mental health. Even if it's awkward - Hannah Jane Parkinson
One of the biggest problems in addressing mental health issues is the silence that exists around it. For some reason there is a fear of even discussing the topic. Parkinson addresses the point well in her article.

The Guardian, 1st December 2015;
“When the stigma that surrounds mental illness is still so prevalent in society, it’s no wonder so many parents feel uncomfortable discussing the topic. They might have had their own struggles, adding to their unease. But mental health shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and the sooner children learn this the better. It is much better to raise the topic of mental health before an episode occurs, since talking or accepting help can be especially hard when you’re in the grip of illness. You can feel ashamed, or burdensome, or worthless.”

2) Maurice Shanahan opens up on darkest hour in battle with depression
We're very privileged in Ireland to have so many well known male sports personalities opening up about their mental health experiences. Hurling star Maurice Shanahan openly discussed his past suicide attempts on local radio on Monday.

Irish Examiner, 1st December 2015;
“It got really bad Kevin, people probably know that I tried to commit suicide. That’s not an easy thing to say but it was just something that came over me that I wanted to end my life. Anyone that does commit suicide, they don’t do it to escape. When I went to do my part, I actually thought I was doing my parents and my family a favour. I certainly wasn’t doing that but at the time, I thought I was.”

3) Rural dwellers are ‘susceptible to isolation’, claims study
Living in isolation is affecting the mental health of those in rural areas of Ireland. I'm always interested in findings like this as I come from quite a secluded rural area myself.

Irish Examiner, 1st December 2015;
““There is a clear link between loneliness and depression and this can lead to more people experiencing anxieties or feeling depressed,” Mr Kelly said. “Loneliness and isolation can also exacerbate feelings of fear and this is all the more concerning due to the fact that rural crime is on the increase.” Mr Kelly advised people living in rural areas to call around to their neighbour’s house, especially in the evenings, to check if they needed help with small chores. He also advised calling friends and family members in rural areas regularly to stay in contact which, he said, would help people feel connected and not as fearful.”

4) Jo Brand: newspapers reinforce ignorance over mental health, Jane Martinson

The comedian is also a former mental health nurse, and speaks eloquently on the dangers of media reporting on suicide and mental health issues.

The Guardian, 1st December 2015;
“I know tabloids are the opposite of complex, but I don’t think that should allow them to get away with making big sweeping statements which actually aren’t the reality,” she told the Guardian before giving a speech on the subject. “It’s not one thing that batters you and makes you kill yourself. It’s a very subtle mix of events and what’s going on inside you, and trying to make it look like it’s one thing is a terrible thing to do. And for someone’s family too, it’s a terrible thing to do.  “It’s misinformation. Lots of people read those papers, hundreds of thousands, and it means their ignorance is reinforced. And secondly, for all those people who do suffer, it’s a punch in the stomach to their dignity.”

5) We Should Talk About Mental Health With Respect, Janine Francolini

Janine Francolini founded the Flawless Foundation and looks at the language we use when it comes to mental health. In this Huffington Blog Post she examines Sinead O'Connor's cry for help through a public Facebook post last weekend.

The Huffington Post, 2nd December 2015;
"A fierce advocate for mental health rights, O'Connor has dealt with depression for many years. She has, herself, spoken out against the way the media characterizes mental health issues, condemning the use of the word "crazy," and shaming paparazzi for trying to make a "buffoonery and mockery" of young, female celebrities with mental health disorders. It is therefore especially disturbing to see many similar tactics being used by media outlets to make a "buffoonery and mockery" of Ms. O'Connor, after she wrote a worrying new post on Facebook, detailing her recent thoughts and feelings."


  1. Although I'm not a huge fan of hers, I felt so awful for Sinead O Connor. I saw too many people laughing at her or saying disparaging things, and it's awful.

    Great articles. No 3 is spot on, sadly.