'We need to talk more about mental health' - Cllr Michael Smith

'We need to talk more about mental health' - Cllr Michael Smith

This time of year when darkness is setting in and Christmas is nearing, it is particularly important to look after the most vulnerable in our community, the elderly, and those suffering from illness.

However, there are lots of illnesses that we cannot see on the surface, that rarely portray the common symptoms or physical attributes and injuries associated with ill health. Depression and mental health problems are the devastating grievances that linger on silently in the minds of so many and have for years crippled Irish society.

Tipperary continues to have high incidences of suicide. These unspeakable tragedies leave behind so many families struggling to cope with the eternity of what might have been and unanswered questions. There are no simple solutions to the diversity and differences that appear to exist in the many circumstances which lead to a person not able to see a way out of their troubles. Suicide is that silent sickness that sometimes takes its secrets to an early grave. Even where the most exhaustive efforts are made, and nothing spared to help an individual suffering from mental health issues, the worse still happens. No one can keep watch twenty-four seven. GPs will honestly tell you that they are baffled by it, and highly trained psychologists are often too far removed from the problems.

We know that the world has changed immeasurably in the last decade. There are also far more pressures on young people in this digital age. The explosion of the internet means that there are multiple sources of knowledge and more information that we can possibly or properly absorb. Pressures of modern life, and ‘constantly on the go’ as well as feelings of being overwhelmed by modern society means that it is getting harder to find a work-life-family balance.

Technological advances and communication devices such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or What’s App are now widely used and while they have a purpose, these gadgets and instruments mean that there is less and less time to talk face to face. In this way, we may miss the symptoms and more common features of when people are experiencing feelings of despair.

We have to yet to grapple with this tragic phenomenon, the causes for it or the pain and sudden loss that is inflicted on so many individual families. Many causes are listed but we cannot know for sure in every circumstance. They include anxiety and depression, financial burdens, abuse, alcohol, drugs, family and personal relationships breaking down and a myriad of other issues which can be a mystery for the ordinary individual.

The loss of so many talented people, the pain and suffering of those left behind must drive us to search for new ways to stem this tide of sorrow. It is obviously an idle journey to be making comparison or to believe that relief in one particular case fits another.

Now more than ever, we need to find better ways of communicating and opening up the conversation about our mental health and ways to look after those suffering with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Organisations like Pieta house among others as well as celebrities like Bressie, have gone some way to address this problem. However, we need to better understand why this happens, more investment in self-harm prevention programmes and investment in health and psychological facilities in order to cope with feelings of distress and loneliness. This must be made an urgent priority now, if we are to fight this battle in earnest.”