In light of hearing the news regarding the 5 suicides in one weekend in Galway, I thought it was time I wrote an article about mental health in Ireland to shed some light on the magnitude of this issue. Ireland has the 5th highest suicide rate in Europe, with more people dying each year as a result of suicide than there are deaths on the roads. The purpose of this article is to address the (potential) reasons for this and to increase awareness of the underlying issues.
According to research published by the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), 1 in 5 young adults in Ireland is suffering from a mental health disorder. The research also found that suffering from a mental disorder at a young age greatly increases the chances of further episodes of mental ill-health during their adult years. It cannot be denied that this is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. To put it bluntly, this is fucked up.
With such a complex issue, it seems difficult to approach.. where does one begin? Well it always make sense to find the root cause of an issue to gain a better understanding of it. The causes of mental ill-health are varied and plentiful. The 3 types of factors that effect mental health are; biological, psychological and environmental. I will briefly run through a couple of examples of each to give you a deeper understanding.
- Genetics (heredity): If somebody’s family has a history of mental illness, they can have an increased susceptibility to develop one of their own in the presence of other factors such as abuse, neglect, trauma and so on.
- Substance abuse: Long term substance abuse has been linked to anxiety, depression and paranoia. Although it does not directly cause mental health problems, it can worsen pre-existing conditions or increase the chances of mental disorders coming to the surface.
- Severe psychological trauma suffered as a child including sexual, emotional or physical abuse.
- A poor ability to communicate with others
- An early loss of a parent or other guardian
- Death or divorce upsetting family life
- A dysfunctional family life
- Substance abuse in the individual or the parents of the individual
- Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger or loneliness
- Social or cultural expectations such as the image of overly thin women in the media causing eating disorders in young women
As we can see, there are an awful lot of factors that can cause mental illness and certainly quite a few that there is no easy fix for. Instead of trying to stop the issue at the cause (a losing battle), we need to increase awareness, offer support services and lose the stigma around mental health if we ever want to see an overall improvement of the mental health of our countrymen (and women).
As it stands in Ireland today, mental health is a taboo subject. People are afraid to talk about it, they bottle up and get awkward whenever the topic is brought up in conversation. In order to overcome this taboo, we need to desensitize people to it. The great thing about this solution is that everybody (including you, reader!) has a part to play in it. All you have to do is talk!
“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”
Never has the above quote been more apt! If you don’t talk about mental health, then you are prolonging the stigma. The stigma around mental health is the greatest factor in the high suicide rates we are encountering today. People feel like they can’t talk about their problems so they bottle them up inside. On the outside, they ‘keep up appearances’ and act like everything is okay because they don’t want to come across as weak. This is not right. Nobody should have to suffer in silence, struggling to cope with inner turmoil while keeping up a façade of mental well-being.
If you would like to see an end to this disgraceful social norm, there are a number of things you can do to improve the situation. First of all, spread the good word. Just talk to your friends and family about your mental health, discard your barriers and see that once people get used to the idea of openness, they too will open up and share their story. The other thing that you can do is come along to the March for Suicide Prevention taking place this Saturday, 31st May. The march will begin at The Garden of Remembrance at 2pm. The already minuscule budget for mental health services has been reduced in the latest budget and this march serves to increase awareness about the issue. Even if you can’t attend, please share the event on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media. It’s all about being heard and the more voices spreading the word, the greater the noise we can create.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.