Last Saturday was World Suicide Prevention Day, and to get involved in raising awareness and participating in the conversation among people of our own age about mental health, theKYW leaders took part in the selfie initiative with a simple message attached to all our posts: it’s ok to talk.
I was thrilled to see how many people engaged with it, and to see how far the span of our posts reached. Through the power of social media, at least several hundred people saw the message that we spread and I like to think that we may have made a difference to one or two lives as well.
While I was happy to be part of something that brought our own leader group closer together, and something that promotes a positive message that is so badly needed these days, I still felt as though something was missing. I knew that there was more that I could, and should, do to help this cause. For this group from all over Ireland that are connected by the red that we wear, it is a deeply personal one.
So here it is, because ‘it’s ok to talk’ is an easy thing to say, but a difficult thing to do. For me, I am going through the most difficult year of my life, but if you were to ask my closest friends and family how often I talk about the loss of my mam in February to cancer, followed by the loss of a friend and fellow KYW leader in May to suicide, along with the pressure and stress of completing the final year of my degree and ensuring that I was prepared for exams and inspections, they’ll tell you themselves that the answer is never. The same fear that cripples so many others about speaking out, or talking honestly about feelings, debilitates me too.
I know that my fear stems from being afraid of becoming a burden to my friends. I know the struggles that each one goes through in their personal lives, and I didn’t want to add my weight to their shoulders. Instead, I chose to stay silent and cope with my emotions alone. I still wanted to be there for others to come to, and I thought that when people find out how down I was feeling, they would stop coming to me to talk. And even though I refuse to follow my own advice about opening up to people, I know how important is it for people to have some sort of release.
I do not suffer from depression, or have a mental illness. I am just a person who has bad days, like so many others. Speaking from experience, I know that when you don’t talk about your bad days, they become much worse. So here is that message again: it’s ok to talk. After all, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. I realise now that being honest with the people you trust about your thoughts and emotions doesn’t multiply the bad feelings, it lessens them.
‘It’s ok to talk’ is the message that I was spreading, without following through on my words. On Saturday, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more that I could do, and I hope that this is it. Now, along with raising awareness of the importance of speaking up, I am hoping that I can set an example to those that need it too. We used the designated day to raise awareness, and now the conversation needs to continue. It’s ok to talk every day of the year, not just on 10th September.
So, in a nutshell:
I’m passionate about promoting positive mental health, and now that finally includes my personal mental health too. This is a conversation I should have started nearly 5 years ago, but better late than never.
Sometimes, I feel sad. I still can’t look through family photos without crying, and every time I put on my red jumper, I think about what more I could be doing to help the people in my life who need it.
I spent 9 weeks in Knockadoon this summer, and they were my happiest weeks of 2016. I say it every chance I get and I’ll say it again: I am so incredibly lucky to be constantly surrounded by and connected to the group of people that I have met through Knockadoon.
Most importantly, I am always ready to listen to people who need to be listened to. Like I said, you don’t create more problems for people by sharing your own. You encourage them to share too, and that lifts the weight from everyone’s shoulders.
I’ll say it again for the people in the back:
- It’s ok to talk.
Thanks for reading 🙂