The View: Look after your mental health

Longford Leader


Longford Leader


Mental Health

One in four people in Ireland will experience a mental health problem at some stage in their lives.

Depression affects about one in 12 people in this country; one in ten Irish children will experience mental health problems. Globally, over 450 million people have a mental health problem.

Why, then, is there still such a stigma attached to mental illness?

A mental health issue can eat you from the inside out and yet it's often what happens on the outside that can make or break someone who is suffering within.

Social stigma and discrimination can make the experience of a mental health issue that much more difficult to deal with.

And, while the rate of suicide in this country has stabilised since the recession, the problem certainly hasn't disappeared.

In fact, in 2016, there were 399 suicides in Ireland, according to the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) annual report released in 2017.

Shockingly, 318 of those 399 lives lost were men. That's almost 80% of the overall figure.

“The day when a man can call somebody up and say ‘I don’t feel good about this situation’... the day that that is not a weakness is the day when we start to win... And I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Those were words from Longford musician, Charles James Walker (featured on pages 14 & 15), who has had his fair share of mental illness and suicidal tendencies.

The right supports can go a long way towards helping someone with a mental health issue - and that starts with having the opportunity to talk about a problem without feeling judged.

But, according to Charles, a healthy body is also the key to a healthy mind.

After his twelfth overdose and a suicide attempt, he made the decision to pick himself up off the floor and start to make something of his life.

He sought help from loved ones and set himself a number of goals.

Most importantly, he started to get into a routine - yoga, healthy eating, exercise and practicing gratitude.

“Food is the fuel for your body” were his words and these words also rang true at Saturday's launch of the Healthy Ireland initiative in Granard Library when Mullinalaghta football champion John Keegan Jr. got up and said the very same thing.

“If you put the wrong fuel into a car, it won't run,” he explained. “The same can be said for the body.”

With two championships in two years under their belts, the Mullinalaghta team don't see training as a chore or a responsibility; they see it as “a chance to go out and make yourself better”.

Involvement in sport and eating healthy drastically decreases your chances of suffering from a mental health problem, John explained.

And he was backed up by local Nutritional Therapist, Laura Thompson, who referred to the gut as 'the second brain'.

We've all heard the phrases 'trust your gut'; 'stomach in knots'; and 'butterflies in your stomach'.

In fact 90% of the brain's signals to other organs in the body pass through the gut.

Similarly, 90% of serotonin - the 'happy hormone' - is made in the gut.

It makes sense, then, that looking after your gut will help you to look after not only your physical health, but your mental health too.

And so, a government-led initiative such as Healthy Ireland is a welcome step forward in terms of providing support and advice to those who are suffering with a mental health issue.

Let's hope it will be a step forward in terms of removing the stigma attached to mental health too.

It it can do that, then Healthy Ireland has the country on the right track.


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