The conversation has well and truly started in Ireland around mental health- it is however an area that is yet to be fully understood, like all illnesses it will be researched as we evolve and change as humans. I say illness because this for me is what it is. It is like any illness, it affects each person differently, we all have mental health, so therefore we all have mental health issues, concerns and we have mental health, as in we have our mental health.
During a very interesting and at times heated conversation on Sunday, the metrics of measuring and understanding just what depression in particular actually is was discussed. We can all understand cancer as an illness, it can be fatal, it can be curable but one common thread is it's always cruel. But cancer can be measured in terms of scale, you could have encountered a minor brush with a mole that needed to be removed, yes you still have had cancer and you could be sitting across from a women who is fighting breast cancer. This we can comprehend and we can empathise with each victim of the disease. With depression and mental health, we are still learning. We are learning how it affects people, we are learning the language around it and we have literally just begun talking about it openly in the last two years really.
Growing up in a house that was massively affected by depression, I know an element of this illness. I know the pain, the hurt and the sorrow of not knowing what to do to help someone who so badly needs your help. I know the head tilts of people not knowing what to say and I know the way it can cause worry like nothing else ever experienced of really not knowing how to find a way to move forward. This situation is crippling but a way forward you must find in order to look after yourself and to hopefully set what you hope might be the catalyst for help and change in the person who is suffering. Now that the conversation has started, people are really coming forward with their struggles. I truly commend this as I know it must be so difficult to say when people ask how are you? "Well to be honest I am not great" no one knows what to say or do next as we are preconditioned to say "Ara sure I am great"
The conversation on Sunday was centred around just what is depression and is their levels of it? I think there is and I think everyone's relationship with this illness is very personal and different. Can we use a metric to say what degree- maybe the medical world can, but as people I think we need to just look at it from a spirit of kindness. We need to actively listen, we need to be open and we show support to anyone who might be struggling. I think we can forget at times, that what might be easy for me might be the hardest thing for another person. I think we need to be kinder and a little more patient with one another, this I know myself is not always easy. I can be impatient and I can want change and progress now just like everyone else.
It was like this conversation with my two friends set the theme for the evening, I was on the Prom in Galway and met my friends dad who was visibly upset, he wasn't himself so I approached him with an open mind and I learnt of his worry for his daughter who is going through Chemo. This was understandable, physical and yet his pain from this physical disease was causing mental anguish. I met another friend who is going through a tough time with doubt and hurt and of course this is leading to feelings of not knowing what to do next, loneliness and a little fear. I headed to the Novena and the preacher then spoke of his struggles and how his experience with a councillor had helped him to find a way to move forward.
I will forever be an optimist. So I took a positive from all my interactions today, people are talking and talking honestly. It is hard to speak your true feelings, it is hard to show your vulnerability and it is truly hard to show that you too are suffering. One thing I know is that everyone is fighting a little battle, no one is perfect and everyone struggles with something. We need to remember that no one is perfect and life rarely is. So keep talking and lets help each other to move forward together.