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Hey there Shona readers! My name’s Skye, I’m a new member of the Shona Youth Ambassadors and for my first article I’m gonna talk to you all about mental health, specifically depression, anxiety and the stigma around them in the hopes it might help educate you on your own mental health or simply give you a background on my own experience and why I’m passionate about writing about mental health for Shona.

As someone who once suffered from depression and anxiety for several years I know what it’s like to feel lonely even when you’re not alone.

Growing up, keeping my depression hidden was difficult, especially since I had, by all accounts, a good life. A happy family, a good school and supportive friends. But there was an underlying sadness.

I remember asking people a few years ago what they thought of depression and the majority believed suicide was selfish. Nowadays however, things are luckily getting better.
But stigma against it is still prevalent.

Talking about depression is an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people, so instead let’s think of it this way.

If you saw someone in trouble in a burning building who is calling out for help
You don’t just stand there and tell them that they’re looking for attention do you? Straight away, you think of how you can help.
Even if they might’ve done something to help cause the fire, maybe they left a cigarette lit or fell asleep with the oven on, you still don’t let them just burn because of it.
This is the same with depression.
These people are asking for attention, because needing help when you feel helpless is a natural thing. If this person isn’t able to get themselves out of the fire; maybe your help can lead them on the way to the exit. But if you stand there and tell them that they’re just looking for attention while everything around them goes up in flames, you might as well be pouring gasoline over the place.

We shouldn’t hesitate to help someone in trouble, whatever the reason. Stigma is something we create, and it helps nobody.

According to Mental Health Ireland One in four people will experience some form of mental health struggle in their lifetime. And yet still a stigma remains.

Increasing awareness and funding for organisations such as Pieta House and Cahms could help save lives. From personal experience with Cahms I have seen how it can help but time between appointments especially when your mental health is deteriorating is too infrequent. Time between appointments needs to be decreased for such severe cases and more counselors should be employed as teens nowadays are so in tune with their emotions and are more open than ever.

I personally believe that institutions in Ireland are too quick to medicate and diagnose people and label them, therefore isolating them and making them feel worse. Of course, helping them in any way and giving them the tools they need to get better is a positive, but it can also have negative consequences.

In my experience, it felt that if I didn’t tick all the boxes for a certain mental illness, I was left in limbo. Therefore no real effort was made to get to know me, what made me happy or what made me sad and thus no real solution could be found because no effort was made to get to know me as a person, rather than a case or a name on the file.

If these vital services were given more funding and more counselors, teenagers like myself would get a lot more of the help that we require.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we have to make sure this tunnel doesn’t collapse around these people first

I am testament to this, because I was put on Prozac and Sertraline and saw Cahms counsellors every month or so. I took the decision in conjunction with my parents to go off these medications as I felt they weren’t helping me. I missed my first three years of secondary school because of my mental health but was determined to learn and completed my junior cert at home and this gave me the confidence and belief in my ability to go back to school and to try suppress my anxiety and phobia of the school social environment.

I am now a happy and confident teen attending public school who is also working for organisations such as Cycle Against Suicide as one of 15 chosen CAS Ambassadors across the country, (something I never would have thought possible three years ago!) who would not be here writing for you today if I hadn’t been helped by my friends, family and anyone who cared.
But I am one of many, and unfortunately it hasn’t worked out this well for lots of people. I feel passionately if we can get more funding and more social acceptance for the outsiders like myself who felt socially awkward and weren’t made aware that we didn’t need to be put in a box that this will help teens accept themselves for who they are and not feel forced to conform to society’s norm.

Thanks very much for reading, I’m looking forward to writing more for you guys in the future 🙂
-Skye

If you need it, there are lots of amazing organisation out there offering support. Find out more here…