Make mental health a priority all year round not just May

By Caitriona McMahon

So many remarkable campaigns have taken place so far in May to highlight mental health and suicide awareness – and we are not even quarter of the way through.  

Pieta House’s annual Darkness Into Light campaign saw more than 150,000 people take to the streets all across the globe.

The See Change Green Ribbon Campaign will distribute 500,000 ribbons nationwide to open mental health conversation and Cycle Against Suicide has left no stone unturned as they pedalled the length and breadth of Ireland spreading their message “It’s ok not to feel ok” with a sea’s of yellow, orange and green for all to see.

I often try to imagine a world where we wear our emotions on the outside of our skin.  What would it look like?

Would people treat us different and how would we treat ourselves?   It would certainly make signs of distress more recognisable.

So as I mowed the lawn this week, smiling at how far our nation has come in relation to speaking about mental health, I couldn’t help but wonder what if every month was like May?

What if we took things a step further and took the Darkness Into Light walkers and the Cycle Against Suicide cyclists and all the Green Ribbon wearers and trained them in recognising the signs of emotional distress.

What if they were provided a complete list of services available by location to equip them should such a situation arise where someone was in need, to directly help that person.

As a suicide intervention instructor and survivor of suicide, I feel this is the next logical step, create communities more in tune with how people may feel, to empower our communities with the knowledge and confidence they need to question “Are you ok?” and not fear the reply.

It would also be vital to reassure the helpers they too are not alone and create communities that venture far beyond verbal communication and identify behaviour and distress signals even before the person themselves may know.

In Community Crisis Response Team, a group I co-founded in Limerick with Kayla Cooley, we are striving to introduce training across communities.  This will initially be offered throughout Limerick city and across the county, offering everyone an opportunity to get involved in suicide prevention in their communities.

Plans to extend that training to other counties are also underway.


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