I am so unbelievably happy that these days, World Mental Health Day exists. Each year I can see more people opening up about their mental health struggles, something most people would have never done not that long ago.
I’m twenty years old and throughout primary and secondary school, I heard next to nothing about mental health. I didn’t even know what anxiety or depression was when I had both, because we were never taught about it. As a result, I am certain this is why there is a dark cloud cast over mental health problems: stigma.
Slowly year by year, this dark cloud is lifting. Around this time last year, when I started college, this cloud sat right over my head. My anxiety was at an all-time high and my mood plummeted. I found it hard to settle into college and was by myself a lot in my accommodation. It was just me and my toxic thoughts eating at me.
I told nobody except my boyfriend. I was so afraid that people would judge me and think I was overdramatic, tell me to ‘cheer up and get over it’ and that I was a ‘weirdo’ because I wasn’t enjoying college and going out with all my new friends. I had kept my anxiety a secret for so many years.
I finally did the bravest thing I have ever done- I told someone about my mental health struggles. I went to the doctor and tried to explain how I was feeling and she knew what I was going through. I was prescribed medication and I saw a counsellor within a few weeks in my college.
A few months later, I found Please Talk and See Change. They reassured me that talking was a sign of strength. I never thought that I would have been strong enough to tell someone about my struggles but I have never looked back since! I wear my green ribbon with pride because for me, it represents what I have been through, what I’m still going through and gives me hope for the future.
To anyone who feels alone, hopeless, unloved and is in constant pain: Keep going, you are worth it, you are loved and I promise you, it gets better. It gets easier, that cloud will lift.
You will not believe the weight that is lifted from your shoulders when you talk and share with a loved one- or someone not close to you! The first person I opened up to fully was my doctor.
It is really uplifting to see that the stigma around mental health is slowing going away. Ireland’s Health Service still has a long way to go in providing services for mental health patients but the conversation is alive and I am far more open about my mental health than ever before.
Do something you love on this World Mental Health Day, meet with a friend, go to the cinema, go to the beach. Self-care is so important and you deserve care. Remember Talking is a Sign of strength and you don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health, just show compassion and let them know you will be there for them.