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World Mental Health Day

10th October 2019

Today is World Mental Health Day.

It's a day which globally recognises the issues surrounding mental health and how it affects everybody.

In our school, on any given day, between students and staff, there are almost 600 people on the premises at any given time. Each with their own worries, their own issues, their own troubles at any given time. It is inevitable, therefore, that sometimes there will be times that anyone might find difficult or challenging.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine is an old Irish saying. Translated literally, it means people live in each other's shadows. This means that we depend on those around us, and those around us depend on us, as a community. You get support directly and indirectly from being a part of a community, whether you are aware of it or not. Likewise, you support others around you, whether you are aware of it or not. In recent years, there has been sterling work done by individuals and organisations highlighting the importance of mental health. We have seen and heard from people who are rich and famous, successful, world-class in their fields who have suffered from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. We have seen and heard from ordinary people- maybe people you know, maybe some of your peers, and how they have coped, or are coping with depression or anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Unfortunately, the suicide rates in Ireland are still far too high. Every one of us knows victims of suicide, we know their families, we know their friends. To know just one is to know one too many, but it is heartening to hear of many who were on that path who managed to turn back, and are still alive, still living life, and still making a positive difference in their family's lives, in their friends' lives, and in their community. There is no doubt that all of the campaigns, all of the awareness promotions, all of the support services available, all of the highlighting of the importance of talking to someone about problems is helping- helping to prevent suicides, and also helping people to deal with depression and anxiety, and helping them to enjoy and get more out of life.

Anyone can have a bad day in school, student or teacher. There may be issues outside of school that cause worry or stress. A series of bad days, or an ongoing issue beyond school, can, over time, lead to depression, stress or anxiety.

But the important things to remember, always, is that there is always help available. Talking to someone- anyone- will help. Parents, brothers, sisters, other family members, your friends, a teacher, helplines, voluntary and HSE organisations- just reach out.

Every celebrity, every person who has spoken about their experiences dealing with mental health issues and how they coped with and/or overcame them all highlight the importance of opening up, of talking to someone, as the single biggest step to restoring their happiness and well-being.

You could, without even realising it, have a massive role to play in helping others around you who you mightn't even be aware if they are under pressure or stresses. Being yourself, being cheerful, friendly, amusing, acknowledging people you meet passing in the corridor, a smile, a wave, a friendly greeting, stopping for a quick chat, offering praise, encouragement, recognition- you might never recognise yourself the importance of the simplest gesture or action on your part, and what it might mean to somebody else.

The simple, little things that can make the difference.

With everyone just doing those little things, you help create an environment that can carry someone when they're feeling down to a time and place where they're back on their own feet again, ready to carry someone themselves.

In school, we strive to create that atmosphere. We mightn't always succeed, but we always try. A tiny contribution from you might be what makes it succeed in that instance. Talk to your family or friends. Talk to a teacher. Talk to the Guidance Counselor. Talk to management.

Beyond that, there are other avenues:

www.jigsaw.ie Jigsaw [Offaly 0579352871]

www.offalyldc.ie [Anthony O'Prey, Health Promotion Officer, aoprey@offalyldc.ie

www.shine.ie [support for mental health issues]

www.spunout.ie [support and info for teens on a variety of issues]

www.yourmentalhealth.ie [HSE advice and support, 1800742424]

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