03 May

In a world that is packed with pressures and so stress-saturated, there is a growing need to help people realise that “Mental Health Matters!”. In a society where, ironically, the technology of communication soars at the same pace as personal isolation and loneliness deepens, there is a growing demand within each one of us for the wonderful power and the fragile nature of the human mind to be reawakened. We must face up to the simple and sometimes awful truth that this is a matter of life and death.

To address this formidable and sometimes alarming certainty we, here at John the Baptist Community School, set out on a maiden mental voyage. On Wednesday December 16th we engaged in a full day, with our sixth year students, in matters of the mind – it’s health, care and well being. With the professional and generous help of a wonderful team of speakers (Bernadette Kenny and Joanie Carrig <Red Box Creative Music/Art Therapy>, Michelle O’Connor <“My Mind” Positive Mental Health>, Amanda Clifford <“Myself” Uniquely You / building resilience>, Jim Meaney <Console Suicide/Stress>, and Rebecca Griffin and Patrick Fitzgerald <“Stress”>). During an interactive day filled with key facts, crucial information and imperative fun, our most senior students were coached on how to mind their ‘mind’, how to recognise important tell-tale signs, how to seek help, coping styles and mechanisms and all the care and support systems and structures that are available. It is simply not just enough to ‘advise’ those who do not feel well. In the comedy ‘Andria’ (166 BC) by Terence the ancient Roman playwright, it jests: “Facile omnes quom valemus recta consilia aegrotis damus” <‘When healthy, we all have wonderful advice for the sick’>. We, in a more concrete and realistic approach, must remind and reassure people that it is OK not to be OK. Talk to some one! Your mind belongs to yourself – mind your self! Is the subject delicate? Yes. Do we need to “de-taboo” it in our society? Yes.

By speaking openly and honestly about mental health, only then will we begin to change the cultural attitude to the wrongful stigmatisation of this subject of concern. The American young adult writer, Matthew Quick, states; “The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories that we tell ourselves as a society. What is normal? That’s just a story that we tell ourselves.” This journey of active reflection, in our school, was all about the raw truth regarding our mental well being. This wonderful and successful day was crowned with a Christmas party which reiterated the fact that how we are treated establishes within us a value and a health-confidence that can make all the difference. A huge and sincere “thank you” to everyone who played their part to make this day, the first of a new and essential trend, such and enormous and fruitful triumph; for, at the end of the day, who knows – a talk today can change forever.