So, I did it. Yesterday was a momentous milestone – I actually stood up in a room full of people and spoke, out loud, about a lot of what up till now I’ve either only been able to put in writing, or share with Therapist. It was wonderful. The whole day was wonderful. Ok, some slightly hairy moments – getting off the train at the wrong stop (culchie) and emerging into some really nasty weather only to realise I had neither umbrella nor rain jacket (typically Irish). Thank you over sized scarf for making me look like Peig but keeping my hair more or less under control. Most spectacular hairy moment?? Realising after a whole 20 minutes of getting used to my surroundings, deep breathing and generally keeping myself calm before my presentation that I was in THE WRONG BLOODY ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
|My room looked like this only smaller and with lots of people.|
I mean really. Only me. Cue loud yelp and frantic bag/paper grabbing/probably incoherent excusing of myself, followed by legging it into the right room to find literally one seat left. Go me! That said, the one remaining seat was beside the husband of one of the lovely people who’s been supporting me on facebook – he introduced himself, was really chatty and friendly and totally put me at ease. For that I am eternally grateful!! He was also doing some fantastic multi-tasking as the St. John of God tweeter and getting word out about everything that was going on yesterday.
Anyway, enough of the drama. How did the day unfold? The most positive thing I can take away from it all is the level of commitment there is out there to make access to online support for mental health issues more available, more interactive and more user friendly. There’s a huge body of awareness of just how urgent the need for that support is, now more than ever. There were some truly shocking and saddening statistics about levels of suicide:
|Suicide statistics (turn2me.org)|
What was also apparent is how many organisations are working towards the same end, but that the difficulty is in raising awareness for the average interweb user – how do people know what sites are reliable? How do they know where to find the best source of information? How can they access appropriate help for the problem at hand? What is appropriate help anyway?
For myself, as a user of mental health services, what’s frustrating in a way is that there is so much energy, so much innovation, so much knowledge about how to help, but at the same time, there’s no one definitive source. While I know there can never be a ‘one size fits all’ solution, it would be fantastic to see some of the promised Government funding going towards providing organisations the opportunity to work together more, bring all the fantastic ideas into one place, and go from there.
Yesterday’s conference was the first step in that direction, and hats off to Reachout.com and Inspire Ireland for taking the initiative. There is no shortage of enthusiasm, no shortage of ideas. It was acknowledged more than once yesterday that we are in the the very early days of bringing the conversation about mental illness, and mental health, out into the light. But it is happening. It will continue to happen.
And for me? For my part I feel absolutely privileged to have been a part of yesterday, not just to hear about some of the wonderful work that is on-going, but to have actually been given the opportunity to share the my perspective – that of an average person with a mental illness, trying to make sense of that illness and find my way through it the best that I can. I know I wasn’t the most engaging speaker of the day, nor the most relaxed. But I don’t care. I know at least two of the people I spoke to heard me. A wonderful woman from Headsup was beaming up at me for the entirety of my presentation – no more than the man I found myself sitting next to, I can’t thank her enough for that. Every time I looked up I saw her smile, and it helped me keep going. If even just one person in that room took away the message of just what a difference it has made to me to be able to talk about how I’m doing, of how valuable any support I’ve received has helped to that end, then as far as I’m concerned job done. The very fact that I was actually given a slot yesterday was enough. The people who are working for those of us with a mental illness want to hear about how what works for us, and as long as they keep listening, things can only improve.
To quote the closing comments of Dr Colin Hunt, CEO of Reachout – ‘The issue of mental health is finally emerging from the shadows’. Long may the sun continue to shine!!!