The key message to come from the launch of Postive Mental Health week in Dundalk is that everyone’s mental health will be effected at some stage in their life - and everyone can benefit from steps to looking after their own mental health.
A large crowd were present in the exhibit space of the County Museum last week at the launch of the art exhibition. The art work featured was all from people who had either sufferered with mental health issues at the time of the work, or who had used art in positive way to help overcome their difficulties.
Speaking at the exhibition in place of Senator Mary Moran, who could not attend due to a family committment, Derek Pepper of the Dundalk Positive Mental Health Forum said the issue of mental was particularly relevant in Dundalk.
Mr Pepper also noted that while many people are aware of their GP and mainstream psychiatric services, there was a lack of awareness regarding the other supports that are on offer to people around the town.
He also noted that for most people who suffer with mental health issues, it is a something that they will be dealing with on some level for the rest of life. Mr Pepper, a mental health nurse, said emphasis had to be placed on the fact that people can still go and lead full and fulfilled lives and achieve their goals.
The key note speaker was GAA star and well known mental health advocate Conor Cusack.
Mr Cusack has documented his long battle with depression and has travelled across the world speaking about his experiences.
He slammed the Government for only paying roughly €20 million in funds towards improving mental health services, less than the €35 million that was promised.
Mr Cusack likened people’s mental health attitude to breaking your arm. He said that when you break your arm, you automatically go to a doctor, yet he suggested that as little as 10 per cent of people who suffer with a mental health issue will seek medical help. He said reducing stigma and building a bridge to those in the the midst of the isolation that a mental health issue create, is vital.
He also pointed out that results could be acheived, citing the 350 per cent rise in GAA players who have sought help for depression. He again emphasised that people need to understand that they can excell and thrive in their own lives despite mental health obstacles.
The event was attended by a broad section of Dundalk society.
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat, Louth County Council chief executive Ms Joan Martin said: “I think it’s something that effects absolutely everybody. People tend to associate mental health week with people who have been diagnosed with a mental health problem, but everybody has to look after their mental health.
“You have to think about your staff, dealing with stress. It’s relevent to everybody. Obviously today is like a showcase for people who have been struggling with mental health, but its also a reminder to the rest of us to think about our mental health and also to think about other people, and to be gentle to people who are struggling with their lives.”
President of DkIT, Mr Denis Cummins said the institute has a very active positive mental health programme for students and run a number of initiatives.
“We lose a number of students tragically every year through mental health, so it’s something that we are very, very conscious of, and if there is anything we can do to improve things, we’re happy to do.”
Bernadette Quinn, is a memberof the steering committe of the Dundalk Mental Health Forum, a group of people from various bodies across Dundalk who deal with mental health and who share information and strategies on supporting people in the community.
“We want to raise the profile of mental health in Dundalk,” said Bernadette. “We have an art exhibition here, which is a great success, and we thought for Mental Health week, let’s do the same again.
“The art is all contributed by people who have used art in some way to help them through their mental health issues.
There are contributions from St Oliver’s, St Bridget’s, and some from the counselling services.