Young Cork author writes book about how to address poor mental health

A Cork man has penned a series of essays about his experience of addressing poor mental health 
Young Cork author writes book about how to address poor mental health

Cork author Daragh Fleming.

MUCH has been said in recent years about the need for people to care for and protect their mental health; normally heard from health professionals. Now a young Cork author has written a book of candid essays describing what the experience of addressing poor mental health has been like for him.

Poet and author Daragh Fleming launched Lonely Boy, subheaded ‘Musings on death, mental health and relationships’, in Cork recently. He grew up in Ballinlough, Glounthaune and Douglas. This isn’t his first time writing about mental health issues, he has been writing a blog called Thoughts Too Big for the last seven years and now works with mental health charity Lust For Life.

“We have a lot of mental health awareness, but I think the next step is to normalise the conversation about mental health, and so the book is an extension of that,” he said.

In Lonely Boy, Daragh describes how he both became aware of the dangers of mental health issues and also suffered serious trauma himself, when a beloved friend died following a suicide attempt while they were in their final year of secondary school in Cork.

 Cork author and mental health advocate Daragh Fleming at the launch of his book The Lonely Boy with his grandmother Anna Fleming, at Cork City Library. Picture: David Keane.
Cork author and mental health advocate Daragh Fleming at the launch of his book The Lonely Boy with his grandmother Anna Fleming, at Cork City Library. Picture: David Keane.

This loss and the shock of it were to reverberate through Daragh’s life for years. In Lonely Boy, he describes how he has worked on his own mental health since then and also addresses the issues on a broader scale. There are chapters which look at specific topics such as the impact of social media and lives lived online, the corrosive effects of jealousy, and how traditional ideas of masculine behaviour affect young men as they grow up.

“When I was growing up, if you cried, you were called a girl,” Daragh said. “Or if you were into poetry, or anything emotional, you were teased. 

"It just becomes this unspoken thing where if you show your emotion, you’re seen as ‘weak’. I think that’s changed, but it’s a generational change. I think the younger generation are seeing a real impact, with people starting to open up.”

Daragh writes with real honesty about the rocky path he has travelled in the last decade or more, with periods where depression and anxiety have seriously affected his life. He describes the steps he has taken and continues to take and this is one of the strongest takeaways from this book. Taking care of one’s mental health is not simply a matter of addressing an issue as it arises and then being ‘fixed’.

Daragh acknowledges he felt this himself to an extent after his first experiences of therapy, feeling he had sorted the problem and therefore could expect plain sailing into the future. But as he learned, and shows the reader in these essays, the process is an ongoing one.

 Cork author and mental health advocate Daragh Fleming at the launch of his book Lonely Boy, at Cork City Library. Picture: David Keane.
Cork author and mental health advocate Daragh Fleming at the launch of his book Lonely Boy, at Cork City Library. Picture: David Keane.

“Just like our physical health, if we don’t actively work to maintain good mental health we can lose it,” he writes. 

“Good mental health isn’t just something some people have and others don’t, it can be attained through hard work and discipline, much like physical fitness is attained through regular exercise and good nutrition.”

It is interesting to read about the experience of addressing mental health issues from the point of view of an individual’s experience, rather than a doctor or therapist offering advice. Daragh doesn’t shy away from acknowledging his own failings, and his essays show that tackling deep-rooted issues can be hard, ongoing work. But his writing is hopeful. He describes how he has come to understand himself better through his efforts and how this has helped him with a wider understanding of the world and others. His is not a journey that is over; as he says himself ‘the work is never finished’.

Lonely Boy is an honest portrayal of one young man’s experiences of mental health and, as Patrick Holloway writes in his foreword, a good recommendation for “anyone who has struggled with mental health, any man who does not feel like he fits in, and anyone who is open to reflection and growth”.

Lonely Boy: Musings On Death, Mental Health And Relationships, by Daragh Fleming. Available now.

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