We've come a long way in reducing stigma around mental health — let’s keep it up

Green Ribbon month, which aims to reduce stigma surrounding mental health, takes place this October. Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention, MARTIN RYAN tells us about this year’s campaign
We've come a long way in reducing stigma around mental health — let’s keep it up

See Change Co-Ordinator Barbara Brennan, Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Joe Kavanagh with Stephanie Kavanagh Lady Mayoress of Cork and See Change Ambassador Holly Fehily  pictured at the launch of the Annual Green Ribbon Campaign in association with See Change, Ireland’s organisation dedicated to ending mental health stigma. 

OCTOBER is Green Ribbon month, and it’s a Green Ribbon month unlike any we’ve seen in the last eight years.

In Cork we have led the way in supporting the Green Ribbon campaign, which aims to reduce stigma around mental health. The campaign has grown every year, and even though this year is slightly different we are still distributing over 30,0000 ribbons across the city and county.

We in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare encourage everyone across Cork to not just wear the Green Ribbon this month, but to use it as a reason to start conversations about mental health.

My own message is simple – as a city, as a county and as individuals, we can save lives just by starting a conversation around mental health.

As Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention with Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (which is the part of the HSE delivering community healthcare in the region), I know that we are all faced everyday with personal and emotional challenges that affect us in so many different ways. We work harder, longer and with more pressure in order to pay bills, mortgages. We juggle childcare, accommodation and relationship ups and downs, all while dealing with every day stresses. This year more than any other year we are faced with increasing levels of uncertainty and concerns. Even the Green Ribbon campaign itself face Covid-19 challenges and moved from May to October. I’m very glad that everyone involved found a way to make sure the campaign went ahead so that we can all work together to get the message out to as many people as possible.

We all know how it goes, we ask friends and family ‘How are you?’ and walk away before they even have time to really reply. It’s important to remind ourselves that we don’t need to be a doctor, psychiatrist or counsellor to start talking about mental health or have all the answers.

Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do is to let someone know we are there for them and simply listen, and encourage them to seek help.

It feels like we are talking about our mental health with more freedom and with less shame. We have come a long way in identifying stress and concerns about our own mental health. This is great, but like most changes in life we need to keep this up. We need to normalise the help seeking behaviour in all aspects of our community and we need to continue to encourage people to make that call or to talk to someone when they need to. We can all feel isolated or in distress at times, but the most difficult thing to do can be to ask for help. The important thing to remember is that none of us go through life without needing support from time to time.

Every person, in every sector and in all walks of life should know these 24/7 support numbers:

• The Samaritans – call 116 123; text 087-2609090

• Childline call 1800 666 666

• Pieta House – call 1800 247 247

For this month I want to encourage every person across the city and county to place the numbers listed above into their phones as you never know when you will be asked for help or advice – or when you’ll need someone to talk to yourself.

A friend of mine runs a beauty business and always says that they often are the people who hear concerns or difficulties from their clients. That’s why I’m asking any business or service that deals with the public, including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, taxis, bus drivers and any service where people might discuss their days or their worries to support the Green Ribbon campaign. There are a huge amount of supports available and it would be amazing if each one of these business know where help is. The Green Ribbon campaign helps to get this message out there, that we as a county and as individuals can save lives by just having a conversation.

• The Green Ribbon campaign is managed by See Change and receives funding from the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention as part of activity taking place within the suicide and self- harm reduction plan Connecting for Life Cork.

See www.connectingforlifecork.ie and www.yourmentalhealth.ie

The website www.seechange.ie/green-ribbon/ has details on how to order free Green Ribbon, and how to place a virtual green ribbon on your social media profile

• 24/7 support is available if you need to talk: The Samaritans – call 116 123; text 087-2609090;

email jo@samaritans.ie.

Childline call 1800 666 666

Pieta House – call 1800 247 247

You can ring the YourMentalHealth information 1800 111 888 at any time to find out about; the mental health supports and services available to you; how to access different services provided by the HSE and our funded partners; and the opening hours of different services.

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