Tuesday, May 25, 2021

IN our society, we are growing accustomed to hearing ‘It’s ok not to be ok.’ Yet, saying that and putting it into practice are very different things. For something to be ok, we need to normalise it, remove the stigma and open channels of conversation. Dymphna Nugent interviews mother and daughter, Becky and Hallah, this week, both diagnosed with bipolar II mood disorder during very different times in their lives, and their journeys take place in a very different society from one another.

Printing stories like this brings the role of the media into sharp focus, because it can offer a focal point for those all-important conversations to take place within our homes and within our peer-groups. Becky came from a generation where mental illness was heavily stigmatised, where any mental health difficulties were discussed in whispered tones, and where the government did not invest in any meaningful way into mental health resources and education.

 

‘For something to be ok, we need to normalise it, remove the stigma and open channels of conversation’

 

Hallah is part of a much more open generation, evidenced clearly by how little reaction her friends made when she gave a name to her diagnosis. Yet, there is still more progress to be made before the stigma can be eradicated. In many ways, the task is just beginning.

Statistically, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health difficulty in our lives, which means 1 in 4 families will have to navigate that lonely road. Becky and Hallah call on school programmes like SPHE to do more, to fulfill its potential by naming disorders like schizophrenia, psychotic depressive episodes, and personality disorders. As a society, we have accepted words like depression and anxiety into our language base, yet we haven’t yet broached the gap into the other disorders of the mind.

The headlines of the national newspapers have been dominated by the heartbreaking story of the death of three young children at the hands of their mother. Both the prosecution and the defence recommended to the jury that Deirdre Morley’s actions were due entirely to her severe mental illness, and that she was unable to refrain from her actions or appreciate what she had done was morally wrong. A unanimous verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity was returned by the jurors.

A growing awareness of the need for conversations is elucidated by verdicts like this, and by the reaction of the public to the coverage of the case. The time for mental illness to be kept in the shadows is gone, and a kinder and more frank approach from society is long overdue.

 

Vaccinating our way out of pandemic

AS the vaccine programme opened to people over 45 to register last week, over 2.4 million doses have now been administered nationwide, with 45% of the population innoculated with a first dose.

Showing public support for the crucial vaccination programme was Waterford’s Mayor Damien Geoghegan, who was among the first 550 people in Ireland to receive the one-shot Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at WIT Arena on Monday morning. He spoke of the palpable relief of those receiving the vaccine, and credited the HSE staff at the Waterford mass vaccination centre for their efficiency and professionalism. Having worked in a pharmaceutical company for 23 years, he was well placed to reassure people that vaccines work.

With new variants continuing to pose concern, our biggest weapon against Covid-19 is the vaccination of our population. After over a year of lockdowns and restrictions, it is only right that our Mayor and those receiving the vaccine should feel jubilant.

It is a phenomenon of our modern world and the fantastic strides made by science that we are here in May 2021, every day making more of our people safe. Staff members of the Waterford News & Star are among those to have received their vaccine now, in some cases both doses at this stage – every one of those is a milestone and worth celebrating.

 

Editorial, first published in May 25th edition of the Waterford News & Star

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