When the Worse Thing in Your Life Happens . You Can Recover.My Truth .

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Life can be very hard . It can be devastating , it can be brutal , it can be callous. Someday life can just turn up on your doorstep and destroy the one person or  people you loved.When it happens the events are etched on your mind and they scar your heart and soul forever.

I lost my brother to suicide. Everything about him says he wasn’t the type of person to commit suicide. He was the party. He was the guy who got the girls. He was really well liked, never bullied in school.  He always had the quick one , the smart answer ,the funny one. He had a love of life that drew people towards him. It was like fluttering  butterfly s attracted to a bright ,vibrant , glowing, colourful light . He had that special something that made people like him .

He was nt a saint . He liked to be liked and liked to be popular but who doesnt .We had our fair share of brotherly rows  when we were younger trying to establish who  was the top dog  among the boys. But hey most brothers do .But we grew out of the rows and the bond between us grew. We went on nights out together.Trying to get the girls and have the laugh. Played hurling together.Let off fireworks together at Halloween .Filled tennis balls with petrol,lit em and hit them with our hurls with all our might into the Halloween night.The flaming ,bright tennis balls represented how our future was meant to be : bright , exciting ,vibrant.

I loved him and he loved me .We never said that to each other because we are country men and that’s not what we do. It was implicit between us. We were brothers , we were friends .  Like every pair of brothers, we knew where we had come from and where we wanted to go. We shared our family bond , we  had our hopes , our dreams.

I can remember being in bed . It was dark about half nine at night. I had been up late the night before so I went to bed for a nap as I  do sometimes  if I have been up late the night before. When I hear an abrupt knock on my locked door. “Do you know where my  Dubarry  shoes are ? ” my brother said in an annoyed teenage I m heading out tonight do you not know voice. I told him groggily I had nt a clue where they were. Then he asked me did I want to head out with him tonight. I was wrecked. So I just said ” no too tired ” .And I fell back to sleep for an hour or so. Then I got up for a while and my brother had went out at that stage.I was feeling peckish so I got some cornflakes, chatted to the parents then went back to bed .

Next thing I know I hear my sister knocking and shouting at my door. ” Get up , Get up , Get up ,your brothers in trouble ! ” I jumped out of bed. Sometimes in life you know something serious is going down.I ran down stairs with my sister to my brothers room. He was in his bed crying . He had told my sister that he taken all my mothers heart medication and was afraid he was going to die. At first he  would nt go to  hospital . He said to me ” I m not going , I m not going .They locked you up . ” Then turned to my sister ” I dont want to be locked up like him .” Its a  tragic state of affairs  in this country if the stigma of mental illness would make someone think twice about going to hospital even if  that means they could  lose their life.Eventually me and my sister convinced him to go to hospital . My sister drove him in and I was in the back of the car with him . I did nt know what was going to happen. My brother was very distressed in his bed . Saying  that no one loved him and he wanted to die. But in the car he returned more to his usual self . Saying he would just  go into hospital get his stomach pumped and everything would be grand. In the hospital he joked and flirted with the nurses .The doctor was an Indian junior doctor , he looked worried and serious.We waited beside  my brother. He was given some black stuff by the nurse to swallow to make him puke. He puked a load of black stuff up . My brother was still on a serious charm offensive with the young nurse. The junior doctor turned to us and told us that the tablets that my brother took are very dangerous and his situation was very serious. Then they moved him on his trolley to a separate room where we could not see him . I was very worried.

The next few hours felt like an eternity. We rang our parents and told them the situation .Time moved so slowly .I was in a state of shock . I knew when they took my brother away that everything was on the line , that  his life was on the line.I started making a serious of plea bargains with God. If you save my brother  God , I ll do what ever you want me to do. I ll be nicer to Mam and Dad , the rest of my  family , I ll be a saint just save my brother. I still hoped in my heart of hearts that everything would be all right. We were left waiting with our worries and each other. My parents arrived . Dad thought it would work out he could nt contempt his youngest son dying.

Morning arrived ,it was a bright, clear and frosty morning.The surgeon called us in to a special room. All my family were in the room bar my brother. The surgeon said they tried everything they could  but that the dose was too high and the tablets too dangerous. And that my brother would pass.

My father started crying . I have never seen my father cry before, even at his own mothers funeral I did not see him cry. He is a strong country man . While it is terrible to lose a parent and a great tragedy, it is the natural order of nature. It is totally unnatural for a father or mother to bury their son. That is not  the life cycle. That is a cruel twist of fate where fate is a callous unforgiving  reaper .

We were allowed in to see my brother. I started talking to him .”Dont leave us  yet , you have so much to do , you have all your friends, all of us ,We love you dont go , we need you .” I was in tears. He was my brother. Sure he was nt a saint but he was my brother. He didnt deserve to die at seventeen. He had the charm , he had the brains , he had the looks, he had the potential . He could of had a brilliant future . He would have got on .

The funeral happened. Our neighbours were brilliant , bringing us food , showing us their deepest sympathies  and care. The parish rallied around  the lose of one of its own like a herd closing ranks . The priests were excellent and very caring . Our relations were so good.My  friends were like brothers to me . People were great.

The hardest part is  the weeks after the  funeral when everyone has left and trying and I mean trying to carry on with ordinary life. As Frost said “Life : it goes on “. There was this void in my heart. My mother was in bits.I was thinking about my brother the whole time . What if I had to go out with him that night ? Would he be alive  today ? What if I had never been in a psychiatric hospital would he have went to hospital sooner ? Could that have saved his life ? I was just left with questions and no answers. I ll never know the answers to those questions. I can guess the answers to   those questions but it hurts way too much to answer those questions .

I can sadly say that losing my brother to suicide was the worse thing that ever happened to me in my life. My pain is no greater or less than the pain that other people have suffered. There are people who lost all their family , who have been physically and mentally tortured .There are people who have went through huge suffering .Pain is subjective . Pain is an authentic  human experience. But in my opinion emotional pain is the worse. I have experienced extreme physical pain before and but in my experience I have  found emotional pain worse.

When the worse thing in your life happens to you the key is to realise its ok not to be ok . It could take a year or three years to recover or more.  I have never truly got over losing my brother to suicide  but I have learned to deal with it . I can have really bad days but most days are good.

I think in life you have to make a pact with yourself . No matter how hard life hits you and boy can life hit hard ! No matter what happens to you or the ones you love.No matter how much you fail or fall in life .You wont let life destroy you . You wont give up the on life . Life is for living not for dying .

I have had to come to terms with the fact life can be cruel , merciless , unforgiving  . But life can also be beautiful , meaningful , triumphant , joyous. The world owes us nothing  .Everything here in life is temporarily given to us and can be lost : family, talent, money , success , happiness, life.

Losing my brother taught me life is short , life is beautiful , life is valuable . I did not want to lose my brother to find out these things  . But I have. I know that today could be my last day on earth or someone I love last day on earth. Once you know that  you realise that those petty fights , rows are worthless. That life is the most valuable thing on this planet . That love and time are the next most valuable things on this planet. Every angry word spoken , is a second lost being happy. And no one knows how many seconds they have left in their life. Right now someone ,somewhere in the world   has only one second left .

If you are in trouble in your life  today, tell someone. I learned that the hard way. We are human beings, we are tribal ,social creatures. We need people and people need us. Reach out to someone . The most important thing is to tell someone. Ideally tell someone who loves you like friends or family or a trained professional like a therapist or doctor. But if you don’t have that you can tell someone else even if its talking to a stranger on a park bench or ringing the Samaritans or telling a random priest in confession  . Its ok to unburden your thoughts and worries with someone you trust .  It will make you feel better. Invest time in your friends and family they are a true source of happiness and always reach out to someone you love and  trust in times of stress.

Exercise  is crucial to recovering from a tragedy in your life.It will give you strength and make you feel good when your down in the dumps .I have found  half an hour of aerobic exercise is brilliant for cheering me up . Learning meditation can be crucial for controlling anxiety and  worry . Even ten minutes meditation is enough .I found rediscovering my pastimes and passions great in taking my mind off things. Getting into a state of flow and happiness.Therapy can work wonders . Dont be afraid to see a councillor if you need to . Talking is a sign of strength not weakness .A great therapist is one of the best things in life. Medication really helped me . I think medication definitely has a place along with talk therapy .Reading self help , positive psychology and popular psychology can be amazing for empowering you . If you cant  afford therapy and if you can I would highly recommend reading these books :

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl ,
  • Meditations  by Marcus Aurelius,
  • Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns ,
  • Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman,
  • Walden  by Henry David Thoreau,
  • The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
  • Flourishing By Maureen Gaffney

Everyday be thankful  for something in your life. The way I do this is I imagine my life with out someone or thing  I love  .It is a very powerful thing to do . Because then you realise how lucky and blessed you are to have that person in your life. Also have a day in your week where you do eight acts of kindness it will make you feel really good about yourself. Attitude is everything if you have negative thoughts fight your negative thoughts, be kind to yourself. Argue with your negative thoughts ,tell your thoughts they are wrong and then list the positives of the situation. Read a book about body language and try to use as much strong , positive body language in your daily life as possible . Act and think as if  your the most confident ,positive , happy person in the world  and your brain will start to believe it and so will everyone else.

When the worse thing in your life happens to you nothing can prepare you for it .Life can be cruel . But life can be wonderful . This is your life . You only get one go at this . That’s it .Whatever happens to you, life is for living. Life is precious . Life is valuable. You can recover from anything, you have to , there is no other way forward. It will not be easy . But you can emerge stronger , happier , a better person. There will always be the huge loss . But unless we have hope we have nothing. Hope and optimism are the fuel for  life. Nothing or no one can hurt you with out your permission .Don’t let them .When life knocks you down , slowly but surely get back up  and walk forward with the warm gentle sun light  on your back . I m playing for keeps . One life , multiple chances at a good life . Its all to play for . There is hope .

P.S


					

The Government is Failing the Children of Ireland.

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They say a society is to be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.If this is the case then  Ireland as a society  and its Government can collectively hang its head in shame. I can not think of a group  as vulnerable as children who suffer from a mental  illness. The fact of the minors  young susceptible  age , the severity and the suffering of the condition makes children who suffer from a mental  illness one of the most vulnerable groups in our society .

There were 106 children admitted last year to adult mental health units, a quarter of all child admissions , a number that is far too high. The Mental Health Commission revealed during the year. The HSE pointed out that 24 were then transferred on to youth services.

Putting children who suffer from a mental illness into an adult psychiatric unit is to be condemned . There are reasons for this . Children who suffer  from a mental illness are at greater risk  in an adult psychiatric unit than if put in a children’s psychiatric unit .Children are more likely to receive more appropriate care in a children’s psychiatric unit. Children who are put in  to an adult psychiatric unit may see incidents happen that no child should ever have to see.

It must be remembered in adult psychiatric units, adult patients are unwell and this can lead to violence , self harm and scenes of mayhem in adult psychiatric wards on occasions . In general in my experience with adult psychiatric units are that they are usually quiet tranquil places. But as I once heard a nurse  say “when it kicks off ” it can be mayhem. Depending on the psychiatric hospitals standards it is not unusual to occasionally find blood , urine or faeces on the hospital floors and scenes of violence.

It is totally inappropriate and scandalous to put children who suffer from a mental illness into these conditions . In my opinion the Government is violating a child’s human rights by leaving a child open to the risks of  violence by staying in an adult psychiatric unit .  The country’s mental health  care system is failing young people.Figures show one in 10 young people will experience mental health difficulties severe enough to require specialist care . Under the HSE’s system children could wait for up to a year for specialised treatment.Figures show there were 2,056 young people waiting to be seen at the end of September – with 160 waiting between nine to 12 months.In the 12 months to last September, there had been a 10pc surge in new cases, with 8,671 lodged with the youth mental health teams. Around 45pc were seen within one month of referral, while 5pc had to wait over a year.

The Government blame the  recession for being unable to appropriately fund child and adolescent psychiatric care .But even in the Celtic Tiger era, investment in young people’s mental health services was totally inadequate. Children who suffer from mental illness don’t have their own voice and don’t have a vote. They depend on the great work by children’s charities and mental health advocacy groups to protect them .They should be able to depend on the Government to protect them but alas this is not the case.

Ireland needs one major specialist children’s psychiatric hospital where all the children who suffer from a mental illness around Ireland can go  .It should be a child patient only hospital with first  class mental health  care and facilities. It is unacceptable and shameful in this day and age ,in this modern society  for children to be admitted to adult psychiatric units . The Government is failing the children of Ireland.

P.S.

Here are some shocking figures from the Fourth Annual Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Report 2011 – 2012 . In  2011 , 31% of the children admitted were put into adult units and in the nine months January to September 2012 , 25% of the children admitted were put in to adult units.

 Fourth Annual Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Report 2011 – 2012 :

In 2011 there were 432 admissions of children and adolescents up to the age of 18 years to inpatient units. Females
accounted for 56% of admissions. Forty-one percent of all admissions were aged 17 years on admission, 27% were
aged 16 years, 15% were aged 15 years and 17% were aged 14 years or younger. Of the 432 admissions, 300 (69%)
were to child and adolescent units and 132 (31%) to adult inpatient units. Seven admissions of young people aged
less than 16 years were to adult units.
The average length of stay was significantly longer in the child and adolescent units, at 48.34 days (median 39 days),
than in adult units at 9.9 days (median 5 days). Twenty-five percent of admissions to adult units were discharged
within two days of admission and 64% within one week. Sixty percent of admissions to child and adolescent units
were for periods longer than 4 weeks.

In the nine months January to September 2012, 228 (75%) of the 303 admissions of children under the age of 18
years were to child and adolescent units and the remaining 75 (25%) to adult units. Of the admissions to adult units;
50 (67%) were 17 years of age, 21 (28%) were 16 years of age and 4 (5%) were 15 years of age. Fifteen (20%) of the
adolescents admitted to the adult inpatient units were subsequently transferred to Merlin Park, St. Joseph’s and Eist
Linn units.
For the period from 1 January to 31 December 2011, the National Registry of Deliberate Self Harm recorded 1,076
deliberate self harm presentations to hospital that were made by 904 children (316 boys and 588 girls) aged from 10
to 17 years which represented 9% of all cases.
Of the recorded presentations for all children aged from 10 to 17 years in 2011, 35% were made by boys and 65%
were made by girls.

Sources :

Fourth Annual Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Report 2011 – 2012 : http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Publications/services/Mentalhealth/camhs20112012annualreport.pdf

State of the  Nation’s Children Ireland 2012 :http://www.dcya.gov.ie/documents/research/StateoftheNationsChildren2012.pdf

Report on mental health of our young people is a wake-up call”  : Irish Independent 11 OCTOBER 2013

“Mental health chief slams HSE for ‘failing’ the young”  :Irish Independent  Louise Hogan – 19 JUNE 2013

The Scandal of Mental Health Services Funding : Budget 2014 : Ireland

 Irelands youth crisis

Before looking at the  hard  cold dry accounting figures of  the Irish  Governments 2014 Budget for Mental Health Services .The crisis in Irish mental health and its services has to be put in context in order to bring the hardship and devastation of the Government cuts to light .

The Central Statistics Office published figures  that 507 people took their lives in 2012.Bear in mind that this  is the reported suicide figures the actual figures are thought to be higher .Many deaths that are officially reported as single car crash accidents are suicides and still even to this day many families due to shame from society  are forced to say  the death was an accident.

When analysed by region the suicide rates are even more  alarming , the suicide rate in Limerick city was 26.6 per 100,000, while it was 25.6 in Cork city.  81 per cent of deaths recorded as suicide last year were male.

How many more young men from Cork , Limerick and the rest of Ireland have to die before the Government and Society realises that this is a crisis ? How many more parents have to bury their sons and daughters before their is a national outcry ? How many more friends ,brothers and sisters have to  agonisingly  wonder why did this happen ? Enough is enough!

When the Government decided that road deaths were  too high , they made reducing road deaths a priority ,made appropriate funding available , took action and now Ireland is an example in how European roads can be made safer . Ireland ranks 5th in reducing road deaths since 2001 and 15th out of the 27 EU Member States in reducing road deaths among younger road users, aged 15-30.

Why cant this happen with suicide and mental health in Ireland ?Why cant the appropriate funding be made available ? Why cant suicide prevention be made a priority by Government and action taken ? So many families have been touched by the devastation of suicide and very sadly and tragically even the Government has . The time to act is now.

Now in that context lets look at the Mental Health Services Budget figures .

I cannot defend  or stand by the Government’s decision to allocate only €20 million to         Mental Health Services in Budget 2014 . The year 2013 saw the Mental Health Services  Budget  stolen  into a HSE budget  overspend and in the 2014 Budget the Government cut  the Mental Health Budget by €15 million.  Out of the 477 mental health  staff that  were promised  for community mental health there has been a  mere four per cent put in place.

The figures speak for themselves . Clearly the Government despite its best intentions does not realise that there is a crisis in Mental Health in Ireland and Ireland’s young  male suicide rates are not acceptable in any country including ours.

Clearly Mental Health and Ireland’s alarming youth suicide  rate is not a priority for the Government .They say money talks . And what the Government is saying loudly and clearly is  we don’t care enough about Ireland’s youth to make a meaningful investment in the mental health services that could save your neighbours , your friends ,or your son or your daughters  life.

P.S.

Sources

“Minister of State Lynch welcomes provision of €20m ringfenced for mental health in Budget 2014 ” – Dept of Health

“Ireland showcases credentials to remain a road safety champion in Europe” – RSA.ie

“If Health Is Angola Than Mental Health Must Be North Korea” – Mad Pride  Ireland 

“Official suicide figures reveal ‘alarming’ regional picture” – Irish Times   Jun 1, 2013, 

Open Letter : Dear Celebrities with a Mental Illness

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Dear Celebrities with a Mental Illness,

Hi hope life is good.  Life is hard for all of us sometimes. As you know mental illness does not discriminate , its an equal opportunities illness. No matter who you are , where your from , what you ve done  if mental illness  wants you it can have you . Genes and environment…. well  take your pick what’s the  story with both.

So I call you a celebrity and what’s a celebrity to me . Well I call a celebrity someone who has alot of public interest and media interest. So a celebrity to me could be a politician , a movie star , a author , a cook , a presenter , a sportsman or woman , a TV presenter ,a journalist  or anyone with enough public interest .The simple definition for me is the level of public interest in that person.

The key is that you are in the public eye and your every move is magnified . Not any easy place to be I imagine. Especially not easy if you suffer a mental illness. Mental illness is difficult enough to mange if your just an ordinary Joe Soap like myself. But it must incredible tough if you have people scrutinising your  every move. Hey we all make mistakes I have made my fair share. Doesn’t mean we  want the whole world to know about them . So you spent a month in a psychiatric hospital and it was one of your toughest experiences in your life . Who wants that splashed all over the tabloids with headlines likes ” Crazy Insert Name spends month in Psychiatric Hospital ”  . I have a mental illness I can empathise about Psychiatric Hospitals. Some are brilliant enlightening places , some are hell holes . No one wants to play the which one is it Psychiatric Hospital Lottery.

But what I really want to say to you is your Famous ! Congrats ! But as is so often quoted from Spider man ” With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility ” . Like it or lump it you are a Role Model . Boom I said it ! People look up to you , some people want to be like you . People read about you ,  people follow your work ,  people care about your life.  

Role Model eh … What you do and say matters.  The words Role Model I hope hits you like a bucket of ice cold water being poured over your head . Kids and Teenagers look up to you and adults too .  And If you choose to disclose your mental illness publicly I commend you as I am not brave enough to do that . And if you choose not to disclose your mental illness publicly I deeply respect that as I know what its like. 

But if you choose to disclose your mental illness publicly which  is to be highly commended as it is #FightingStigma , there is even a bigger responsibility on you as you are partly representing me and my kind …. humankind which includes those with mental illnesses. 

So if your lifestyle leads people to think that  people with schizophrenia , bipolar ,  anorexia , OCD , depression or any mental illness are crazy lunatics who are not fit to be employed, loved or treated with respect. Well then sorry . Thats not cool. I dont appreciate that  or respect that. And most people with a mental illness dont. But I do understand that we all make mistakes and sometimes are not responsible for our actions in the grips of mental illness. 

But I m not talking about when you are not well .I m talking about how you represent yourself when  you are well.  The general public s perceptions and misconceptions about mental illness are informed by what’s  written in the newspapers and by whats shown on TV about celebrities with mental illness. And if the general public is misinformed then it is the ordinary joe soap with a mental illness who has to suffer the shame and stigma due to misinformation in the public media. 

But if you are one of the countless celebrities who uses their position to raise awareness of mental illness , to fight stigma , to give hope. Then I salute you. May we fight the battle of stigma in society together . May we make this world a better place. And by we I mean all who suffer from a mental illness and all those great teachers, parents, nurses, doctors, psychotherapists ,journalists , celebrities, newspapers, and employers who make our life easier.

Celebrities such as Stephan Fry , Marian Keyes, Frank Bruno , Alastair Campbell ,Catherine Zeta Jones ,Elton John ,Sinead O’Connor have all been great examples of  Celebrities making life better for ordinary people with mental illness through educating the public , fighting stigma and helping charities .  You can  go to this website to see an extensive list of celebrities with mental illness who have been very successful  http://www.mentalhealthadvocacyinc.org/role-models  . 

 

Take care,

P.S.

 

 

 

Why I choose to remain Anonymous. (Mental Health Stigma )

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When starting a blog there is a choice whether to remain anonymous or give up ones identity . For transparency giving up ones identity is the more favourable option. 

 

The core issue for me is that the topic which I blog and tweet about which is mental health . Maybe if I was brave enough I could give up my identify  but at the moment I cant. It is fear which is stopping me from giving up identity . Fear for my career, fear  what my friends might think , fear what my family might think and fear ,ultimately what society might think.

 

I have a mental illness . There I said it . But my mental illness does not define me. I am not a box or a label. I am more. I am a son, a brother , a boyfriend and a friend. Because I have a mental illness I also choose to remain anonymous. I will gladly give my identity up when there is no longer a stigma about mental illness in Ireland .Society has forced me into a corner where I have to box clever for fear of being knocked out by a heavy  punch.

I love Ireland . I love us Irish . I love the way we don’t take ourselves too serious . I love the way we put ourselves down in a gentle kind friendly way . I love the way  the weather is our conversational clutch . I love our smiles on sunny days. But I don’t love mental illness discrimination .I don’t love mental illness stigma . I don’t love substandard mental health services. I don’t love the amount of young people committing suicide in our fair isle today. My brother committed suicide. 

We are a strong ,brave and resilient people . We have been through so much hardship and came through wiser and more reflective. Our people survived the Great Famine, British rule , the Poverty and Hardship of the Eighties Recession and now this Painful Recession. I know we will get to grips with the mental health issues which are affecting our country like suicide and depression . We owe it to our young people both past and present.I may chose to remain anonymous  but that doesn’t  mean l wont fight any less hard for mental health rights and suicide prevention. Tus maith leath na hoibre.