MENTAL HEALTH DAY 

Today is the first day of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. 
Today also marks exactly one year since I’ve seen my best friends face through open eyes. The last time I seen her in real life, and not in my deepest thoughts, my wildest dreams and fondest memories where I go to find her now. The first of our friends had just got engaged and we were celebrating the start of a new chapter. She met me in our little town of Newbridge like so many times before, she helped decorate the party venue, she scrunched her nose in excitement in that trademark way she always did, and I didn’t see the signs. She drove alongside me as I cycled my bicycle home, and laughed her head off all the way. She cried tears of joy when I told her how my hair had grown long, I borrowed her mascara and her lipstick, she told me I could have them for keeps, and I didn’t see the signs. She shared white wine spritzer from her sucky-top water bottle and typical girly gossip from her kind and broken soul, and still, I didn’t see the signs.
I didn’t see the signs to warn me that in a very short time, I would lose her so tragically to the unseen illness that is mental health. 
I didn’t see the signs because I am uneducated on the subject. I am well-educated by the books, a scholar on paper, owner of a top class leaving certificate and a swanky university degree. I may not know how to approach a friend with a mental illness, but at least I can find the square root of a negative number without a calculator. I’ve been through all the ranks of education, and I’ve entered every level as a knowledge sponge with an open mind, ready to soak in the all important life lessons that would help me live my best life. I always wanted to learn, and I trusted that what was being thought to me was the most important. I was so terribly wrong. We were so terribly let down.
It is absolutely scandalous that despite a devastating rise in mental health issues amongst young people in Ireland, the subject still hasn’t been implemented into all levels of education. A massive improvement is needed to eliminate the lack of knowledge for both people suffering and people trying to help a sufferer, and those who are in a position of power to make a change need to wake up. I can only hope that they don’t come to realise this brazenly obvious need for a reform in the education system in the same way that we have – through the death of a loved one by suicide. When it’s too late.
I’ll work on them. I’ll send my letters and write my posts and fight the good fight with an army alongside of me, but until they wake up, we must educate ourselves. We must read the books, listen to the podcasts, watch the documentaries. We must run to clear our minds and eat to feed our brains and practice all that makes us happy. We must watch over our nearest and dearest, noticing any behavioural changes, good or bad – anything at all out of the ordinary. We must talk and we must listen. We must practice the 5 Ways to Wellbeing that form the key message in this years Mental Health Awareness Week – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, & Give. 
Today I miss my best friend dearly. I wish I had seen the signs.

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