Mental Health: Most of us endure. Most of us survive. Some of us don’t.

The atmosphere in the room at the GE2016 Youth Forum really got me thinking. The courage and bravery of one young man who shared his story about his battle with mental health has not left my own head. What struck me more, was the support his peers had for him and the genuine feeling of relief that he has battled through his difficulties. I will be forever grateful to him for sharing his real-life experiences with all of us candidates. It has made me even more determined in my quest to improve Mental Health supports on a national level – an area which needs considerable attention.
I want increased engagement from young people on this issue. I welcome feedback on the importance of establishing youth cafes as a central point to meet, where community leaders could come in to address the younger people – fostering positive relationships between all age groups locally, so young people can have mentor figures they feel comfortable confiding in. Following feedback already from Debbie O’Rourke on #youthfacilities that “facilities alone don’t empower and develop people. A building or facility will not speak to a young person, reinstatement of youth workers is essential.” I couldn’t agree more Debbie. 
Join and share the Listen, Lucy campaign below and tweet/share your support to @fionamacky or in the comments below.

Mental Health is currently ranked as the most stigmatised illness.

  • 1 in 4 adults experience a mental health issue in a given year.
  • 1 in 2 are afraid of people with mental illness.
  • 9 in 10 people think its inappropriate to tell a coworker about your mental illness.
  • 2 in 3 people think there hasn’t been any progress in mental health treatment in the last 20 years.
  • 4 in 5 people think having a mental illness is harder than having other illnesses.

“Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer from mental health difficulties. Every single one of them is different, but they have one thing in common. They battle stigma. On top of the pain and turmoil their mental illness brings, they also battle the fear and shame that comes with being different in a way that people refuse to understand. But every time one of them stands up and refuses to let the stigma force them to suffer in silence — every time they force people who have the luxury of a quiet mind to hear them — they make the world better for those who can’t.” – Faris Khalifa

To help combat this stigma, I am sharing the ‘Listen, Lucy’ campaign. Listen, Lucy’s mission is simple: “To create a less judgmental, more accepting world.” A better place for all of us…

‘Listen, Lucy,’ encourages people to share the thing they like most about themselves with the world by writing it on their hands and sharing it with people across social media – to give everyone a reason to think positively about themselves.



‘People have a tendency to portray themselves on social media in a way that only shows their idealised selves. Society makes us feel like we should put on a smile and a brave face, and the fact that everything is filtered through the lens of best photos, best experiences, and best everything certainly doesn’t make things much easier. When we see others’ public lives looking so wonderful, we tend to feel as though our own lives are worse, and this can take a toll on self-esteem.

The new Listen, Lucy project doesn’t do that at all. Instead, it manages to encourage people to take pride in whatever it is they like about themselves while at the same time being proud of their vulnerabilities.


We all have times when we lack confidence and don’t feel good about ourselves.

But when low self-esteem becomes a long-term problem, it can have a harmful effect on our mental health and our lives. Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves. When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us able to deal with life’s ups and downs better. When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light. We also feel less able to take on the challenges life throws at us.


Recognise what you are good at

We are all good at something, whether it’s cooking, singing, doing puzzles or being a friend. We also tend to enjoy doing the things we are good at, which can help to boost your mood.

Build positive relationships

If you find certain people tend to bring you down, try to spend less time with them, or tell them how you feel about their words or actions. Seek out relationships with people who are positive and who appreciate you.

Be kind to yourself

Professor Williams advises: “Be compassionate to yourself. That means being gentle to yourself at times when you feel like being self-critical. Think what you’d say to encourage a friend in a similar situation. We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves.”

Learn to be assertive

Being assertive is about respecting other people’s opinions and needs, and expecting the same from them.

One trick is to look at other people who act assertively and copy what they do. “It’s not about pretending you’re someone you’re not,” says Professor Williams. “It’s picking up hints and tips from people you admire and letting the real you come out. There’s no point suddenly saying, ‘I’m going to be Chris Hoy’, but you might be able to get your bike out and do a bit of cycling for the first time in ages.”

Start saying ‘no’

People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to other people, even when they don’t really want to. The risk is that you become overburdened, resentful, angry and depressed. “For the most part, saying no doesn’t upset relationships,” says Professor Williams. “It can be helpful to take a scratched-record approach. Keep saying no in different ways until they get the message.”

Give yourself a challenge

We all feel nervous or afraid to do things at times. People with healthy self-esteem don’t let these feelings stop them from trying new things or taking on challenges.

Set yourself a goal, such as joining an exercise class or going to a social occasion. Achieving your goals will help to increase your self-esteem.

Do not simply endure- Seek help.

Where to find help for low self-esteem

You may feel you need some help to start seeing yourself in a more positive light. Talking therapies, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy, can help. Your GP can explain the different types and tell you what’s available in your area.

Hear Dr Williams’ podcast about tackling unhelpful thinking

Top 5 Priorities for Ireland’s Mental Health from the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland

A Vision for Change maps what services should be available to people with mental health problems. Ten years on we still have inequality of access to services across Ireland.

1. 24/7 Community Based Mental Health Teams for All Ages Nationally

Mental Health problems do not occur on a 9 to 5 Monday to Friday timeframe. Adults and children with mental health problems need rapid access to professional support and intervention around the clock when debilitating, stressful and frightening symptoms occur. A Vision for Change gives clear directions on how such services should be provided. If inroads are to be made into the continued morbidity and mortality due to suicide, self-harm, chronic mental illness and alcohol and substance abuse:

  • Community based mental health teams must be provided nationally on a 24/7 basis
  • The financing and operating of our mental health services must continue to move from a hospital bed based model to a person centred, recovery oriented 24/7 community based model

2. Multi-Disciplinary Team Development, Training & Retention in Mental Health

A Vision for Change delineates the types and numbers of mental health professionals who should be involved in mental health teams in each area nationally. These parameters still have not been achieved or met. Ireland needs:

  • Nationwide recruitment of recommended professionals to fully resource the teams giving people in need coordinated professional support where and when they need it
  • A national staff recruitment and retention plan incorporating the training and development needed for team members, which is essential

3. Nurturing the Mental Health of the Future Generation

Over 8% of Irish children have a moderate to severe mental health difficulty and 2% of children at any point in time will require specialist mental health intervention. To reduce suffering in our vulnerable children and adolescents the following provisions must be made in the Education budget:

  • School programmes promoting resilience and positive mental health nationally
  • Appropriate educational supports to those with specific learning problems and social problems
  • Early and prompt recognition of pupils with specific educational support needs
  • Individual counselling for pupils in distress and appropriate referral pathways for those in need of more intense input

4. A Mental Health Information Technology System is Urgently Needed

To promote efficient, safe and supportive services the ICT system should:

  • Facilitate communication between mental health professionals (both Psychiatry and Primary Care)
  • Facilitate communication between the system and patients/service users
  • Enable audit and review to ensure efficient use of resources

5. Increase the percentage of Health Budget for Mental Health to 12%

The continuously low percentage of health budget for mental health (currently 6%) is a human rights issue and a scandal. 6 % falls far short of that of other countries such as UK 12%, Canada and New Zealand 11%.
To remedy this:

  • Plan multi annual allocated funding beginning with a 5 year rolling budget of incremental increases to a minimum 12%
  • Provide a transparent, measurable, accountable and reviewable system of implementation



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Question addressing Mental Health at GE2016 Youth Forum.

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For all questions, click here:

Questions for candidates