Mental illness knows no borders and crosses all divides. Whether you are a Protestant from the Shankill Road or a Catholic from the Falls Road, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.
Mental and emotional ‘defence mechanisms’ do not prevent psychiatric illness from happening and peace walls don’t protect from mental illness.
Mental illness is an unseen enemy because of the stigma that plagues sufferers. Mental illness is like a cancer in our communities. Depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder (to name but a few) are our hidden ‘troubles’. People who are mentally unwell, their families, their loved ones, carers, friends, psychiatric professionals, are battling against a society that still wants to brush mental health issues under the carpet. Rich, poor; young, old; educated, uneducated; employed, unemployed; all can be affected by mental illness and stigma (or know someone who is afflicted).
So what can be done to fight this blight that is affecting one in four people in the North, South, East and West of this city? Help is available. If you feel that life is not worth living or the pain you experience feels unbearable; if you are constantly weepy and weary and don’t know what is happening to you, or you’re at the end of your tether and you can’t cope, then it’s crucial to speak to someone you can trust. You may wish to visit your G.P. Whatever you do don’t let things drag on. Seek helpful, informed advice from reliable sources. Chances are someone you know can direct you to those who give specialised help.
Mental illness ought not to be the ‘end of the road’ – whether you’re from the Shankill Road or the Falls Road.
May a common humanity, common sense and common concern prevail.
And remember: there is no shame in having a mental illness. Recovery is possible. (The writer of this article has a serious mental illness but is in full-time, permanent employment and enjoys friendships, hobbies, etc).
There is hope. Look forward. There is hope for you. Asking for help may be a good place to start…