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It's time to break the mental health taboo

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 05/10/2016

Estimates suggest that in any one year some 150,000 people in Northern Ireland have this mental health problem and that one in four people will experience it at some stage in their lives
Estimates suggest that in any one year some 150,000 people in Northern Ireland have this mental health problem and that one in four people will experience it at some stage in their lives

It is not possible just by looking at someone to realise that they can be suffering from one of the most widespread and insidious conditions - depression. Estimates suggest that in any one year some 150,000 people in Northern Ireland have this mental health problem and that one in four people will experience it at some stage in their lives.

Therefore, it is important that people in the public eye who know the darkness of the condition speak out candidly about how it affected them. That is one way of letting other sufferers know that depression does not respect age, fame or status.

It is especially important that someone like Ulster, Ireland and British Lions rugby player Tommy Bowe helped launch a new awareness campaign last night.

Here is someone who seems to have it all, a glittering and rewarding career, but who succumbed to depression when battling back to fitness after a lengthy absence from the game due to injury.

He can certainly be described as a man's man, a star of a brutally physical game, but one who is not afraid to show his own weakness which he had to overcome. That is an important message to send to other men who are notoriously shy of opening up about their feelings or letting slip that anything is wrong with them.

Perhaps if they note Tommy Bowe's frankness about his own struggle with the condition and the fact that the Irish Rugby Union Players Association is backing the campaign, they will realise that it takes real courage to seek help for mental health problems.

His advice is to seek help at the earliest possible moment. Letting depression fester can be fatal. Suicide is the most serious manifestation of what it can lead to. Last year alone, there were 318 suicides in Northern Ireland, 245 of them involving men.

But of course women are also affected by depression, and in this newspaper today comic Nuala McKeever talks frankly about how she coped in the wake of the death of her partner Mike Moloney almost four years ago. She was never truly able to come to terms with her loss until she received counselling from bereavement group CRUSE.

Mental health problems, like any other health issue, require diagnosis and treatment. Bottling feelings up or hiding away from reality can only make things worse.

As this latest campaign says, tackle your feelings. Otherwise they could bring you tumbling down.

Belfast Telegraph

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