First Fortnight - changing attitudes towards our mental health

Updated / Wednesday, 3 Jan 2018 02:55
Please view this article on rte.ie to see the featured video.

The January blues are real. 

To talk about what to do when things get too real, JP Swaine joined Ryan Tubridy to share his personal story and to discuss First Fortnight, a festival aimed at changing attitudes towards mental health through creative arts. Events within the festival are taking place in 17 counties and JP says the timing is highly significant.

"We’re one of the countries who put a ‘the’ in front of Christmas, it’s ‘The Christmas’… We put a lot of investment into it but also it’s really significant in terms of our relationships… That condensed period of time with your siblings, with your parents, with your extended family can often just raise up old emotions, can scratch over old scars, and I do think we all come back to whatever that beginning is, a little bit vulnerable and a little bit tested with a lot of thoughts and a lot of questions."

JP feels that rather than aiming towards unachievable goals for the new year, we should seek instead to nurture and enrich ourselves with cultural pursuits and connection.

"When did hibernation become the thing that you have to do after Christmas and why would you keep doing it?  At a time where maybe you’re feeling a little bit vulnerable, isn’t it best to go out and meet friends, isn’t it best to connect with people, go and share some time with like-minded people?"

As a social worker and counsellor, mental health is JP’s priority. He also speaks from tragic personal experience as his brother died by suicide when JP was 16.  He is a strong advocate for taking action to optimise your well-being.

"I don’t think there’s an adult life that can be lived well without at some point in your life taking 12-15 weeks of one-to-one therapy or counselling… The world doesn’t judge you as negatively as you imagine the world will judge you.  I think as Irish people, we’re actually very kind, more often than not… It’s in imagining that ‘non-kind’ response we hold back from doing the things we need to do in order to live well."

First Fortnight has mental health-related events of all kinds across the board, including drama, music and workshops.  Find out more at firstfortnight.ie.  If you’ve been affected by issues raised in this article, you can contact samaritans.org.

Click here to listen to that interview in full.