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'I'm pushing for change in mental health services - and you can help me'

Our Voices contributor Natalie Marr has a burning idea that gives us all a chance to effect change.

Natalie Marr Mental health activist at goneonfortoolong.com

YESTERDAY IT WAS announced that TheJournal.ie team was awarded the Voice 2017 award from Headline, for its coverage of mental health in Ireland. This is a fantastic achievement, and very well deserved. I am eternally grateful to TheJournal.ie team for giving me a platform to share my experiences with mental health, as I am sure each of the other writers who have submitted are.

It was a big decision for me as to whether I should send in my first piece or not. There were many considerations going through my mind. Would it affect my future employability, if a potential employer were to Google me? One of my later articles was actually about this exact topic.  How would it affect me to read negative comments left on anything of mine that was published? That’s the reality we live in, with facilities such as comment sections on online news publications!

What would my loved ones think about me being so open about some of my most intimate thoughts and feelings? I spent a lot of time thinking about all of these and others before I pressed send on that first article.

People reacted to my articles – but what next?

Let’s be honest with ourselves, although strides have been made, there is still a great amount of stigma in this country and worldwide about mental health problems. There is also a huge disparity between public and private mental health care in Ireland. Myself and others have written articles over the last few years to highlight these issues, to start a conversation about what needs to change.

Readers have interacted with the articles, leaving comments, sharing them, liking them in a social media context. This is great, and obviously helps in spreading the word. But once the article has been read and the comment has been left, what happens then? The majority move on to the next article, and the matter of mental health gets put further back in the mind.

This is not meant as a criticism. It is more of a plea. A plea to those of you who care enough and are interested enough to interact with articles about mental health. If you agree with me, and the other writers, that there are problems in this country regarding mental health stigma and mental health care, and that things need to change, please, strongly consider doing more about it than liking, sharing, and commenting.

Don’t assume a thing

Don’t leave it up to the small number of us who write to spread the message.

Don’t assume that you don’t need to do anything because the next person will. They’re thinking the exact same thing about you! If we continue in this fashion, we will not get far with wanting change.

It is the responsibility of all of us who have any sort of connection to mental health in Ireland to work together towards making changes. We can lambast the politicians as much as we want but, without actually letting them know directly how we feel, how can we expect them to care enough to make changes?

I’ve been thinking and wondering for a long time about what else I can do myself other than writing articles to push for change in mental health. Two weeks ago, after reading yet another article about deficiencies in public mental health services, my frustration reached tipping point and I spent 16 straight hours and $200 setting up a website called gonefortoolong.com.

The purpose of the website is to get everyone involved in various ways in highlighting how much of an issue public mental health care is. I have outlined some methods for people to get involved, whether you suffer from mental health problems yourself, have lost a loved one to suicide, or are simply interested in the matter. I’ve tried to make everything as easy and non-time consuming as possible, by filling it with relevant information.

I’ve also been filling it with up-to-date information relating to political party stances on mental health, proceedings in Leinster House, reports and inspections from the Mental Health Commission, and so on.

How to get involved

This is my way of trying to make it easy for people to get involved. Please, visit the website. Read more about what I am trying to do. Get involved, in one or many of the ways I have listed online. Help me with what I am trying to do.

Let our government know that you’re not happy and want change. It’s the perfect time to do it, with the recent announcements about Budget 2018.

Don’t leave it to those of us who are pushing for change already, we need so many more people to get involved. Do more than liking and sharing. If you do, we will all reap the benefits eventually.

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About the author:

Natalie Marr  / Mental health activist at goneonfortoolong.com

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