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Therapist If we prioritise mental health as a society, we will reap the benefits

Psychotherapist Séamus Sheedy looks at how important mental well-being is and has some tips for minding yourself.

TODAY IS RECOGNISED in Ireland and around the globe as World Mental Health Day. “World Mental Health Day 2023 is an opportunity for people and communities to unite behind the theme ‘Mental health is a universal human right’ to improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right,” according to the World Health Organization.

In today’s world financial stress has also become an additional challenge that can significantly impact our mental health. As we hear the details of Budget 2024 today, it’s crucial to recognise that mental health must be seen as a priority, and that includes addressing the financial barriers that prevent people from accessing the care they need.

Mental health must be seen as a priority. We have become all too aware that access to mental health services is sometimes a struggle. The long waiting lists for those who need help, especially children in Ireland, are often in the news. Additional investment in mental health care is desperately needed.

Affordability barrier

Every one of us will struggle with our mental health at some point. We live in a fast-paced, convoluted world and coming to terms with everything we need to absorb every day can be challenging. As the WHO says, “There is no health without mental health” and maintenance of our mental and emotional well-being is crucial. So too is investment in mental health and as a society, we need to push our government to do that.

Affordability can be such a barrier to everyday well-being maintenance. A recent nationally representative general public survey, commissioned by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) in June 2023 found that not being able to afford therapy is the biggest reason that discourages people from seeing a therapist in Ireland. When the same question was asked in 2019, 26% cited cost as the main barrier, this year that figure has almost doubled to 50% of those surveyed saying that cost is a significant barrier to accessing mental health supports.

worriedmotherlooksonasherdaughtertalkstoa Shutterstock / Lisa F. Young Shutterstock / Lisa F. Young / Lisa F. Young

As a practising counsellor/psychotherapist in private practice, I see the psychological impact of modern society on our mental health, exacerbated by the financial stress many individuals face. In this post-pandemic world people are feeling stressed and anxious adjusting to hybrid work, the cost of living crisis, loneliness and a range of issues.

The financial challenges brought about by rising inflation and the housing crisis add another layer of complexity to these mental health struggles.

If you’re feeling a bit lost, having trouble sleeping, or stressed, let me assure you – you’re not alone. The best advice I can give is to find a trusted person you can talk to, a friend or family member. If you’re not comfortable talking about your mental health with someone you know, seek out a professional therapist to help you navigate through the tough times you’re experiencing.

Minding your mental health

Realising you need to focus on improving your mental health is the first step on your journey to improving your well-being. Don’t try to make too many changes at once. Make small changes and you’ll see improvement over time. Stress can often cause us to engage in a variety of unhealthy behaviours, so self-care is of the utmost importance. Look at all the ways to live a healthy lifestyle as this is extremely important when you are feeling low or anxious.

One way to practice self-care is to keep linking in with your friends. Go out and take a walk or cycle, get your blood flowing. I find getting out in nature is a great stress reliever, autumn is a lovely time to go exploring in a new place or just taking a walk in your local park can lift your spirits and put things in perspective. Research shows that getting active improves our moods if you’re feeling low. Physical activity is the number one predictor of longevity, studies show.

groupofseniorsdoingstretchingexercisetogetheratretirementcentre Physical exercise is key Shutterstock / Ground Picture Shutterstock / Ground Picture / Ground Picture

Keeping a regular routine is extremely important, as it brings a sense of control, reduces stress and is an important anchor to maintaining good mental health. Our sleep schedule affects our mental sharpness, emotional well-being and energy. Maintaining consistent times for waking and going to bed is a big help to stay on the right track. When you get a good rest it helps you to cope better with stress and anxiety. So try your best not to lose your routine. Remember to do one thing at a time, as you can’t change everything at once as it is counterproductive and you won’t be able for it. Also, watch your routine around your eating. It’s important to eat healthier and make sure not to miss meals or replace them with snacks instead of having proper meals.

On this World Mental Health Day let us all take the opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues, and those who are working on their mental health to talk about their work and spread the message that there is hope and help out there. Let’s join together as a society and look at what more needs to be done to make mental health care, including financial accessibility, a reality for all.

A great resource to find a professional therapist is the IACP Find a Therapist Tool on their website, which allows you to find a therapist near you or by searching by issue speciality or seek out an accredited therapist by doing some online research, or ask a friend. Today is a reminder that we all need to mind our mental health and do our part to raise awareness that our well-being is just as important as taking care of our physical health.

Séamus Sheedy is an accredited counsellor/psychotherapist in private practice and is the Cathaoirleach of the IACP Board of Directors. To learn more about World Mental Health Day visit:

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