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'There's nothing that will tackle stigma more effectively than hearing stories of recovery'

Clinical psychologist and chief of St Patrick’s Paul Gilligan says there’s still a lingering stigma around mental health problems.

Image: Shutterstock/CK Foto

THE HEAD OF the country’s largest independent mental healthcare provider has said there is still a lingering stigma around the issue of mental health – even though progress has been made in recent years.

Paul Gilligan – a clinical psychologist and former CEO of the ISPCC, who now heads up St Patrick’s in Dublin – said that young people in particular were now more inclined to speak about issues to do with their mental health.

“But when you ask people about their attitudes there still is that ingrained stigma that needs to be addressed,” Gilligan said.

Gilligan, who has been speaking with TheJournal.ie about St Pat’s Walk In My Shoes radio project, said it was incredibly helpful, in everyday life, for people to share stories of their mental health journeys.

The temporary radio station – which was broadcast online and on FM in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway – finished up for the year at the end of last week.

It was the fifth year in operation for the venture – and, as is now traditional, well-known names like Brent Pope, Dustin the Turkey and Keith Barry helped to staff the Dublin 8 station and presented shows across the week-long broadcast.

The medium of radio, Gilligan said, has a particular power to reach people as they go about their daily business – in the car, at home, or at work. St Pat’s service-users and celebrity presenters alike share their mental health stories across the week’s broadcast each year, as part of the project.

“You’re reaching into people’s lives and you’re doing it in a way that enables them to hear positive messages so that’s very much a very valuable tool,” he said.

I think radio gives an opportunity to really have lots of conversations around the key topics.

Said Gilligan:

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“It’s always powerful when you have service users who are talking about their journey of recovery, and who are talking about where they were two or three years ago to where they are now.

“Often you’ll find with those service-users where they’ll describe how, when they were at their lowest ebb, Walk in My Shoes ran -  and that now that they are healthy and recovered they want people to hear their stories. For me that’s the most powerful.

There’s nothing that will tackle stigma more effectively than hearing stories of recovery.

If you need to talk contact: 

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

You can find the Walk In My Shoes website and listen to podcasts here

Read: Fianna Fáil TD becomes emotional in Dáil speaking about death of young man by suicide

More: ‘I’m pushing for change in mental health services – and you can help me’

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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