Bressie speaks out about the ‘epidemic of this generation’.

I am very passionate about mental health. It has been a passion of mine for a number of years now. For my thesis for my Masters I decided to design a Well-being short course for students. I am currently writing it and I will hand it up to my supervisor in August for correction. I really admire Bressie for advocating for mental health. A few months ago I wrote a blog post about him. You can read it by clicking here.

Bressie is right when he says that mental health is the ‘epidemic of this generation’.  Walk into a school and try and find one person who has not been affected by mental health. You cannot!

Everyone in Ireland is affected by mental health either themselves or through a family member or a friend. Last Thursday, Bressie gave a passionate speech about mental heath and well-being at a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee. He said the government needs to act to help young people dealing with mental health issues.The youth of today feel immense pressure from the world they live in today. They are living in the digital age where they face pressure from media and social media. They think they must have perfect lives and they cannot deal with this pressure. Young people in Ireland need more  help. They need more support.

Bressie: ‘The reality is our youth, the future of this country, need help. They are exposed to too much, so much is expected from them, and both the external and internal pressures they are being asked to cope with are simply not sustainable, and the result is the great epidemic of this generation.’

Bressie pointed out the high anxiety, depression and suicide rates among young people in Ireland. He really made the Oireachas and everyone in Ireland think when he ask ‘Truly are doing enough?’.

Bressie: ‘Agonising suicide rates, disturbingly high anxiety and depression rates, self-harm, eating disorders, OCD … We simply cannot ignore this anymore. We have to be honest and ask ourselves, ‘Truly are we doing enough?’

Bressie  was not overly negative. He positively pointed out that Ireland has improved in recent years. He said the country is currently in a period of transition, noting the ‘stigma that has ravaged families throughout Ireland for generations is slowly eroding’. We are slowly beating the stigma against mental health. Change is not easy. It is not something that happens overnight. We are on the right path. He said schools, students and organisations across the country are doing ‘powerful work’ in this area. I ask you now to think and ask yourself what can I do to improve this? Everybody needs to do something in order to make a change. Do not just leave it up to other person. YOU need to do something too!

Bressie proposed a number of measures, including that mental health and well-being are implemented into the education curriculum, and an increase in funding and support to organisations helping people with mental health issues. Well-being is the ‘epidemic of our generation’ and we must do more for young people than we currently are. This issue must be addressed in healthcare and in schools and the government needs to support hospitals and schools and provide them both with resources for this.

‘Bressie speaking about someone close to him committing suicide-‘He was anyone’s brother. We need to ask hard questions. Those stories are too common. So many people wanted to help this young man, but their hands were tied by bureaucracy and lack of resource and they should never be put in that position.’

 Helplines:

Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)

Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18)

Console  1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)

Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

Bressie speaks about his experience of having anxiety in school: ‘Some days I would sit in my classroom on the verge of fainting as I hyperventilated and fought for air while my teachers continued to teach the class, oblivious to the fact that one of their students was in the midst of a living nightmare. I spent so many of my school days praying that some of our teachers may talk about this, or just say something so I didn’t feel so isolated and terrified. They never did.’

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Why should you and your students’ climb Croagh Patrick in Mayo?

Croagh Patrick is a sacred mountain in Westport, Mayo. Each year, as many as one million pilgrims and visitors make the very tough trek to the top to pray at the stations of the cross, participate in Mass, do penance (in which case the rocky journey is undertaken barefoot) or just enjoy the spectacular view of Clew Bay which can be seen in my own personal pictures below.

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Croagh Patrick has been a sacred site since ancient times. Before the arrival of Christianity, the Celtic people regarded the mountain as the dwelling place of the deity Crom Dubh. Neolithic art can still be seen on a rock outcropping known as “St. Patrick’s Chair” along the path to the top, and a Celtic hill fort was recently uncovered at the base of the mountain. According to Christian tradition, St. Patrick went up the sacred mountain at festival time in 441 AD. After fasting at the summit for 40 days, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland.

The site quickly became an important place of Christian pilgrimage. A stone oratory dating to between 430 and 890 AD was recently discovered on the summit. According to Christian tradition, St. Patrick went up the sacred mountain at festival time in 441 AD. After fasting at the summit for 40 days, he banished all the snakes and demons from Ireland. It is one of the main pilgrimage sites in Ireland for Christians. It can be studied as part of Section E of the Exam Junior Certificate Religion syllabus.

The first time I climbed Croagh Patrick a few years ago I found it to be incredibly challenging. I was not physically fit as I did not understand the significance and the benefits of physical activity. I climbed it with my uncle, cousin, two younger brothers and my father. My family are very physically active, my brothers play for our local teams, under-age for Mayo and for Connaght and my father still plays football for our local team at home. They had climbed Croagh Patrick a good few times already. At the time I thought I should probably climb with beginners but I went anyway. I am so glad I climbed it with them. It was a great bonding experience. 

Climbing Croagh Patrick was exhausting and also very dangerous as it is a mountain with slippy fields and rocks falling sliding down the mountain. It is amazing to see the amount of people that climb Croagh Patrick on any given day especially on Reek Sunday. I found Croagh Patrick to be an allegory for life. Climbing Croagh Patrick was as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Physically it is intense hard work that must be done but it’s up to the mind to override the urge to quit. When I came near to the top of Croagh Patrick, my body felt like I could not climb any more. I was so close to the top but yet I gave up, my father gave me a pep talk and brought it all into perspective for me. Do I give up when life gets hard? No! Do I give up when I have loads of work to do? No! He will never realise the effect that pep talk had on me.  After his advice, I pushed myself to keep going. I would not give up no matter how much agony my legs were in! In fact at the end when I could see the summit in my sights I picked up my speed and gave it all I had. I said a prayer as soon as I reached the top. Climbing Croagh Patrick reinforced in me the important idea that, in life, it’s about the journey, not the end result! Also I realised the importance of empathy and the significance of accepting help off others. Like I said earlier, my father and my two younger brothers are incredibly athletic and fit. (They play 3 to 4 football matches a week). The opposite to me! They found Croagh Patrick very doable but they never complained to me that I was slowing them down. In fact they had empathy for me and they realised how hard it was for me. They offered me so much support.When you see people going through a hard time, offer them support. Be there for them! Do not give up on them!

As a religion teacher, as I walked up Croagh Patrick, I felt Jesus pain. But I also felt Jesus triumph when I reached the top of the mountain. It was a spiritual journey for me.

Life is difficult but we must push on and never give up. Life is a constant rush, running from one way to the next. I like everyone else constantly worry about what I have to do. While climbing Croagh Patrick, I realised that amidst the rush and stress of my daily life, we lose ourselves and we forget what really matters in life. I realised we need to relax more and find time for ourselves. While I was climbing Croagh Patrick, I was not worrying about work or school work or stuff I had to do. That stuff did not matter to me at that moment in time. Croagh Patrick was one of the best experiences in my life. It taught me so much.

I really recommend every teacher to climb Croagh Patrick. Also every school should organise a school trip and encourage their students’ to climb Croagh Patrick.

The students’ will learn resilience, empathy, life lessons and they will also exercise. Life can be hard, we must teach our students’ to not give up when times get tough. It will improve the students’ communication skills as they must really help each other to push each other to reach the top of the mountain. Exercise releases endorphins (the happy hormone) which improve your mood. Bressie really endorses mental health fitness.

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Exercise is brilliant for a healthy mind and for helping stress/anxiety. It relaxes you, distracts you from your worries and it clears your mind. School is very stressful. I know I am only five years out of secondary school and I have a younger brother who has just started his junior cert so I understand the struggles teenagers face today. They are living in a highly pressured world. They need a break.

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Exercise also produces serotonin which aids sleep. Exercise is also good against the battle against obesity. The National Health survey showed 30 per cent thought children aged between five and 15 were most at risk for obesity, while a further 30 per cent said those aged between 15 and 30 were most at risk of becoming obese. A healthy body equals a healthy mind. It is a fact that exercise in early teens cuts risk of diabetes.  Leaving Cert students who continue to play sport while studying for their exams are more likely to go on to third- level education than those who don’t.

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