Through coffee and pastries, an important conversation was started by the Hello How Are You? campaign at the University of Limerick
By Aidan Schonbrun
Hello How Are You? mental health campaign held a discussion in the Atrium of University of Limerick’s Foundation Building, featuring guest speaker Ian Hackett, Project Manager of Limerick Mental Health Association.
The campaign, launched two years ago by Mental Health Ireland, focuses on conversation and active listening around mental wellbeing. Addressing those in attendance on Thursday, March 30, Mr Hackett said that one of the biggest issues regarding conversations around mental health in Ireland is the tendency to keep to oneself.
He explained that stopping and actively listening to someone, perhaps simply saying, “I see what you mean,” could go a long way; “Just listening could save a life or make someone’s day.”
Through coffee and pastries, an important conversation was started around social isolation, which has become a growing issue in Ireland since the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Hackett believes that both younger and older generations are being hit hard.
The mental health campaigner said that people have lost the ability to interact with others and are anxious about linking back into society.
UL psychology student Jade Gill said that while having an open conversation with someone about their mental health is something of importance, it fights with the conventional Irish conversation pattern.
“The Irish thing [when responding to “how are you?”] is to not really want [to give] a real answer, especially after COVID,” she acknowledged.
According to Maynooth University, more than 40% of Irish adults face mental health disorders. Having an open and engaging conversation, using listening and learning skills, can give someone options in getting the help they need.
“It could really change the atmosphere of their entire day,” Mr Hackett said.
Mental Health Ireland and Limerick Mental Health Association work to serve communities’ mental health crises with peer support projects and wellness recovery programmes. Through continued focus and open discussions, the group hopes that a conversation around mental health will allow people in Ireland to feel less alone.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, Mental Health Ireland has supports available, including a 24/7 freephone line available on 116 123.
Find out more about the Hello How Are You? campaign.