October is Mental Health awareness month, many initiatives, events, trainings and projects are underway nationwide in corporate, community and local settings to develop positive awareness.  Organisations like See Change, Mental Health Ireland and others are making terrific strides in reducing mental health stigma.  In a recent See Change report, it was noted however, that 46% of under 35 year olds would still conceal a mental health issue.

One in four people in Ireland will suffer a mental health problem at some point in their lives, this figure stands at 450 million worldwide, why then does this stigma still exist?

Most people will go through a number of strained circumstances, some protracted, during their lifetime: – loss of a loved one; financial difficulties; moving home; losing a home; moving to a new job; loss of a career; loss of a relationship; endurance of a toxic relationship; divorce; a new child; loss of a child; fertility struggles; – the list is endless.

Life being what it is, for many, several of these strained circumstances will occur together.  This fact places a huge strain on the whole health of a person.  This strain is no respecter of one person, race or class over another.  When we talk about mental health separately as an issue outside of the whole health of a person or persons generally, we do them a huge disservice, but I believe we also conflate the stigma.

The atlas, the uppermost vertebra, attaches the skull to the spine.  The skull houses the brain and the mind, just as the ribs are attached to the thoracic vertebrae by costo-vertebral ligaments.  We wouldn’t stigmatise or undermine a disease of the respiratory system and talk about it negativity using any separating language.  Neither would we consider using derogatory or negative language like ‘crazy’ or ‘nuts’ or similar to describe an illness of any other system.

It’s heartening to see stigma lessening for mental health sufferers, but I really believe that a greater shift in how we communicate is needed.  When we think about mental health and when we talk to and about sufferers, let’s consider first the whole health of the human, in thoughts and language that respect the wonder, dignity and complexity of the many interdependently working systems.  After all, there but for the grace of God go all of us.


Grainne Toher – Founder – Yogapal and Still Mind