Rome wasn’t built in a day but it takes all the drops in the ocean to make up that ocean so every little helps

Two weeks ago, photos surfaced of patients sleeping on the floors of the psychiatric unit of Waterford University Hospital. This, combined with the fact that the mental health message is often lost in the lead up to the Christmas period, prompted the idea behind the #TooManyLives Mental Health Campaign.

The first question I asked myself was “What is the mission here?” as well as “What is the objective?”. The mission and objective was to encourage people to speak about how they are feeling at Christmas time. Obviously, public debate regards the stigma surrounding mental health conversation would also be favourable.

I knew we needed at least one strong voice with this campaign. I reached out to the actor John Connors from Love/Hate and thankfully, he was delighted to get on board and deliver an empowering, uplifting and positive message about a very sensitive and complex subject. I also reached out to Daniel O’ Donnell as I felt he has a strong voice and a wide following. I also knew that both are passionate about mental health advocacy and was optimistic about their involvement. Both were delighted to be involved.

It was than time to get some volunteers on board. The Evening Echo Newspaper in Cork put a call out on their website for volunteers and I also posted in various groups on Facebook looking for volunteers for the campaign. I was inundated with requests from people who felt passionate about mental health and wanted to be involved. We only had two hours to shoot the video in The Mahon Community Centre so the schedule did not work for everyone. I was very very lucky to have four volunteers – Niamh, Adam, Edel and Livy, all from Cork. These courageous advocates got in front of a camera and delivered a strong and powerful message in the lead up to Christmas.

We launched the video 15th November 2019 through our own personal social media platforms. To date the video has been viewed over 70,000 times and has been shared nearly 2,000 times across the Facebook platform. For us, it’s not about likes, shares or comments but about getting the message across that people really should have their voices heard with mental health. However, we do thank everyone who helped us in any way, in raising more awareness around mental health.

As the campaign developed and gained momentum, I began to think about the people who have moved away from Ireland, to countries like America, Australia and Dubai to name a few. We really wanted to reach the broader Irish, global community and The Irish Post in London as well as The Irish Echo in New York worked with us in achieving this.

We were also widely supported by my own community in Tipperary as well as Cork, where the video was filmed. On that note I would like to thank Steve and Phil from Deep Red Productions, who, without their help, the campaign would never have gone ahead.

Did we achieve our objective in raising awareness? I am positive that we raised awareness. Even though it’s something we can’t measure, given the ammount of engagement through social media, I believe our message was received and welcomed positively.

Will more people talk about mental health this Christmas? Unfortunately, we now know, that in Tipperary alone, there are over 300 people on mental health waiting lists. I would encourage everyone to talk about mental health this Christmas. Talk to a friend, family member, loved one or someone you can trust that you can confide in. I have said throughout the campaign, we would never advocate someone putting themselves in the vulnerable position of stigmatising themselves either. I am very aware of the crushing aspects of how being stigmatised can make a situation worse. In saying that, I would encourage people to open a conversation around mental health.

I am realistic in expectations. Stigma does still exist. It is not something that’s going to change overnight however I do hope we made a small step in opening conversation. Rome wasn’t built in a day but it takes all the drops in the ocean to make up that ocean so every little helps.

Taking this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us spread the message around mental health this Christmas. From my heart, you have made a difference in getting behind the campaign, in my life for starters. I am deeply moved by the support both myself and everyone involved has received.

If anyone would like to know more about the campaign, please be sure to get in contact and I would be happy to hear from you.