Here in Ireland we are great at enquiring after people’s health and even better at offering to help out in times of need. But we may not be so good at recognising when people are suffering from mental health issues. We have one of the highest rates of mental health illness in Europe with over 18pc of the population suffering from issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and alcohol or drug abuse, according to the Health at a Glance Report in 2016.
ware Mental Health week begins on October 4 and culminates on October 10 to coincide with World Mental Health Day and the Irish charity is keen to educate people on signs of depression, convey the reality of living with mental health issues and along with providing hope, empower people to reach out for support.
Kehlen Mikkelson knows only too well the importance of intervention as she has suffered from mental health issues for her entire life.
“I remember having my first suicidal thoughts at around seven years of age,” she says. “I was molested and became convinced I must be evil, becoming afraid of myself and feeling deep shame and guilt. I hid these feelings for a while but then told my parents that I wanted to die. I was told not say something so stupid. After that, I thought I shouldn’t share these feelings or thoughts with others and saw myself as evil and others as good.
“When I was 11 my parents moved countries and I stayed in Ireland (with her older, married sister), moving to a new house and school. I was devastated to be without them and my sense of loneliness intensified. I blamed myself for struggling but feelings of despair and hopelessness were not things I felt I could talk about as it seemed that others thought I was only a child who didn’t have anything to feel bad about.”
Kehlen, who is one of six children, felt more desperate as the years went by and even attempted suicide. Thankfully, she survived but underwent many years of turmoil. “As a child and teenager I desperately wanted help but was convinced all my difficulties were my own fault as I was inherently bad,” she says. “I didn’t see how anyone else could help with that and I tried to kill myself just …….