86. Eoghan McDer­mott

RTÉ 2fm/ Am­bas­sador Pi­eta House

Hot Press - - 100 Voices On Mental Health -

It is not un­com­mon knowl­edge that I went through a pe­riod of emo­tional and men­tal tur­moil in my mid-to-late twen­ties, which led me to self-harm as a cop­ing mech­a­nism. I have long since rec­on­ciled that pe­riod of my life, and I use the ex­pe­ri­ence to spring­board con­ver­sa­tions about men­tal health in schools and at events around the coun­try.

I don’t love re­call­ing it and, if it didn’t serve a pur­pose,

I’d hap­pily con­sign it to the dust­bin of his­tory, happy in the knowl­edge that I con­quered it and learned from it. The pur­pose it serves is to high­light two things.

First: the ag­gres­sive dis­re­gard de­pres­sion has for your cir­cum­stances, fam­ily life, fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity or pros­per­ity out­side of the source of angst. For me, life was of­fen­sively rosy at the time I ex­pe­ri­enced a re­la­tion­ship breakup. I had no other source of tur­moil – and so had trou­ble iden­ti­fy­ing, un­der­stand­ing and fi­nally ac­cept­ing that when I did find my­self sud­denly un­able to cope, it was a prob­lem that needed out­side help and sup­port.

I also use it to im­press on young peo­ple the dif­fer­ence be­tween men­tal health and men­tal ill­ness. Men­tal ill­ness is a psy­chi­atric disorder, an ill­ness that can be di­ag­nosed by a doc­tor – like schizophrenia, de­men­tia, bipo­lar etc. It can be a life-long con­di­tion that will need con­stant clin­i­cal eval­u­a­tion and per­haps med­i­ca­tion.

Men­tal health, how­ever, is sim­ply how you re­act to the chal­lenges that life in­vari­ably throws at you, your psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing day to day. I had never been emo­tion­ally tested to the level I was when I lost my way. Peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence break-ups all the time and are fine, so I couldn’t rec­on­cile how I was feel­ing with my gen­eral cir­cum­stances. I was em­bar­rassed that what seemed like a triv­ial mat­ter on pa­per, and some­thing ev­ery­one goes through, was caus­ing me such an­guish.

It was that com­bi­na­tion of an­guish, em­bar­rass­ment, shame and in­abil­ity to ra­tio­nalise my way back to sta­bil­ity that led to me one day pick­ing up a scis­sors and scrap­ing it over my skin. I still have some tell-tale bat­tle scars to re­mind me of that time.

When I even­tu­ally did re­alise the sit­u­a­tion needed some ex­ter­nal in­ter­ven­tion, I plucked up the courage to talk to some­one. As quickly as the clouds de­scended, they be­gan to lift. I learned how to han­dle de­struc­tive or neg­a­tive emo­tions and have be­come an am­bas­sador for Pi­eta House.

Through­out that time, I man­aged to hide cuts and scars from prac­ti­cally ev­ery­one, save maybe two peo­ple. So bear in mind, you re­ally have no idea what’s go­ing on be­hind closed doors. Be kind to peo­ple and ed­u­cate your­self on how to look af­ter your­self – and should the oc­ca­sion ever call for it, on how to look af­ter oth­ers.

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