The inability of Irish people to easily express their emotions can be traced back to a strict upbringing in Catholic Ireland, according to a community activist who works closely with recovering alcoholics in New York City.
“We are the least likely of any people to reach out for help,” says Rev. Patrick Moloney, a Melkite Greek Catholic priest who immigrated to the U.S from Ireland in 1955.
Fr Moloney, an East Village activist, described the increase in suicides in New York’s Irish community as tragic.
“I have seen more people shipped back home to Ireland than I care to remember,” he told IrishCentral, in a recent conversation.
“We don’t want to acknowledge when we need help.”
Fr Moloney says the historical stronghold the church had on Ireland could be a factor in our reluctance to seek help.
“We have so much damage to undo that the church did,” he told IrishCentral.
Referring to his own childhood growing up in Limerick City he said: “The clergy were up on pedestals instead of walking among the people.”
“We are victims of years of oppression and abuse.”
“There is an ancient stigma in our country, that there is something wrong with mental illness.”
An Irish immigrant, Desmond, who preferred to use only his first name, has been in recovery for over 20-years .He works with recovering addicts in the city and agrees a strict upbringing in Ireland contributed to his hesitance to ask for help.
“We were brought up in the old days, you didn’t talk about school, you could talk about anything else, don’t talk about problems, you have to live with the pain and ache, you took it to the grave with you, rather than bring it up.”
Now a successful property manager in Manhattan, he shares his own story to try and encourage people in recovery.
“I was in dire straits,” he told IrishCentral. “I had gone through a divorce and I had a drinking problem. I thought there was no way out.”
“I ended up in therapy here in the U.S. and I realized that what I had was not an uncommon problem, that there is no shame to it.”
“I found a new life – it is out there and ten times better.”
Desmond attributes his life as an immigrant as a being a major trigger for his mental health issues.
“As an immigrant, we are really stuck between our home and new surroundings,” he told IrishCentral.
“You go home to Ireland, you want to get back to New York, you’re in Ireland want to get back here.”
“You end up becoming a bohemian, not a citizen of any country,” he reflects.
“You end up being lonely and don’t feel part of any country anymore.”
Fr Moloney, who has spent decades working with countless expats, agrees that being away from home can trigger a whole series of negative emotions.
“We laugh at things that we should be analyzing, “ he said.
“Whenever he meets someone in need of help he reminds them help is never far away.
“You are no farther away from help than a telephone call.”
He concluded: “No matter how bad it gets, where there is life, there is always hope and where there is hope, there is always opportunity.”
It’s good to talk: here is a list of helplines and resources for those dealing with depression
Read more on mental health awareness here.