The campaign “Walk in My Shoes” originated when a 16-year-old patient at St. Patrick’s Mental Health Hospital told his carers he wished his friends could put themselves in his shoes and understand what he’s going through dealing with mental health issues.

Research has shown that 75 percent of mental health difficulties beginning before the age of 24, so education and awareness in the age group is key. With the help of Adam Clayton, the bass player with the rock legends U2, “Walk in My Shoes” aims to break the stigma, raise awareness and support young adults with mental health difficulties.

Clayton explained, “I think we all have to care about anyone who is young and troubled; we have to be able to recognize the warning signs and try to respond to them not only with sympathy but with seriousness. This is one of the most important challenges facing us now.”
That’s why last month, ahead of World Mental Health Day, Clayton wrote to every school in Ireland “to raise awareness and tackle the stigma attached to mental health difficulties and generate funds for 'Walk in My Shoes'.”

So far this year 100 schools around Ireland have held funky shoe days to raise funds and awareness for the campaign. Students donate €2 ($2.70) and wear funky or mismatched shoes to school. From Dublin to Tory Island off the Donegal coast fundraising and funky shoe days have been taking place in schools and places of employment.

The idea behind this is that the children will gain a sense of what it might feel like to be misunderstood. Their spokesperson explained, “If you can imagine making your way to work on the bus or rail in odd shoes. You will find that people will look at you differently, you may feel uncomfortable – but you’re making a statement and standing up to mental health and doing your part to stamp out the stigma.”

It seems that in Ireland mental health issues is one of the last great taboos and there remains a stigma attached to seeking help. This is the reason IrishCentral sought to focus on the issue this week.

CEO of St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services, Paul Gilligan, explained that, “Thirtyfive percent of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed said the embarrassment they felt about having a mental illness was an obstacle to seeking help.

“We know that education and early intervention is the key to helping our young people. It is vital that young people experiencing mental health difficulties have access to appropriate supports and services and feel comfortable using this help.”

This year St. Patrick’s Mental Health Foundation has also developed free downloadable mental health packs for teens, college students and employees. The pack includes information on the warning signs of mental health issues and advice on how to seek help.
The campaign’s spokesperson told IrishCentral that “Walk in my Shoes” is delighted to be a mental health campaign which is “proactive, bright and fun, educates through the resources we provide and is proactive rather than reactive.”

They continued, “We try to keep the message simple – ask people to have fun but recognize the seriousness and at the same time, make a difference.”

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PHOTOS - "Walk in My Shoes" campaign raising mental health awareness with funky shoes

Here’s a short Irish news piece on “Walk in my Shoes” and Adam Clayton’s involvement: