Dear Friends,

Greetings from IrishCental. I hope you are all keeping well.

Recently a talented young GAA player from Galway, Niall Donohue, lost his life in tragic circumstances. Sadly our editorial team often reports on suicides and depression in the Irish and Irish American communities. These stories are what prompted us to focus our editorial for the next week on mental health awareness and ask “why can’t we ask for help?”

Once this week is over we will not forget or stop talking, or stop covering these issues. One in three people is affected by depression or mental illness in some way and it’s a problem that is not going away.

While researching the topic our editorial team has been shocked to find how prevalent the problem is and how challenging it is to get people to speak about suicide and mental health.

The statistics in Ireland and the United States with relation to suicide are shocking. In the US one person kills themselves every 15 minutes and in Ireland one person dies by suicide every 12 hours. A medical study also found that immigrants, cut off from their support system back home are 2.6 times more likely to die by suicide. We compiled an infographic of the statistics and will also share them in our articles throughout the week.

Although our editorial team doesn’t have any answers or solutions for dealing with mental health, our aim this week is to start a discussion, to open a forum and help our families and communities to get a handle on mental health awareness.

Why have a mental awareness week?

The staff members at IrishCentral are either Irish or Irish American. We have loads in common. One of the unfortunate traits we share is an unwillingness or inability to talk about what is troubling us.

The result of this in both our communities can have catastrophic and life-altering consequences. We cannot change the past; we can only attempt to influence the future. As a news organization with 100,000 Facebook fans, 20,000 followers on Twitter, and 80,000 daily readers we are in a position to potentially reach a lot of people.

Why can’t we ask for help?

A hard question to answer is whether this stems from the Catholic Church’s teaching that suicide is a sin. In fact suicide was illegal in Ireland until 1993. In our opinion suicide and mental health remains a taboo subject.

More young men die by suicide. Their inability to ask for help may be rooted in a kind of machismo, a belief that their role in society as a man is to appear strong and resilient. They see admitting they need help as a sign of weakness rather than strength. 

There are of course hundreds of reasons from substance abuse, to relationships breaking up to financial stress that can all lead to individuals needing support. Our mission is to highlight these and talk about the issues.

How bad is the situation?

Throughout this week we will talk to some of those people who have sought help and overcome their mental health issues and to those outreach workers on the ground in Ireland and the United States. We will also take a look at what our community can do to help raise awareness.

Our reporters speak to experts on the ground in Irish communities in New York and Boston and also in Ireland about the rising numbers of suicides and the need on the ground for action.

As Dr. Kevin Malone, a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Mental Health at University College Dublin, put it “suicide is our war” and we have to come to terms with how to deal with it.

What can be and is being done in the Irish and Irish American communities?

Cork hurler Conor Cusack has given us permission to use his touching article on his own battle with depression and how after a painful realization he came to trust in therapy. He is now trying to help those who suffer with depression to take the first step.

From the Gaelic Players Association, to Irish community centers in New York and Boston, to celebrities such as U2’s Adam Clayton and Irish groups like 3Ts, Irish and Irish American communities are taking action. This week we will take a look at the positive pro-active attitude among a community ready to battle depression and raise awareness about mental health.

We hope that our readers will engage with our stories that aim to raise awareness, that we will start a dialogue and that you will share our stories with your community.

It’s time for action on the Irish battle with mental help and starting to talk about our issues is the first step.

Is mise le meas,
Kate Hickey