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It’s time to stop just asking people to talk about their mental health, and it’s time for us to learn to listen. ‘Talking’ is the powerful keyword echoed by Mental Health Organisations, young adults, artists, Students’ Unions and those who have finally opened up to the fact that it is okay not to feel okay, and opening dialogue that makes living manageable. It is the cornerstone the Samaritans work by, but it doesn’t translate so well when discussion elsewhere is faltering. Talking and listening is all we have to offer as the health system is stumbling behind any real milestone for supporting mental health issues on so many tiers.
Challenging the public and opening our eyes to our stigmatising attitudes were just the first few sparks in the burning issue that will eventually flame into a hopeful and shining light at the end of a dark, and torturing tunnel. We are too complacent with the Please Talk campaign that we are in danger of simply deflecting and shying away from the real issue at hand. Yes, talking and seeking help is crucial - but who’s listening, and what are we doing about it?
Mental health is a deadly, hidden and isolating beast. It creates waves of intense loneliness and suffering and is a widespread experience. The Challenging Times Two Study showed that 1 in 2 (56%) of young Irish adults between the ages of 19 – 24 experience at least one form of a mental disorder, while 1 in 4 experience more than one over their lifetime. This is more than a startling statistic; it’s the real startling reality about our society and us. It is a reality I am firmly a part of.
There are days where I feel paralysed by an overwhelming sense of sadness, lethargy and feelings of impending doom. With no motivation or drive to even get up or eat, I lie in bed with only my sad thoughts about my past, and anxiety of the future for company. I have had thoughts of suicide, but these were long ago. Luckily for me, my days of being mentally and physically exhausted are less frequent.
My feelings of brief and infrequent heaviness will be my passenger in life. I’m like any ‘typical’ young Irish male: outgoing, driven, sociable and happy on the outside, and on the inside too, except for those days when I am weighed down to the ground. I talk to my friends. But at the end of the day, it’s not a real solution. There are people who are completely crippled by their mental health conditions and how can we expect people to be fully prepared to be able to really help them?
Smashing stigmas to help people shake off the embarrassment, shame, fear of labels, and people ‘finding out’ are the best tools for bringing down the wall between seeking help and isolation. This blockade is being torn down, brick by brick, by so many hands that we’re now coming face-to-face with mental health and we don’t know what to say. We are slowly realising that we actually know very little, and we’re becoming increasingly more aware of how little we can do besides nod and passively listen. How can we expect ourselves to readily be capable of empathising and actively supportive rather than sympathising and passively listening? What would you say, or do, if someone told you they had suicidal thoughts and couldn’t face living anymore?
‘Reach Out’, the National Strategy for Action on Suicide (2005 – 2014) found that young Irish men are willing to talk about their problems. So, we’re talking but are we really just talking out loud? The challenges are now in those confiding relationships where the dialogue starts. We lack listening skills as well as talking skills around mental health. There is training available. We have resources such as safeTALK and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) equipping the public to intervene and actively listen when suicide has been identified in high-risk individuals. Colleges around the country have Peer Support programmes available, and provide these types of training but it can be too late for a lot of young people who suffer alone and never get to this level of support.
Of course we need to keep talking, but we also need to be able to listen. We can share statuses on social media, and keep talking amongst ourselves but at what point does talking about talking become a circular and redundant approach? We need to educate people early on in school just like we do with physical health, sexual health and first aid. We place the onus on people to take the first step by asking them to please talk but it’s up to us to take the next step and learn to listen.
"Sorry, we’re not looking for staff at the moment!" That sentence is one that thousands of unemployed have been hearing every day after printing out tons of C.V.s with money they don’t have.
"Have you got any experience?" is another, but have you ever asked yourself what could give you the much needed experience these employers are looking for?
I have and I would never look back!
It all started from an idea that was thought about in Ballyfermot College, every lunch time after Tina’s soup from the canteen and mam’s pre made sambo (the casual lunch of a broke student). Spider diagrams were drawn out, notebooks were filled and ideas were constantly flowing, the way a journalism student’s mind should always be working.
A sport’s website dedicated to women was something that just seemed to sound like a flop but it was passion that drove it to turn from a scribble on a notebook page to an oil painting.
It wasn’t until we saw the woman that changed the tune of people when it came to women in sports, Katie Taylor, a true Irish legend. But after her win I thought to myself, surely there are other Irish women who have won gold before? Maybe not in the Olympics and at boxing but out there somewhere had to be a woman worth hearing about?
Scanning through newspapers and examining sports stories that consisted of male-based news only seemed to get under our skin, especially when we were hearing about women achieving fantastic things. Don’t get me wrong, I adore sports and love reading match reports from the leagues but when you know there is more to it than that, it would irritate you too!
The light bulb switched on and the notebooks were back out. But it wasn’t until a night out over some cheap cocktails that everything went ahead. Who says great ideas don’t come from good nights out? A website seemed daunting at the start as we only knew the basics, but one thing needed for a website is a creative mind and a driven personality and that’s something we both had.
Sometimes you worry it’s going to fail as it all piles up and learning new things can be difficult, while at other times it seems too good to be true. I myself have never been confident, but by god was I confident in this website.
After spreading the word of what was to come on January 20th 2014, we started to build up a fan base on Facebook and Twitter not only of family and friends but of people who believe in promoting women in sports throughout Ireland. Every day was tough as women’s sport is not easily found with the lack of media attention so there was an awful lot of pressure to achieve what we wanted to, but we did it by attracting over 3,000 views on the first day of publishing the site.
To this day we have interviewed some of the most amazing people in the sporting industry such as Irish Rugby Captain, Fiona Coghlan; MMA World Champion, Aisling Daly; Irish International Kayaker, Jenny Egan; Irish Equestrian, Camilla Spiers; Irish Paralympic swimmer, Ellen Keane and so many more! And every month we learn about a new sport that we have never heard of before. For example, who knew that there was a Tug of War Championship? Lisa and I definitely didn’t!
All our hard work seemed to pay off when we were nominated for Website of The Year in the Smedia Awards 2014 (Student Media Awards). Unfortunately, we did not win, but as we were told, being nominated after only setting up this year was an achievement in itself.
Many people reading will have assumed we get paid for what we do, we don’t get a cent! We depend on people looking for experience to help us achieve what we want, when it comes to the website the people helping us do it for free. Myself and Lisa go out of our way for interviews spending petrol money/bus fare etc. to get women’s stories out there.
Believe me when I say we would love to get paid and sponsored for what we do but we work part-time jobs and come home to the website, it’s like our baby. But it’s something that we believe in and sport reporting is a big part of our life now. Not only do I do it because it’s something I love, I have my best friend by my side and to be honest what more could you ask for?
So where am I going with this, sitting at home searching for work is now the bane of most people’s lives, but everyone has an imagination and a passion; mine was writing and sports. I have the drive to succeed and so does Lisa, and with that enthusiasm, we have now been nominated for Sports Blog of the Year and Best Newcomer in the Blog of Ireland Awards 2014.
Imagination is key, people are asking for experience on CVs now, and most can’t get the experience. Why don’t you go make it?
If you are interested in sports and feel that you would like the opportunity to write with us email us at email@example.com. A big thanks to Ballyfermot College of Further Education for all the skills we have gained during our HND in Print Journalism course, Colm Hanley for giving us our monthly slot to spread the news of women on Stadium Saturdays 103.2 every month, and of course family, friends and most of all the sporting legends who gave their time for interviews!
Language is the key to human interaction. It can bring us together, drive us apart or simply baffle us. If it's tough enough to communicate goodly (?) in English, why should anyone want to do their heads in and try to speak a totally different language? I'm glad you asked...
“You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.”
Language learning opens your mind, and allows you to experience more in the world. Studies suggest that speaking a different language actually gives you a different outlook on the world.
Needless to say, that holiday in Spain last year might have been a little more successful if you didn't have to mime “tomato soup”. There's always the argument that English is so widely spoken, you can get by just fine anyplace without having to know the local language. This isn't always as true as you might think. Besides, this isn't the right attitude to have when it comes to travel. Next time you go abroad, learn a few phrases and use them frequently in shops and cafés. You'll be surprised at how people brighten up when they hear a bit of an effort from a tourist, no matter how poor the pronunciation, and they'll be a lot friendlier to you.
Knowing a different language than English will help you get more out of your traveling, and will let you better experience the culture of the place you're visiting.
Becoming smarter comes from learning and knowing more. Learning the vocabulary, grammar and phraseology of another language will definitely help boost your brain capability. Language learning has been proven to help combat Alzheimer's disease. It will boost your memory and study habits.
Having another language under your belt will help you get a job. With business becoming more international, employers are desperate to hire bright young talent with competency in French, Spanish, Chinese or any other global language. Sadly, language power in Ireland is weak, with Ireland placing low in all tables regarding languages in European schools. If you can manage to hold your own in
German, or have a conversation with a Chinese businessman, you will expand your opportunities to work (not only in Ireland) tenfold. For working abroad, don't limit yourself to America and Australia.
The advantages of learning a language are clear. But starting off or getting better in a foreign language can be daunting. Luckily, if you just employ a few tricks of the trade, you'll be gossiping with your Colombian neighbour in no time.
Do well in AND out of school
You may well be getting B's and A's in class, but to really get better in your language, you have to put in work outside of school. Do extra things. Learn all the vocab for the test, and then some more. Revise your notes from last year. Do all the other things below.
Watch TV and read books
Yes, crashing down on the sofa for a little bit of open-mouthed gazing at the screen CAN be beneficial for learning. Not very, but a bit. Watch TV shows and movies in your language. Find them online with subtitles. This doesn't help you learn a lot, but you may pick up a few words, and get used to the rhythm of the language. Plus, it's fun.
What's better is reading in your chosen language. Read children's books, novels, cartoons, online news articles. If you don't know the word, look it up. (You can do better than Google Translate.) If you're interested in music, read music reviews in the language you're learning. Find something that would interest you in English, and read it in the foreign language.
Languages were meant to be spoken, which can be forgotten when you're forced to learn grammar and phrases for letter writing. The best way to get better in a language is to speak it. Speak more French in class, cause you're stuck there anyways. If you're friends with someone from Spain, than there's no excuse to not have the odd conversation with them in your best broken Spanish. If you're really stuck for someone to talk with, talk to yourself. Also see below for more ways to find people to speak to.
These days, there is a hella amount of resources, mostly free, that you can use and exploit to improve your language learning. Not all may be useful to you, but try some and see if they help.
This website gives free online courses in several different languages, including French, Spanish and German. It's intended to teach from scratch, so if you have been learning for a while, you can take a test when you sign up to place you at a level. This website is simple, and teaches basic things very well. The pace is easy-going and fun, and you can literally learn hundreds and thousands of words with it. (Irish is coming to Duolingo soon!)
Want to learn more vocab, more efficiently? This free handy piece of software acts like virtual flash cards, which are smart enough to know when you need to revise them most, thus enabling you to learn most effectively. You can download free packs of vocab made by others, or you can make your own.
Some schools do pen-pals, but in other schools, students are stuck for contact with actual people who speak the language. With Polyglotclub, you can find people who speak French and want to improve their English. You can then keep in touch via email, Facebook or even Skype for actual conversations. This is a great way for people who want to speak a language, but don't know anyone who speaks it. Always be cautious when dealing with strangers online, inform yourself on internet safety before trying to find a pen-pal.
There are a lot of people out there who are passionate about language learning and share their experiences via blogs. One blog that is highly interesting and encouraging is fluentin3months.com. This Irish blogger has been learning languages for 10 years, and shares his trove of advice on this blog, which can be summed up with his mantra: “Speak from day one!”
Languages are great. They're fun to use and will stand by you no matter where you go. All you have to do is start now. “One language sets you on a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” So go on. Give it a try. Maybe this time next year, you'll be sitting in a bar in Belize, conversing fluently with close friends in Spanish.
To have epilepsy is to have a tendency to have recurring seizures. Anyone can have a seizure, if the brain is exposed to a strong enough stimulus. We know that about 1 in every 20 people will have a single seizure at some time during their lives.
The Prevalence of Epilepsy in Ireland report (2009) found that there are 37,000 people with epilepsy in Ireland over the age of five. That’s 1 in 115 people.
The significance of having a tendency to have seizures will vary from person to person, and will depend on many things; for most people, epilepsy, will only affect them for a short period in their lives. For some, however, the consequences can be more lasting.
In more than half of all cases, no cause can be found. The person with epilepsy is apparently healthy in every respect and there is no underlying illness, disease or damage causing them to have seizures. This kind of epilepsy is sometimes called idiopathic epilepsy. It would seem that some of us just have a greater propensity than others to have seizures.
Sometimes a cause for the epilepsy can be found. Anything that damages or injures the brain can result in epilepsy. Some of the common causes are head injuries, strokes, brain infections e.g. meningitis or encephalitis and birth defects. Other more rare causes are brain tumours and some genetic conditions like tuber sclerosis.
The brain is the control centre for the body. It is made up of millions of neurons or brain cells which are constantly transmitting and receiving messages enabling our bodies to work properly. If some of these brain cells malfunction, for any reason, the messages can become disorganised and a seizure may result.
The type of seizure a person has will depend on where in the brain the malfunction occurs. There are many different kinds of seizures but they are usually divided into two categories - generalised or partial.
If a seizure is generalised it means that the whole brain is affected by the malfunction and the person invariably loses consciousness. Tonic-clonic and Absences are examples of generalised seizures.
If only part of the brain is affected, the person may remain conscious throughout the seizure or their consciousness may be impaired in some way. What the person does or experiences during the seizure will very much depend on what part of the brain is malfunctioning. Sometimes a partial seizure is called a focal seizure.
What is a tonic-clonic seizure?
A Tonic-Clonic seizure is a major convulsive seizure. It is what most people think of when they think of epilepsy and used to be called "grand-mal".
The whole brain suddenly malfunctions and the person loses consciousness immediately and falls to the ground. Sometimes the person may appear to cry out as he or she falls to the ground. This noise is caused by air being forcefully expelled from the lungs. The body stiffens briefly, (the tonic phase) and then starts jerking (the clonic phase). Breathing may be shallow and even stop for a few moments causing the skin to turn a bluish colour. Saliva may gather in the mouth and, occasionally, bladder or bowel control may be lost.
The jerking movements slow down and the seizure usually ends naturally after a few minutes. On returning to consciousness, the person may feel confused and sleepy but many people are able to resume their normal activities after resting for a short while.
What is an absence?
An absence is another type of generalised seizure. It looks like a short staring spell that lasts for a few seconds. This type of seizure is most often seen in children.
The child is momentarily completely unaware of what is going on around him or her, but very quickly, returns to full consciousness without falling or loss of muscle control. Some children will stumble and fall if they have this kind of seizure while running around at play.
These seizures happen so quickly that they can go unnoticed for some time. Often parents and teachers think that the child is just being inattentive or is daydreaming. Because of this and because absences can occur very frequently, sometimes many times a day, they can adversely affect a child's learning. Once detected, they are usually quite easily treated.
Yes is the short answer, just as it would be for asthma, diabetes and many other conditions often assumed to be 'benign'. In fact, there are approximately 130 epilepsy deaths in Ireland each year. Drowning, head injury and road traffic accidents account for many of these deaths. Likewise, status epilepticus, which is a prolonged seizure or series of seizures from which the person does not recover consciousness, cerebrovascular diseases and chest infections are also common causes of death. Suicide too is 2-3 times higher with epilepsy than the rest of the population.
All of the above deaths together account for around 50% of epilepsy deaths. They would be greatly reduced if the seizures of the people dying in these ways were fully eliminated. This is also true for the biggest single cause of epilepsy deaths, which accounts for at least half of them. It is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).
These premature deaths of otherwise healthy people with epilepsy have no obvious explanation. Usually, the person is found dead without any warning and routine autopsy fails to establish the cause of death. It must be stressed that SUDEP is a non-traumatic death for the person with epilepsy but the effect on his or her loved ones can be devastating.
Good self-care can significantly reduce risks of SUDEP in those with established epilepsy. This means:
Can certain things cause a seizure to start?
For most people there is no single thing that triggers a seizure - it just happens. However, seizures may happen more often if a person gets very tired or hungry or forgets to take their medication. Commonly, people find that alcohol or getting over-stressed can bring on a seizure but no two people are alike and what affects one may have no affect on another.
About 3-5% of people who have epilepsy are photosensitive and may have a seizure in response to flickering lights e.g. strobe lights, or even the flickering of sunlight through trees.
In most cases, the family doctor will refer someone who is having seizures to a specialist for examination. To make the diagnosis of epilepsy, the doctor will need a careful medical history and as much information about what happened when the person had the seizure and what it looked like. A good eyewitness account is very important.
Usually, the person will be asked to undergo an Electroencephalogram (EEG). Sensors attached to the scalp can record the electrical activity in the brain, which can help the doctor decide whether or not the person has epilepsy.
If epilepsy is diagnosed, it is usually treated by a daily drug regime.
Some children who have certain types of epilepsy can grow out of the tendency to have seizures altogether.
Recent research has shown that, in many cases, once a person has been free of seizures for a few years, the epilepsy medication may be withdrawn, slowly, by the doctor and there is an excellent chance of the person remaining seizure free, without medication.
For some people, taking the medication is something that will have to be continued for many years and for some, existing medications do not completely control their seizures. Newer medications, which have recently appeared on the market, will hopefully, help to reduce this number.
For those who do not respond to the medication, surgery may be an option. If the abnormal activity causing the seizures is limited to a small area of the brain in the temporal lobe, it may be possible to eliminate or control the seizures by removing part of the brain in an operation called a temporal lobectomy.
Anyone being considered for surgical treatment will have to undergo a long series of investigations, which can take a considerable length of time. These will usually include long-term EEG recordings (including a stay in hospital), psychological assessment and brain scans.
Yes, provided the person has been free of seizures for one year and is certified fit to drive by a doctor.
Thanks to Epilepsy Ireland for providing content.
Asking about one’s habits between the sheets can be a touchy subject for some young people, but we caught up with festival goers at Bundoran’s Sea Sessions to talk frankly about protecting their sexual health. Choosing to protect yourself and whoever you choose to sleep with is important at any time, but it can be particularly paramount at festivals for those who make the decision to have sex. We chatted with guys who had bought a box of ‘communal condoms’ to share, girls who weren’t intending to have sex this weekend and a group who were negative about girls carrying condoms. See what they all had to in the our sexual health video which will be up soon!
Having one day come across a statistic that 75% of college students have never had an STI test (National Student Survey 2014), I have since been trying to break the embarrassed silence that sometimes arises from talking about sexual health. A casual conversation about STI tests in my class one day had culminated in the logical inclusion from one of the guys that STI tests were subsidised in DIT. However, it had quickly been followed by the caveat that he did not know this from first-hand experience. Why is it that some of us are finally getting comfortable about discussing sex, yet we still have difficulty actually speaking about getting tested for sexually transmitted infections?
It’s a topic that I have often breached with my friends, and despite realising the importance of regular sexual health screenings, they had told me startling stories about the stigma they had faced getting tested sometimes even from medical staff. One of my friends who had simply gone in for reassurance that he was STI-free, had been greeted with, “did your girlfriend make you come in?” from a nurse in his university. Another had said she had two nurses make comments about the number of sexual partners she had had.
This was by no means the first time I had encountered stigma attached to maintaining sexual health. However, I still felt a bit shocked when one particular group of young men we interviewed seemed to be a little disgusted by the idea of a girl carrying condoms, at first joking that they were “sluts” but then pausing to say, “still at the same time, you’re thinking – Jesus!”. That being said, many groups we interviewed were supportive of the idea of young women carrying condoms, using terms such as “fair play” and “responsible”. Luckily, public opinion may be moving towards giving priority to sexual health over potentially damaging stigmas.
Protecting yourself from STIs and unwanted pregnancies is an issue, that if you do choose to become sexually active, matters immediately, as a particularly eye-opening study from UNICEF illustrates. During their first sexual experience 19% said they did not use a condom and 57% did not use birth control, and 62% had consumed alcohol beforehand. Importantly, certain sexually transmitted infections which can be asymptomatic, therefore go unnoticed and if untreated can lead to issues with fertility.
To find out more about sexually transmitted infections and where you can get free screenings, click here.
We all know that heading back to school after a few months off is tough. But we've been through it before and we can do it again. It doesn't mean that there won't be challenges! SpunOut.ie spoke to three of it's volunteers who serve up some great survival tips, plus some tunes to get you through the first few weeks.
Some good final advice from SpunOut.ie Action Panel Member, Clara Barry:
We have loads of info for the school year on SpunOut.ie:
And here's some tunes to kick off the school year, as picked by our Jennifer, Elizabeth and Robyn.
Remember that the age of sexual consent in the republic of Ireland is 17 and the age of sexual consent in Northern Ireland is 16.
When it comes to sex and relationships, many people drink to give themselves confidence to approach potential partners or to decrease their sexual inhibitions. A moderate amount of alcohol can indeed make it easier to chat to guys/gals. It even increases sex drive in many people. However, it’s not all good news. Large amounts of alcohol can seriously wreck your buzz, particularly your sexual buzz.
As with most things in life, alcohol is best consumed in moderation. Taken to excess, alcohol can seriously wreck your sex life. Remember that it is illegal to buy alcohol or supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.
We’ve got the good, the bad and the ugly on alcohol and sex.
You'll probably need to spend your first few days at university or college organising all the annoying, but essential stuff of student life.
You should start to settle in and make new friends during the first months at uni. However if you feel like things aren’t going well, you’re stressed or have serious money problems, then speak to one of your lecturers or a campus counsellor. Your students' union will have information on who can help get you out of a sticky spot.
When you start college or university, you can expect a lot of expenses. It’s a good idea to have some money saved or to budget carefully for the following:
What is self-confidence?
Self-confidence means feeling good about yourself, believing in your abilities and believing that other people value you. It’s doesn’t mean boasting about how good you are at something. YOU have to believe in your own value rather than relying on impressing others.
Do you need a confidence boost?
If you said yes to some of the above questions, then it’s time to work on improving your confidence.
Improve your confidence:
What is meditation?
By definition, meditation refers to any form of practice where a person trains their mind to focus and to enter a deep sense of relaxation and concentration. When a person meditates, the mind is said to be relaxed, yet focused, at the same time.
Meditation has been around since ancient times and there is even evidence of it in hunter gatherer societies. It has also long been a part of religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
Meditation started to gain popularity in the West in the 60s and has been popular in western society ever since. Many people associate meditation with monks and monasteries, and some people do indeed practice it as part of their religion, but in the western world, it is more often used for stress reduction and relaxation in a secular (non-religious) way.
In term of religious meditation, it is practiced as part of various religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and even Catholicism. Apparently, Padre Pio was a big believer in Christian meditation!
There are different types of meditation such as transcendental meditation and mindfulness.
The chief aim of meditation is to focus the mind and to drown out internal chatter, worries and wandering thoughts. Our mind is constantly active and thinking, so meditation aims to quiet it for a bit. This clearing out of the mind seems to help with stress relief.
Why bother with it?
There are tons of benefits to meditation:
How to do it?
How to learn it
If you would like to perfect your technique, there are several courses and classes available nationwide.