Normalising the Chat Around Mental Health

My introduction to the idea of mental health came in the form of tragedy. Around 9 years ago my best friend took his own life. He hadn’t been able to talk about what was going on in his head and I hadn’t any idea that something could be going on. Believe me, you don’t want to be at the funeral of someone so close to you and wonder how on earth it got to that point. The damage that does to someone’s mental health can be catastrophic. It’s life-changing. That’s how I learned what mental health was.

In 2012 I was 17, and the phrase ‘mental health’ had never crossed my path. It wasn’t a thing that existed. It wasn’t covered in any class and the ideas of mental health, depression, anxiety and suicide were all treated with discomfort and a general desire to ignore these issues. It made no sense to me that one day mental health didn’t exist, and the next day a best friend could be dead because of how poor his mental health had become.

After that, I went through my own battles with depression and anxiety. I still do sometimes to this day. However, it became important to me that nobody else found out about mental health the way I did. I didn’t want anyone to have to lose their friends to suicide and I didn’t want anyone to feel like they couldn’t talk about what they were struggling with. My mission became to normalize the chat around mental health.

Over the course of the journey I crossed paths with Mike and Dan, two fellas with a similar mission. To reduce the stigma around mental health and mental illness, and to make people feel comfortable with what they’re going through. I was delighted to be asked to be an ambassador for Da Silly Heads because we share a common goal.

The hats to me are a beacon. They act as a lighthouse when you’re out and about. When you see one you know that in front of you stands a person that is ready to have open chats about mental health. In the sea of uncertainties, a lighthouse is your saving grace.

You may never talk to the person about anything, but just knowing that they’re ready to be there for someone makes you feel a lot better. It means you’re not alone. It means that there’s a community of people ready to break down the stigma around mental health, and that’s an unbelievable feeling.

Nine years ago, if fellas like Mike and Dan were around, if there were people actively trying to make it easier for people to open up about their mental health, then maybe my friend would still be around today. I really do believe that to be true.

That’s why it’s important to me, because if we continue to talk openly about mental health, I know for certain that we’re saving lives, and that’s what it’s always been about; to stop people feeling so alone that they think there’s only one way out.

– Daragh Fleming, Da Ambassador

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