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Thursday, December 31, 2015

When lightning strikes...

Just before Christmas, Niall Breslin, more commonly known as Bressie, the heartthrob and generally nice guy from The Blizzards and more recently a judge on The Voice of Ireland, broadcast his new series aimed at getting people to focus on their mental health by overcoming physical fitness challenges.

‘Bressie’s Ironmind’ is precisely the kind of programme that is needed on mainstream State TV to remove the stigma, across the age groups, around the topic of mental health, depression and those who are at risk of suicide.

Ireland is a terrible country for fostering the mentality of ‘If I don’t mention it, then it’s not happening and the problem will simply go away’.

This couldn’t be further from the truth – just like a harsh word can mutilate into a cutting monologue if left to fester, ill feelings can manifest into depression, mental ill health or even suicidal ideation, if they are left to bubble away under the surface.

This is one of the things that Bressie aimed to address with his new series and his frank and open way of talking about his own difficulties is honestly quite refreshing, not only on television and in the media, but in a new series, aimed at people of all ages from all walks of life.

The first episode introduced us to Jade, Colm, Mark and Orla.

“This challenge was one that I took on myself [...] it’s not a physical challenge but a mental challenge,” Bressie explained and the idea is to arm people with coping tools for life’s more difficult moments.

Using the expertise of health and fitness experts, as well as those who specialise in mental health, mindfulness and wellness, Bressie pushed people to their maximum without going too far or risking injury, while also using exercise and physical fitness to combat the onset of mental problems and issues.

The stories of the four people who took part in the show are very real and quite raw and they will no doubt have helped people to relate to the show and will perhaps help them to shine a light on a problem they are having themselves that they hadn’t given due consideration to before now.

The hope is that this will get people talking openly about their feelings, emotional well-being and to talk to people if they are struggling. Suicide is something that can be prevented, but that cannot be done if we are not open, transparent and talking to each other about what is going on inside our heads.

Problems will not go away if they are brushed under the carpet – instead they will manifest themselves in physical  symptoms such as bowel problems or IBS, headaches, vomiting, self-mutilation in the form of pulling out hair or mildly hurting oneself, as well as things like putting yourself down, having low self-esteem or even exhibiting signs of self-loathing.

If you broke your leg, you would not hesitate in telling somebody what had happened, how much pain you are in and what the recovery time will be.

On the polar opposite end of the scale, if you were feeling down or were having an off day, a lot of Irish people in particular, tend to hide those feelings and feel ashamed.

As people get older and particularly people of my generation (late twenties and almost thirty, well I'm 28, I’ll begrudgingly admit), they begin to realise that everyone else is the same as them.

Everyone worries, everyone stresses out over ridiculous things and everyone has those irrational fears and woes.

It is how we deal with those problems that set us apart and makes some people the strong people and others those who crumble and fold under the pressure and strain.

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