May 14, 2012

Photo of two santa statues on a window sillAt the young age of ten it was easy for me to remember my dolly whenever I left the house and to hide my vegetables in the dog if I didn’t want to eat them but to understand and be aware of mental health was a completely different matter.

I remember the day to an extent, the Christmas tree was up in the corner with all its decorations on and mum had just finishing adding extra presents to the piles beneath it. My sister (then eight) and myself were so excited, we always were at this time of the year. It was at that moment that the door knocked and we hear the news about dad dying.

The tears fell, as would be expected with such awful news and us being two young children. Mum did her best to tell us he would never want us to have a bad Christmas. She hugged us tightly and I guess the three of us got through it together but there was no real explanation back then and who could blame her for leaving it out?

I am sure of one thing: help failed him.

The truth is, now twenty-one and eighteen, I and my sister are old enough to understand the truth, well as best as we can. When I was ten and she was eight, our dad took his own life. He hadn’t been himself for weeks, nor was he the man mum had married all those years ago, she said. He often went missing for days on end and began thinking things most ignorant people would class as ‘insane’. My dad was mentally unwell and although I am not 100% sure of the exact diagnosis, I am sure of one thing: help failed him.

Eleven years on and I am a finalist studying for my undergraduate degree at university. I have secured a Masters Degree place next year in Creative Writing and my personal experience of mental health and the passing of my dad has been the inspiration for one of the most powerful pieces of poetry I have written, Winter Wonderland.

the blame sits with the ignorance of a society that is not well enough aware of the risks of mental health.

It highlights the effects such a tragic event can have on a young person; who do they blame and how do they really feel? I do not blame my dad (he wasn’t himself) and I do not for one second blame myself or any other member of my family. Mum has been a rock and I love her with all my heart. For me, the blame sits with the ignorance of a society that is not well enough aware of the risks of mental health.

This is why I believe that talking about mental health is so crucial and I felt it necessary to share my story with you. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to lose a loved one like this. It’s Time to Change and it’s Time to Talk.

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