Nothing mentioned, nothing gained

Mental health is not some neat box that can be categorised and put on a shelf. (Guest Post, Orla Price)

This is a guest post from Orla Price, Creative Director, Founder and Editor of HeadSpace Cover BlackHer blog is at

Mental health is not some neat box that can be categorised and put on a shelf. it is more than bottles of pills, support services, phone-lines, specialised campaigns and hospital wards.  Mental health is something that reaches every part of us and every part of our everyday lives. It affects and is affected by so many facets, of society, of living itself. This was the main motivation behind wanting to produce the magazine ‘Headspace’ and that art and creativity gave us the platform to express those feelings where simple conversation and the framework of conventional language fail. The name HeadSpace was motivated by the idea that in culture and society, we are not given the time or capacity to express, create and think as time is money but all of us feel the need to buy some ‘HeadSpace’ – you need to be able to afford reflection and reflection and time are essentials to maintaining positive health.  On a personal level, from time spent in hospital, I felt wards could do with more reading material than the information and help leaflets. That people might feel elements of solidarity and support, when reading voices not unlike their own that speak of recovery, hope or simply reflect what they are going through. However this is not a project confined to the wards and hallways of a hospital but also a project that aims to engage the whole public, to think about and express their own mental health and to engage them with a subject that is often taboo and shied away from.  It is ultimately an effort to shout about what can’t stay silent.

It is almost impossible to speak of mental health without speaking of the problems we face as a whole, of the ordinary facts and reality of the daily.  Mental health is more than an election speech. The mental health of a nation is a deep and complicated notion. Steps taken to relieve the problems should of course find outlet in the specialised supports and services available but these supports and services should be considered a last resort. We must go back to the start and ask the question – why do so many need to access help in the first place? Mental health difficulties produce a viscous cycle. Factors such as social exclusion breed mental illness but similarly the stigma attached to mental illness breeds further social exclusion. Social exclusion results from factors such as poverty, poor living conditions and social groups. Suicide rates for male travellers are 6.6 times higher than the rest of the population.  Facts like these are quite frankly stark and disturbing. The aforementioned factors create an unequal society, and all evidence points that mental illness is more prevalent in wealthier but more unequal societies.  The wealthier but more unequal societies also generate more social problems, such as substance and alcohol abuse and violence which are consequences of the state of a person’s mental health. Sometimes used to diagnose illness, they are known as co-morbid’s.  Inequality erodes trust and anxiety, generating stress and illness.

The estimated cost of mental illness, stated in the report ‘Vision for Change’ was 11 billion annually. If we alleviate the need to access the services and as well as improve them, then we save money expanding them. Suppose we live in a hypothetical land where we pledged as much as possible to make the services as good as they could be, this would surely contribute to improving recovery but would it necessarily reduce the numbers of people looking for help in the first place (at no matter what stage)? This is merely a thought experiment and I’m trying to deviate from making any large claims, but surely we do not solve a problem without looking for its source? It seems ridiculous that if we are presented with a leak, we would just plug it up whilst the water builds and builds behind it and it eventually explodes. Of course to plug it up should be the initial reaction but it should not be the only reaction. Surely the next step must be to determine its cause such as a burst pipe and fix the pipe.  Claims to alleviate our general mental health and well being should find themselves expressed in everything from education to employment to how we are looked after in our old age. It is about time a serious discussion started on the factors that are potentially contributing to the deterioration of mental health in society.

We have been astounded by the response to HeadSpace, which started out as simply a facebook page, but then it snowballed. Thank you messages and stories sent to us made us plough on through the lack of funding and practical difficulties and although it certainly took a lot of time and work we are nearing publication. The level of talent within its pages lets it standalone and speak for itself and we can only hope you appreciate these voices as much as we did.

For more info and to keep up to date, like Headspace on facebook here

The first issue is also available for pre-ordering online here


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This entry was posted on April 6, 2013 by in HeadSpace, Health, Ireland, Politics, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , .
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