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28th Sep 2021

We spoke to See Change coordinator Barbara Brennan on this year’s Green Ribbon Campaign

Katy Thornton

This was the Green Ribbon Campaign’s ninth year running

Earlier in the month we wrote about Green Ribbon Month, a month that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in Ireland. All month long, See Change worked tirelessly to raise awareness, and encourage people to speak up. This year’s theme was inclusion, and the campaign was hugely successful given the last 18 months. I had the pleasure of speaking to See Change coordinator Barbara Brennan, who shared some insights with me.

What is the biggest achievement of Green Ribbon Month 2021?

Barbara was particularly proud of the massive engagement the campaign had this year. She felt that the theme of inclusion really spread to minority groups which was a great achievement. Barbara felt necessary and inclusive conversations were being had amongst all walks of life. See Change spoke with the likes of LGBT Ireland, Cairde, Roots in Africa Ireland, the traveler community, and many more. From that side, the Green Ribbon Campaign was hugely successful.

Do you have any advice for those struggling with their mental health amid the pandemic?

Like last year, the Green Ribbon Campaign took place online due to government guidelines. During the pandemic, exclusion was a huge issue, and Barbara urges people who are struggling to take that first step. She spoke about self exclusion which can subconsciously manifest given the restrictions, but asked those who needed help to not wait and to reach out as soon as possible. Barbara emphasised the importance of asking for help, and noted the resources such as 50808 and Samaritans that can be there immediately. She said now that many restrictions have lifted it is now possible to meet in person, which is massively important to those who are struggling.

Do you think the stigma in Ireland surrounding mental health has been reduced in the past 10 years?

Barbara said absolutely. Whilst once the language used around mental health was predominantly negative, people are now better educated on the subject. We all have mental health the same way we all have physical health, and it must be nurtured. Barbara also said that the pandemic meant that people who had never suffered from bad mental health were dealing with excess stress, low mood, anxiety, and a general strangeness. This perhaps gave people who previously found it difficult to understand those who suffer with mental illness some insight into what it’s like, and so the attitude toward it has shifted.

What’s next for See Change?

October is World Mental Health Month and so will be a busy one for See Change. They are running two programs; one will be a six step program to deal with mental health in the workplace. The other is for mental health ambassadors that will involve a series of interviews and testimonies discussing their lived experience. They are also working on releasing a research piece and guide on the 10th October, so you can look forward to that.

Final comments

Barbara left me with the words that whether you’ve struggled with your mental health or not, we all have mental health. She said it’s okay to listen and to not have all the answers. The fear of saying the wrong thing shouldn’t prevent us from speaking up.

We are hugely grateful to Barbara for speaking with us, and you can check out all the amazing work See Change does on their socials and on their website.

If you are struggling with your mental health, please check out this list of resources.

Header image via Shutterstock

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