Having a laugh about mental health
Spike Milligan, ever hear of him? He was a very quirky comedian (pictured here, in case that’s not clear) that dealt with some mental health problems throughout his life.
He willing endorsed an annual public speaking competition run by the Irish College of Psychiatrists.
Myself and Roisin went along the other night to watch seven teams of two people from all the medical schools in Ireland, lay out very well-rounded arguments on the topic “Mental health services for Generation Y – online or out of touch”.
Definition of “Generation Y”
Obviously we would have a certain bias here, but it was a great opportunity to hear what our future doctors think.
It was as entertaining as much as it was enlightening to listen to a group of Generation Y-ers firstly define themselves, who they are, what they’re about and what their needs from mental health services actually are.
Need to share
Some of the teams took an alternative approach to public speaking by acting out certain scenarios, giving nods to some people’s attachment to their phones, the need to be connected and share, well, everything…how delicious their omelets were for breakfast and the likes.
It was of absolutely no surprise to us, every team pretty much concluded that of course, mental health services need to be online! That’s where everyone goes to for work, school, entertainment, staying in touch with friends and information.
But, in certain cases, online services should be used to compliment traditional forms of support. It was also acknowledged as the internet changes the way we all work, so must the way we provide mental health care.
We’ve absolutely no dispute with that. What we’re about is encouraging and informing people about informal supports as well as formal supports, for the times they’re needed.
Laughter – the best medicine
What struck me most about the evening, was that a bunch of people can speak about mental health in a way that’s irreverent and funny. Spike Milligan would be proud. The audience was giddy initially in anticipation of the night and with support for their teams.
But, all of the speeches used humour in a way that’s effective not only for public speaking and engaging your audience but in a way that’s disarming. It allows us to talk about some of the heavy stuff in a positive, lighter way and people laughed, great big belliers. Which is great for your mental health.
They were not disrespectful or uninformed. Seriously, these were very engaged speakers who put a lot of research into their speeches. No one made fun of anyone’s distress. It was just about the stuff that happens everyday that can chip away at us.
Shifting the conversation
Who would believe it? You go to a evening of talks about mental health and it was actually a barrel of laughs.
Public conversations about mental health tend to be so negative…”what are we doing wrong?”…”he spent years of being unwell”…”couldn’t get the right help”. It’s no wonder people can find it hard acknowledge when they need extra support sometimes. It’s off-putting and scary, sounding like no good can come of it.
Mental health is so much a part of our everyday experience. So, if we can shift our approach to be a bit more positive some of the time, and not be afraid to inject a bit of humour into it, it helps take away some fear of asking for seeking that extra support when we need it.
So on that note, a psychiatrist walks into a bar…erm, no. I’ll work on that one.