Normal like a toothache

In early October I attended an event with students from school called Zeminar, in the RDS. As part of the day we attended a talk by Blindboy (of Rubberbandits fame) - an articulate, passionate and honest speaker. I learned more from him about mental health in 45mins that I have from any other source in my 36 years on this planet. How I wish I’d seen him as a teenager - although I’m not sure I had the emotional intelligence then to understand his simple message.

The message at the heart of his funny and touching speech was that mental illnesses are illnesses and need to be treated as such. Our society needs to allow us talk openly about depression/anxiety/panic (and more), in the same way we would discuss a broken wrist or a pain in our teeth. Instead, he argued, more commonplace is an attitude of silence and awkwardness where young people aren’t given the requisite space or the appropriate tools needed to express themselves.

Blindboy spoke openly and in detail about Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT - how we feel is caused by how we think and not what happened in the past but how we think about what happened) allowing those present to leave with a practical tool as well as some fact-based information. He told us that positivity isn't always the solution, asked us to celebrate failure as learning and encouraged the crowd not to feel under pressure to define themselves. His voice was one of gentle humour and he reminded us the you can say things with/through comedy and still care deeply. Seriousness and solemness is not always needed but more importantly the focus should be on honest human conversation. 

Two sentences really stayed me: "Life is full of inevitable pain" and "Anxiety is like a fire alarm without a fire - treat it like a bully that knows the deepest parts of you". Words to learn from.

As a teacher of teenagers and as another human (who is going through a tough time of their own) I left the room heartened, relieved, empowered and inspired. I can't recall another speaker ever having had that effect on me. Thank you Blindboy.