Opening up about your mental health struggles is a major step for anyone, famous or not. Telling your mum that you have depression or confiding in a friend about your battle with bipolar disorder takes a lot of strength. It is a massive step that shouldn’t be tainted by stigma or judgement.
Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington recently disclosed, via his representative, that he was spending some time at a wellness retreat to help cope with his personal issues.
When news broke that the actor, who plays courageous and noble Jon Snow, was seeking help for his mental health struggles tabloids were quick to shame him.
The headlines made it seem like getting help for your mental health issues is shameful, dirty and something we shouldn’t do.
Surely we should be championing the fact that one of TV’s biggest stars is getting help for issues that darkened his life.
As author Matt Haig said, “Rehab is such a negative word. Thanks to pop culture. Thanks to the media. Going to rehab is a positive thing. It is the moment someone recognises their problem and plans to recover from it. It's a brave, wonderful, healing thing, and no-one should be stigmatised for it.”
Kit should be commended and respected for his decision to go on this wellness retreat because anyone who has gone through similar issues knows all too well that reaching out and saying ‘I need help’ is one of the biggest hurdles you have to overcome on this journey.
His name shouldn’t be splashed across headlines with the word 'rehab' in capital letters just to dramatise the story. Stories about previous low moments in his life shouldn’t resurface at a time when he is clearly struggling mentally.
He should be allowed recover in peace because regardless of his fame, his roles and his status, he is just a human. A human who was struggling and needed help.
Men are so often told to be strong and to man up, it's no wonder they are the ones who find it harder to cope with mental health problems. Men account for eight out of ten suicides here in Ireland.
They are suffering in silence, denying themselves the right to be treated and fight this heavy battle alone because of stigma, fear and a pathetic lack of support by both the Government, the media and the public.
We have made great strides in recent years, especially with the help of the See Change campaign. Wearing the green ribbon on your jacket may help people feel less alone, but it can only do so much.
Leo Varadkar and co. can wear a green ribbon upon their expensive suit jackets but what they really need to do is invest in mental health support. Show the public, show Ireland’s men that there is help out there, suicide isn’t your only option and that things can get better with the right help.
We shouldn’t look upon Kit Harington with pity, but with pride. He found the strength to seek help and proved to men that they don't need to 'man up' because there is no shame in your suffering.
If you or anyone you know are struggling with mental health issues, please call Samaritans on 116 123.
You can donate to Pieta House here.
Support the See Change campaign here.