Dillon Kennedy Column: Mental Health

By Dillon Kennedy

I want to veer away from politics in this column and talk about an issue that has affected me for the last two years. I am of course talking about Mental Health, this is something that touches many of us at some point in our lives. I want to use this column to encourage others to seek help and speak to someone if they are struggling with their mental health.

There is a stigma against opening up and talking about mental health and how we are feeling. Over 2 years ago, I lost the rock in my life, my Mum to a horrible disease known as MND or Motor Neurones Disease.

When Mum was diagnosed with MND, I wasn't very open about how I felt and kept my emotions to myself. It was becoming clear to my Mum and my Auntie that I wasn't coping and so they set up counselling. At the start, I was afraid of going so I ultimately lied to my auntie and my mum about going and instead went to the cafe next to my work for coffee. Ultimately my auntie clicked and followed me one week and both she and my mum realised what I was doing. This was so wrong of me to lie about going to counselling. After being found out, I went to the sessions where I found that I could open up to a complete stranger. But after the initial session that I actually attended, I felt it had made a difference... just to speak to someone who was not there to judge.

There were many things I was juggling in the beginning after mum had been diagnosed, like work and then coming home to look after mum and I will admit there were some mornings where it became all too much but I knew I had to soldier on.

My advice to young people tackling mental health is don't do what I did and do not be afraid to speak out to someone. From my experience, the worst thing you can do is sit with your thoughts. If you are struggling, go and speak to someone. Whether that be a friend, family member or even seek professional help.

My mental health probably stems from being bullied in high school. I want to take you back 10 years to when I was at Perth Grammar School. It's fair to say I wasn't the most popular pupil or in the popular or "cool people" group. In fact, I was bullied. Why? Because I wore glasses and because I had a bigger chin than everyone else. This experience affected my life outside of the school gates too. Surrounded by young people around the town, I used to hang my head... My self-confidence was so low.

But towards the end of my time at secondary school, I did find a safe haven. A place that helped me to rebuild my self-confidence and that place was Citybase in Perth. Attending here provided me with many opportunities, going on a 7-day boating expedition around the West Coast of Scotland with the Tall Ships Youth Trust alongside 12 other young people from the area. Something which I found daunting at the time, took me out of my comfort zone and put me in an enclosed environment with other young people my age from different backgrounds and put us on a boat and sail around the west coast of Scotland from Liverpool to Greenock. this experience helped me boost my confidence and build friendships with people my own age.

I will admit that in the last couple of years since mum passed, I have not been strong and struggled with many elements which affect my mental health. Many people especially in my family and friend see the painted-on smile I put on as I believe I don't want to put my issues and burden them. I have lied over my life and although it's something I am trying to rid myself of and become better, I know that I have destroyed relationships with friends and family because of my lies but I want to say that I am going to become a better person.

So if you are struggling to cope, please read my story and reach out to loved ones, friends and even reach out to counsellors and those who can help. Do not lie or bottle up your emotions. Speak out and let's tackle the stigma of mental health.