A big question has being asked ‘What next, for young campaigners after the same-sex referendum?’
This referendum energised a lot of young voters to campaign for equality for all. Whether you were a no voter or a yes voter it was this energised new voter that was one of the key differences.
I think there were many people who voted yes because they knew or were moved by the many stories of individuals in same sex relationships.
I voted yes and wrote about it and on social media campaigned for a ‘Yes’ vote. I did so for many reasons .
I have seen too many gay people in my therapy rooms recounting the hurt and distress they have experienced in their life as a result of the stigma and aggressive response of others towards their sexual orientation.
The slogan ‘every child needs a mother and father’ ignored and hurt the many wonderful children raised by a whole range of parents and family members who provide love, care, and a stable home for children across the State including single parents, LGBT parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, and foster parents.
There is no evidence that children are disadvantaged by having same sex parents. My wife who is a social worker says that it “is more important that children are loved, than the sexual orientation of their parents”.
Bottom line I believe that the decency and compassion of the Irish people shone through. I knew it was always there.
I would like to propose that the next ‘idea’ for public debate and enlightenment is positive mental health.
Mental illness raises similar negative perceptions in some people to that of being gay, namely; fear, stigmatisation and negative judgements. As a result prejudice and discrimination abound.
The outcome is great distress at personal, family and community level and massive social and economic cost.
As a nation we lose too many of our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and grandparents through suicide. What’s left behind is a tsunami that overwhelms families.
The World Health Organisation says depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease by 2020.
We need to get energised. Do you know that of the total health budget 6 percent is spent on mental health.
Too often it is too late, and in the wrong end of the spectrum where mental illness is present.
Now is the time to energise all voters. We need to ditch mental health stigma. To embrace a new vision for Ireland where positive emotion and mental health is central.
Where positivity and resilience are embedded into education and work places.
Where we are a society not an economy.
Where we discuss Gross National Happiness not Gross National Product.
Where we do not tolerate ‘acceptable casualties’, where people in emotional distress are not offered second class treatments, platitudes or even discriminated in society and labelled as ‘weak’ in the workplace.
We need to move from a society that classifies people as ‘weak or strong’, to one that is more nuanced, compassionate and open.
It’s time for new conversations, for a society built on respect and openness.
A society that gives our children the tools to tackle negative emotions and strong impulses.
What I am calling for is the nation’s emotional health and mental fitness, now there is an ‘idea’ worth advocating for. This starts with an openness of heart and one conversation at a time. You are part of this change. Make it happen.