Friday 24 February 2017

Bressie: 'Today I saw 4,000 leaders'

Saturday marked the Vhi A Lust for Life race, brought to you by the Irish Independent, where 4,000 of you came out to banish the stigma around mental health. A Lust for Life ambassador Niall Breslin was blown away by your support

Bressie at the start of the 10k Vhi A Lust For Life Phoenix Park Run today. Photo: Fergal Phillips.
Bressie at the start of the 10k Vhi A Lust For Life Phoenix Park Run today. Photo: Fergal Phillips.

Standing at the starting line of A Lust for Life run in the Phoenix Park, it is hard to quantify the addictive energy that magnifies off the 4,000 participants. It may be touching zero on the thermometer, but the atmosphere warms the joints, muscles and hearts of all those running and cheering on their loved ones.

You can't help but think that throughout our recent election campaign, where the leaders and most political parties of our nation simply ignored, sidestepped or ran a mile from, the dialogue surrounding mental health and emotional well-being - bolstering the generational stigma - that it's the likes of these people lining the roads of the Phoenix Park this morning that are the true leaders in this country when it comes to developing our conversation around mental health and changing attitudes towards well-being.

It's events like this, run by awareness groups and charities up and down the country, that truly illustrate the extent of how hungry our society is for this change.

The peer-to-peer social support evident throughout the run served as an example of where we need to get to as a society. The normalisation of the conversation is key to driving this progression and change in attitude and to see people openly have honest and liberating conversations with complete strangers while running around the park, about things they protected like a dark secret for much of their life, is a powerful motivation for us all to keep driving towards decimating the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Who knows if our new government, whatever form it ends up being, will finally treat the mental health and wellness of the nation with greater priority and respect and develop real and meaningful strategies to help build a more resilient Ireland.

I can only hope some individuals within the next government show proper social leadership qualities and stop being tainted and controlled by other external influences with agendas that do not have the well-being of our country at the core of their beliefs.

Our government is elected and paid to serve the needs of society, and in terms of mental health and well-being, this has not been the case up until this point.

But as over 4,000 people came over the line in the park today, I didn't only see people who were doing a run and perhaps overcoming a personal challenge to do so, I saw leaders.

Hopefully they can show our elected leaders the way.

* For more information on A Lust for Life, see alustforlife.com/

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