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What is 'Cashface'? One Irish student's mental health campaign to show there is #NothingToHide

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Pat McKeown does 'Cashface' with UFC legend Conor McGregor

Pat McKeown does 'Cashface' with UFC legend Conor McGregor

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Pat McKeown does 'Cashface' with UFC legend Conor McGregor

What is 'Cashface'? It's one Irish college student's campaign to raise awareness of depression.

'Cashface' creator and UCD student Pat McKeown posted a blog entitled 'Cashface' #NothingToHide and a personal story on his struggle with depression.

'Cashface' approaches a very serious topic in an open, light-hearted manner.

Pat began raising awareness through 'Cashface' in 2014.

The initial premise behind the campaign was a simple one. Pat encouraged his friends and family to change their social media profile pictures to a photo of themselves doing the ‘Cashface’ (as modelled perfectly by the Notorious Conor McGregor alongside Pat above), with the overlay hashtag #NothingToHide.

The aim of this was to raise awareness for mental health issues and to popularise 'Cashface'’s philosophy of having nothing to hide.

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It worked. People began asking Pat about the 'Cashface' pose and what it meant, and Pat was encouraged by the positive feedback the campaign received.

Fast forward to 2015, and whilst 'Cashface' still encourages social media users to change their profile picture, this year is also about people sharing their own personal 'Cashface' stories with a photo of the individual doing 'Cashface' attached.

Pat himself began the trend by writing a personal, moving piece about his own struggles with mental health, and was overwhelmed with the feedback and support it garnered.

February is set to be a big month for 'Cashface'. What can you as a member of the public do to help?

You could start by changing your profile picture to one of yourself doing 'Cashface' with the overlay #NothingToHide for February.

Here is Pat McKeown's inspiring story:

Looking back on my life so far, the majority of it has been spent suffering with mental illness. Even as a young child I suffered from severe depression.

This trend continued throughout my teens, and even creeps up on me now from time to time in my 20th year.

This is not to say I haven’t had some wonderful times, even a predominantly positive mood over extended periods of time. But, if I’m honest with myself I have mostly been in a clinically depressed state or that of debilitating anxiety. However there’s nothing about my life that I regret.

Whether it was bereavement, difficulty with family, struggles with friendships and relationships, I have been notorious for reacting in a negative light, and keeping the suffering to myself. It was keeping the suffering secret that proved most detrimental.

Some of my life events were monumental and it’s easy to understand for example the effect the loss of a father at a young age would have on a child.

But, sometimes it was just a comment made in passing, perhaps by a loving family member or a caring friend – which would be picked up in a negative light. I would say nothing.

Keep the anger and frustration to myself. After all, I was and am a young man, and young men don’t get upset over comments made in passing or “insignificant” things that people say.

However, in keeping this backward mentality and refusing to outwardly acknowledge my pain I became closed off from my surroundings. This broke me down into a deep, dark sadness time and time again. I struggled to shake this sadness for years. This sadness still creeps into the pits of my mind from time to time reminding me of its existence.

Day to day I’d be disillusioned by absolutely everything. Friendships, relationships, family, academia. Life. Life disillusioned me. One of my worst moments was very recently when I found myself completely alone. I hadn't made the appropriate preparations for moving to another country and on my first day I ended up completely isolated. This isolation resulted in the worst anxiety attack I have ever had.

I was regretting every action I had taken which had brought me to that point. I was regretting life.

The thoughts going through my mind in those moments were horrific. I was regretting every action I had taken which had brought me to that point. I was regretting life. Luckily, from years of experience of overcoming mental difficulty, I realised I had to talk to somebody.

 After years of counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, creative visualization, anti-depressant medication (you name it, I tried it), the most important lesson I have learned is that when you are suffering, you tell somebody.

I tried my brother but no answer. The time difference meant he was fast asleep. It was then that I eventually worked up the confidence to try contacting my cousin who was holidaying in America.

Luckily he was available to reason with me. He reminded me that everything was alright in that moment, and that it was completely understandable and rational for me to be reacting the way I was.

He reminded me of the most important lesson I had learned, but forgotten, in that lapse of mental wellness; that when something is wrong, you tell somebody. Not only because it’s extremely important for the person suffering, but also for their support network.

If he had found out in weeks to come that I had suffered the worst panic attack I had ever experienced without contacting anybody he’d have been devastated.

Before I rang him I thought I was being selfish looking for help. You know, “He’s on holidays with his girlfriend and there’s Pat ringing him bawling his eyes out barely able to talk”. This attitude in hindsight is ridiculous. He felt extremely privileged to be able to help, regardless of where he was or what he was doing.

We spoke for over 2 and a half hours and that conversation has set me up for one of the most exciting journeys I've ever taken.

I mentioned how I have absolutely no regrets. All the suffering I have endured through whatever circumstances has helped define my character and who I am today.

Without this suffering I would not have the emotional intelligence to be able to help others when they are going through similar struggles I have gone through.

There was a time when I felt that living was like some sort of cruel torture.

I could have never imagined living the life I live now. Opening up about my experiences and sharing my pain with those around me was the first step to elevating myself from the deep black hole that is depression and anxiety.

To my support network I am eternally grateful. To myself I am much healthier and happier living the philosophy of having #NothingToHide.

With thanks to campus.ie

Online Editors