Judgement in Irish Culture
by Aisling Heavey, See Change Ambassador
Judgement shows up most days, in most interactions with others. Even those of us who claim that we do not judge, will fall prey to judging others. Often, this can be harmless. However, judgement and prejudice related to mental illness can be difficult to deal with, and can make life a lot harder for those trying to manage these issues.
Personally, judgement has shown up for me in the communities I have lived in. Particularly, rural communities in Ireland. It’s not unusual for children to hear gossip and talk about others when they are young, and it becomes the norm to judge. I can remember when I first started experiencing mental health difficulties towards the end of secondary school. I kept it to myself mostly, as I was afraid of the judgement I would face from others. At that time, I didn’t know of anyone with depression, or any mental illness as such. I had been told about a relative or two with some form of mental illness, but this had been kept very secret and it was made clear that nobody should know. I believed that it was a bad
thing to feel like this and that people would just think I was a failure or a terrible person if they knew that was happening. I didn’t talk to any of my friends or relatives about how I felt. In school, I cannot remember learning anything about mental health or mental illness.
For the fear of being judged, or finding out there was something “wrong” with me, I suffered in silence. It caused me to lash out to close friends and family in a way I wouldn’t have normally. Judgement breeds shame. Eventually, I opened up to my mam, who was very supportive and helped as much as she could.
As I’ve gotten older, I have been very open about my mental health issues, once I have felt able to. Judgement does happen, but I personally feel that we have come a long way in understanding and having open conversations about our difficulties and the conditions we live with.
I’ll finish with a quote from a current favourite author of mine; Brené Brown.
“If you put shame in a petri dish and cover it with judgment, silence, and secrecy, you’ve created the perfect environment for shame to grow until it makes its way into every corner and crevice of your life.
If, on the other hand, you put shame in a petri dish and douse it with empathy, shame loses its power and begins to wither.
Empathy creates a hostile environment for shame—an environment it can’t survive in, because shame needs you to believe you’re alone and it’s just you.”
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