DEPRESSION should be something that is talked about as easily as the flu, according to Minister for Mental Health, John Moloney, who yesterday revealed he too suffered from a bout of the illness.
The junior minister is embarking on a nationwide campaign, with the help of a number of high-profile personalities, to “drive away the stigma” associated with mental health problems.
He said yesterday he would be “hypocritical” if he was hiding his own battle with depression “even if it was only for a short period” while encouraging others to talk about it.
“It’s important that people know it’s not something to be ashamed of. You can get treatment and make a quick recovery and there is no stigma attached to that,” he said.
But the Laois-Offaly Fianna Fáil TD believes a certain amount of stigma remains, particularly in workplaces where people are overlooked for promotion if they admit to suffering from depression or need time off to deal with it.
“I’m in a department where I see every day about people’s promotional chances being affected because word has leaked out that at one particular time in their career they had to go to seek help from a psychiatrist,” he said.
“I want to have that stigma removed as best I can by way of Government policy.”
Mr Moloney revealed he was referred to a psychologist in late 2007 after he got treatment in the Mater Hospital for a nerve pain in his face, which was related to stress.
When he first went for psychiatric treatment, he felt “a bit unusual” and admitted: “I thought I’d never get to this.”
He was back in work after two weeks but continued to get treatment and medication for three months.
The constituency colleague of Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, said he felt he had “let the side down” after missing a Dáil vote of no confidence in Health Minister, Mary Harney, who he has “tremendous respect, admiration and belief in”.
He said: “My father was a former FF councillor, had suffered the dreaded effects of alcoholism, was dry at 38, thank God, and lived to 58.”
He plans to close down outdated psychiatric hospitals within the next three years and have a “very open, modern mental health service that people can be proud to go to and be proud to say they went there”.
Mr Moloney said he is fully recovered and that he has never felt better.
“I heard Anne Enright the Booker prize winner speaking and she said she was glad she had her depressive period when she had, it opened up whole new avenues for her. And she recovered.
“In a way it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It shows you not everything you’re at is overly important and shows you how to deal with things.”
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