Monina Mooney dropped into Tony Bates talk to learn about kindness

‘I don’t know if it is a cultural thing or something very Irish but there is often extreme discomfort in discussing feelings or mental issues’

Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem was a very apt and optimistic choice for the end of the Tony Bates talk

Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem was a very apt and optimistic choice for the end of the Tony Bates talk

Fri, Sep 13, 2013, 14:01

I went along to the Tony Bates talk in the Grand Hotel last night. Dr Bates founded the charity Headstrong, the national centre for youth mental health and has more than 30 years experience of working in mental health.

He also writes in the Health +Family supplement of The Irish Times where I have enjoyed reading his columns. Did you know that he once went on a 10-day silent retreat?

Ten days of silence. I’m not sure I could sustain a day of silence. My days are fairly filled with noise and talking, talking, talking so it was against this backdrop that I relished the chance to take a little time out to just sit and listen. To think about things that in the hustle and bustle of life I rarely consider.

What was great to see was the large room full of people doing similar - isn’t there something nice about a room of people listening to a talk about kindness?

I don’t know if it is a cultural thing or something very Irish but there is often extreme discomfort in discussing feelings or mental issues. Even in writing this blog post I am a little self-conscious and am acutely aware of people’s opinion if I start writing about some of the issues Dr Bates discussed in his talk.

Perhaps it is because it is deeply personal but why should it be that I can happily write about exercise or nutrition but suddenly feel more uncomfortable writing about my mental health? Surely if we take an holistic approach to our health then it plays as important a role as exercising more or eating less junk?

In fact, if your head is in the right place then arguably it is easier for the other aspects of good health to fall into place?

The main premise of his talk was kindness to ourselves and to others. It is a fairly simple concept but a pretty powerful one. It was about cutting ourselves and others some slack. So many people are going through some very difficult times dealing with serious illness, caring for relatives, dealing with stressful financial situations, coping with mental health issues. “It is not about the difficulties we face but how we react to them,” said Dr. Bates. Maybe being a little kinder to ourselves and others is a pretty good place to start. We can try to accept and appreciate the cards we are currently dealt and show a little compassion.

His talk finished with a great clip of Leonard Cohen singing his song Anthem. Perhaps not an artist noted for uplifting music, in this case the song seemed very apt and optimistic!

“Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’’...