People tend to get more charitable around Christmas time. It is a time of giving, we are told. Even though a lot of us don’t even consider ourselves Christians, let alone Catholics, anymore, we still feel the need to help those less fortunate around this time of year.
It seems that in every shopping centre in the country, there is at least one person shaking a bucket full of coins at you as if to remind you that everyone else is giving money to charity, and so should you.
But for some of these charities, you can’t help but wonder why we should be giving money to them. That is not to say that things like Cystic Fibrosis Ireland or the Rape Crisis Centre are not worthy of our generosity, far from it. These are some brilliant organisations that do terrific work in helping the people who need it most.
But why do they need our help in funding them? Why aren’t they getting enough funding from the government? I know we’re in a recession, but this was a feature of the Celtic Tiger too. Even when we had enough money to waste millions on things like the Spire, we could not sufficiently fund medical services.
For a society with a clear problem with mental health, we really don’t do enough to actually help those suffering from mental illness. Awareness campaigns are great and all, but they’re no substitute for actually giving support to those in need. Without action campaigns to follow up from them, awareness campaigns are largely useless.
We do have a problem at the moment with the fact that it often seems like people are more concerned with raising awareness about a problem than actually tackling a problem itself. Some of us appear to have forgotten that raising awareness of an issue is merely the first step in the process of fixing it.
Telling someone you dropped a glass on the ground is not as helpful as cleaning up the shards so that they don’t step on them. When it comes to the treatment of mental illnesses, there are so many people who are content to point out the broken glass, but so few willing to actually get on their knees to clean up the mess.
Christmas can be a particularly testing time for people struggling with depression, as the dark days and the pressures of exams can weigh heavily on the shoulders. That does not mean, however, that the rest of the year is any easier.
So while you should take care to make sure that you treat those around you with love and care, don’t think that your responsibility to practice empathy stops once the Christmas tree comes down. It is a very Irish attitude that something like depression comes about for a reason, when often it is entirely random and inexplicable.
You don’t know what the person on the other side of the counter in TK Maxx is going through, so why make their day any more difficult than it needs to be. Try to remember that those who work in retail have no control over whatever stupid policies their shop runs, and shouting at them about it won’t get you anywhere.
Having worked in many a menial job, it never ceases to amaze me how many people will lash out at a 16-year-old busboy who is making minimum wage over something as trivial as a flat Coke or a lack of napkins.
At the other end of the scale, a simple smile or a genuine “thank you” from a customer can change your outlook on the remaining seven hours of your shift. If you’ve never worked in a busy restaurant or shop, you might not be able to fully appreciate how much influence the customer has on the server’s mood, but it has a huge effect.
It’s the same with friends and family, especially around exam time. Everyone handles stress in different ways, and some people need more support than others. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. UCD has a number of different services to see that you get through whatever it is that is troubling you, even if it is granting you extenuating circumstances.
At the end of the day, your wellbeing is far more important than a few silly tests.