COMMENT: Reaction to the Sinéad O'Connor story shows how little our attitude to mental health has changed 4 years ago

COMMENT: Reaction to the Sinéad O'Connor story shows how little our attitude to mental health has changed

Just when we think that people's attitudes towards mental illness are changing for the better, along comes a story that reminds you how far we need to go.

Over the last weeks and months, we have been blown away by the empathy and the power shown by both our contributors and our readers on the subject of mental health.

Last week we held an event in Dublin that we have been sharing in the days afterwards.

Niall Breslin, Blindboy Boatclub and Cat O Broin all gave their insights on the subject of mental health in Ireland in 2016.

Bressie, who fights, and has fought, through his own problems to tirelessly campaign for change in the attitudes of both this country's citizens and its politicians.

Blindboy, who mixes humour and pathos to explain what it means to be emotionally intelligent.

Cat, who lost her brother Caoilte to suicide. Her story will break your heart.

With the good weather and the sense that people are really beginning to find empathy for those whose lives have been touched by depression, anxiety, self harm, schizophrenia, suicide, and more, this felt like a better Monday than most.

Then Sinéad O'Connor went missing in Chicago.

Now, I have no idea about the mental anguish that has affected Sinéad's life over the last couple of decades bar what I've read in the media.

My best guess is that she has fallen in and out of love, like the rest of us; she has had some troubles in her family life, like many of us; she has gone off the deep end and lost her temper, like every single one of us, and she has done it all in the public eye of a country that used to frown upon the similarly gluttonous carry-on of the British media.

All I do know about Sinéad O'Connor for certain is that she is one of the greatest singers that this country has ever produced and she has made many people proud ever since the late 1980s.

Earlier today it was reported that she had gone missing in Chicago, and almost as soon as the story had been published the comments started, from the sarcastic to the cheap to the nasty.

'Surprise surprise... Just another attention seeking exercise.'

'Course she was found safe and well. She's just mad for attention. She's a hoop.'

(To the news she'd been found, safe and well) 'That's a shame.'

'I hope that she puts a sock in it next time, when it comes to insulting others.' 

Not to mention the many, many mentions of 'Seven hours and fifteen days.' Fucking hilarious.

We're not about telling people what to think, or how to act, or even what to say in our comments sections as long as nobody is being bullied or abused, but you have to wonder where our empathy is?

Does having a degree of fame mean that you're not entitled to the same level of understanding that, say, our speakers received so warmly last week?

Can we not practice patience, starting with Sinéad O'Connor, instead of assuming that it's all being done to attract attention?

We're one step away from the 'pull yourself together' mentality of the 1950s in this country, the shunning of anyone who doesn't speak and act and behave like upstanding people are meant to do.

And it's wrong.

Thankfully, there are people out there who saw tonight's online lynching of Sinéad O'Connor for what it was.

This comment, from Tony Gammell on the JOE Facebook page, says it better than we ever could have.

Here's a funny story. A few weeks back, everyone was in a rage about the apparent lack of politicians in the Dail when there was a debate regarding mental health. The politicians were an utter disgrace etc. But when someone with well-documented mental health issues goes missing and there are legitimate concerns for her safely, people are very quick to have a great old laugh and joke about it...apparently she's an attention seeker, that's it's a shame they found her, that she is a "mongo" and that it's a publicity stunt. So maybe we should look at ourselves and our own attitude and do something about that first?