Volume 14. Issue 4 JANUARY 2021
A CONVERSATION WITH CMAT
TOO HOT TO HANDLE'S NICOLE O'BRIEN
INTERVIEW WITH AMY RICHARDS
MOLLY KAVANAGH Deputy Editor-in-Chief
HILARY BARRY Designer
ALANA DALY MULLIGAN Current Affairs
NIAMH BROWNE Features & Opinions
JACK COLEMAN Entertainment
GRACE CLARO Fashion
Molly is a recent UCC English graduate who is now doing an MSc in Government and Politics. She's also our former Deputy Current Affairs Editor, and is overseeing Motley's brand new Wellness Section!
Hilary Barry is currently a student of Music and English and co-host of the Break it Down Podcast. As the the new graphic designer she hopes to bring her love for design and illustrations to the pages of Motley.
Alana Daly Mulligan is an award-winning spoken-word “artivist” & filmmaker of Déise extraction. With work tackling social issues by playing with heartstrings, she hopes to apply her artistic formula to her role as Motley current affairs editor.
Prolific writer and notorious flirt, Niamh Browne is currently completing a BA in art history and philosophy and is this year's features and opinion editor for Motley Magazine. Winner of the HotPress outstanding achievement award in 2018, she has since been staff writer for Motley.
Jack Coleman is a third-year Government student, who got his start in student media in second year as Gaming Editor for the Express. Making the not-so-controversial controversial decision to join Motley, Jack looks to produce peoplefocused content that appeals to all students.
Grace Claro has been a fashion photographer with Motley since 2018. She is taking the MA in History this year. Working with the magazine all began with a zealous email to the editor. This is something which she encourages everyone to do, as Motley is a wonderful platform to amplify student voices .and creativity.
DEPUTY EDITORS Current Affairs Features & Opinions Entertainment Fashion
Stephen Moynihan Emer Walsh Rebeckah McCarthy Kaia Purcell
STAFF WRITERS Head Staff Writer Current Affairs Staff Writer Fashion Staff Writer Contributing Staff Writer
Kane Geary O' Keeffe John Hunter Emma Treacy Conor Daly
PHOTOGRAPHERS Carly Fitzgerlad Rebecca Dineen Diego Leon
CONTRIBUTORS Dr. Miranda Corcoran Dionne O' Mahony Gerard O'Connor Emer O'Sullivan Cliodhna Buckley
Conor Daly Charlie Power Afeez Olayiwola Sanni Mair Kelly Ellen C. Byrne
ONLINE TEAM Online Editor Social Media
Kevin Quane Erica Shelly
This publication is made from 100% recycled paper. Motley welcomes letters from readers, emailed to email@example.com. Motley is published by Motley Magazine, The Hub, UCC, Western Road, Cork. Printed by City Print Limited, Victoria Cross, Cork. Copyright 2021 Motley Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. All efforts have been made to ensure that details and pricing are correct at time of print. Motley magazine does not take responsibility for any errors incurred. This magazine can be recycled either in your green bin kerbside collection or at a local recycling point. Images provided by Unsplash.com, Pexels.com Vectors provided by Vecteezy.com and Freepik.com
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THE NEVERENDING JOURNEY ENTERING AND EXITING THE MAZE.
his editorial is brought to you by fluoxetine, flurazepam, promethazine and quetiapine. It’s sponsored by counselling, patronised by the waning weight of rain clouds and subsidised by years of pain, growth, love, inventory, strife, hope and wonder. Mental health issues and subsequent recovery are by no means a linear journey, trust me, I know, but there is always, always, hope. As I write this someone you know is going through a hard time and battling with the internal monologue of whether to tell you or someone else. You may even be the one struggling. Often the voice that tells us to keep it inside wins, and when it wins, the journey into night becomes darker. The torch however is always available to lead us out of the wilderness. The way out of the mind’s labyrinth of trauma is a complex one, but starts with a simple act: picking up that heavy phone, and asking for support one needs. Once this torch of connection is lit, the weight of strife begins to lighten, the clouds dissipate and a blue sky emerges triumphant, allowing one to exit the maze. In my experience, the maze is ever present, and at different times I wander in there, get lost and need to find my way out again. Sometimes the journey takes longer than I expected. Sometimes the days feel so lost, disjointed and painful, and the weight of melancholy burns through my amygdala. Other days, I feel a connection to everything, and joy rears its beautiful luxury along my path. I write this because I want you to know you’re not alone, that people do care, and that no matter how bleak the nighttime is, the sun rises each morning. Hope conquers fear, even when fear conquers us. Gratitude crushes sadness, even when sadness crushes us. Dreams vanquish nightmares, even when nightmares vanquish us. Pain shall always pass, but in its transient moments it can seem to cut us apart, mind, body and soul. This too shall pass. Remember, all your emotions are valid. All those thoughts you have that you think are crazy, that you compartmentalise into a secret file of self-protection are going on in everyone else’s heads too. We are all unified
by our experience of mental health, because we all have it, whether it’s bothersome, balanced or both. The particulars of the paths we take may diverge, but the common destination of our shared aspirations bind us together. This has been a year like no other. We’ve missed connections, experiences, human contact, routine, partners, parents, friends, acquaintances - the people that add coal to the fire of our lives, the spiritual smoke of our passions, and offer purpose to life. For people with pre-existing psychiatric conditions, the COVID19 crisis has exacerbated those conditions, and has created functional mental health issues for those who had no pre-existing psychiatric issues before the pandemic. Many of us have lost loved ones. Many of us may feel we have lost ourselves. When we journey through the night we cannot see the strides we’re making, but they’re strides nonetheless. Motley Magazine will continue to be an outlet for our student body’s collective experiences, and Issue #4: Mental Health offers a myriad of individual experiences, to create a rich tapestry of pain and experience, recovery and hope. We continue to be your tapestry, to paint your fears, your victories and your musings. Speak to us. Know that I and all my staff are always here for you. Always. We all understand the complexities of mental health, and we want to show you that you’re not alone. The experiences in the pages here-in highlight the commonality of all our difficulties. Prescribe yourself pages, remedy yourself with reading, and beyond the bounds of this magazine, treat yourself - by talking. Resources: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/lho/corkslee/ mental-health-services/ https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/lho/ corknorthlee/mentalhealth/ Low cost counselling: https://mymind.org/
ISSUE No4 - JANUARY 2021 MOTLEY.IE
Alana Daly Mulligan talks with activist Amy Richards about the fight for gender equality
Too Hot To Handle's Nicole O'Brien talks with Motley Magazine
Self-promclaimed 'Global Superstar' and music legend chats with Motley
Gladrags: a selection of our Motley staff members showcasing their most cherished wardrobe items
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Are Depression Memes Doing Us More Harm Than Good? BY MOLLY KAVANAGH
ne of my new year's resolutions for this year is to break out of the habit of engaging with mental illness jokes or ‘depression memes’ on Twitter. We’ve been using dark and self-deprecating humour to cope with life’s difficulties for years, and even as a teenager I’d jokingly say “I want to die,” or “Kill me,” or “I hope I get run over by a bus” when faced with any minor inconvenience. And now on Twitter, it’s not uncommon for Tweets such as these to go viral:
While Instagram has remained a social media platform used primarily for making your life look better than it actually is, other platforms such as Twitter or Tik Tok or Tumblr (where it arguably all began), have become outlets through which you can share the worst aspects of your life, and occasionally laugh at your own misfortune with your friends. Humour is a popular coping mechanism, but I’m starting to wonder if these casual yet frequent mentions of existential despair, feelings of hopelessness, states of constant anxiety, and passive suicidal ideation are actually compounding our misery and making us feel even worse. So why are depression memes so popular? I think one reason is because by joking about our mental illness, we can downplay the severity of it to ourselves. Clinical depression is such an overwhelming and suffocating disorder, so it feels cathartic to dilute the intensity for even a brief moment by just allowing ourselves to laugh at it. Coping
with mental illness through comedy is also a very easy way to make connections with other mentally ill people on the internet, and the format and relatability of ‘depression memes’ facilitate this process even further. Depression memes have certainly opened up an online dialogue, and I think it’s fantastic that speaking openly with our peers about our struggles with mental illness has been so destigmatized in comparison to the culture our parents and grandparents would’ve been raised in, where admitting that you suffered from mental illness was still very taboo. However, I think there’s a major difference between normalizing dialogues about mental illness, and normalizing mental illness itself. Because being mentally ill isn’t normal. Frequent panic attacks are not normal, restrictive eating is not normal, suicidal ideation (passive or otherwise) is not normal, and recurrent depressive or anxious episodes that disrupt your daily life are not normal. I worry that the prevalence of depression memes is giving us a skewed and unhealthy perception of how common moderate to severe mental illnesses are, which then goes on to affect how we as individuals deal with them. If you’re clinically depressed and ten people you follow on Twitter like this Tweet, you might begin to wonder if all ten of those people who liked the Tweet also suffer from clinical depression. You might wonder if they struggle to complete daily tasks the same way you do, or you might wonder if they’re combating suicidal thoughts the same way you are. Over time, as depressive humor gains popularity and the people you follow engage with it more and more on your timeline, you might slowly begin to wonder if everybody is mentally ill - I mean, it certainly feels that way sometimes. The normalization of mental health disorders becomes harmful when you begin to believe that everybody is struggling to live a healthy, happy, and normal life- not just you. It leads you to believe that your mental illness is not as severe or as deserving of care as it truly is, because after all, everybody feels this way, and this can lead to your feelings of hopelessness intensifying. It’s difficult to have a nuanced conversation about mental health on a platform that limits you to 280 characters, and that lack of nuance is what makes interpreting those Twitter likes so difficult.
There’s no way to gauge if the people liking funny Tweets about being depressed are even depressed at all - it’s not infrequent for people to appropriate terms meant to be descriptors for people suffering from mental health disorders and dilute their meaning by using them in the wrong context. People can say “I’m so depressed,” when they’re actually just a bit sad, or “I’m so manic,” when they’re just excited, or “My OCD is so bad,” when they don’t have OCD, they just enjoy being organized. Some people also use jokes about their worsening mental health as a cry for help, but now that jokes about depression are so popular, it’s difficult to tell who truly needs help and attention.
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However, you could also argue that the popularity of depression memes is just an indicator that the presence of mental illness is becoming a more normal occurrence in the younger population. This could also be true, but even if this were the case I still think depression memes are harmful because it’s difficult to heal and adopt a more positive mindset when the conversations being held in online environments are dominated by selfdeprecation and pessimism shrouded in comedy. I think depression memes also sometimes lead to the cultivation of an anti-recovery rhetoric that makes some people complacent with being mentally ill. Obviously, this does not apply to
everyone, but I’ve found that sometimes it’s easy to pretend as if our mental health difficulties aren’t as serious as they actually are because we make light of them so often, which leads to us putting off seeking treatment options such as counselling or medication, which can potentially be life saving. I also don’t think it’s uncommon for people to feel as if their mental illnesses have become an intrinsic element of their personality. We sometimes tell ourselves that our struggles make us funnier or more interesting people because it helps us cope, and the popularity of depression memes helps to reinforce this mindset and make it so people are less eager to part with their disorder. When your life has been consumed by mental
health issues, and you’ve spent a prolonged period of time teaching yourself how to live and cope with your symptoms, the prospect of not having that illness anymore can be frightening because it’s not what you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m trying to be more positive this year, and I think facing my problems rather than deflecting and minimizing them with jokes will be an important step in cultivating a happier mindset. Even though some jokes I see online or hear from my friends do make me laugh, I’m trying to engage with them less and remind myself regularly that taking my mental health seriously will eventually bring me more happiness and laughter than a depressing meme could ever provide.
STATE RESPONSE TO THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE MOTHER AND BABY HOMES AND THE MAGDALENE LAUNDRIES Is the State repeating the errors of the past? CLIODHNA BUCKLEY BCL (LAW AND FRENCH), LLM (LAW AND CRIMINOLOGY) BREAKS DOWN THE RECENT PUBLICATION OF THE REPORT OF THE COMMISSION OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE MOTHER AND BABY HOMES, TRACKING IRELAND’S DARK HISTORY OF ABUSE AND DISCUSSING THE POSSIBILITIES FOR THE FUTURE.
n 12th January 2021, Ireland’s pandora-box was once again opened following the publication of the final report of the Commission of Investigation into the Mother and Baby Homes 1922-1998. The report highlights the suffering and trauma of thousands of women and children who were confined within these institutions, most notably, the high mortality rate of young infants born in them, such as Bessborough in Cork. However, this is not the first time that the world has been horrified by church-state abuse scandals emerging from Ireland’s dark past. The Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes were seen as convenient solutions to the culturally-pervasive problem of ‘fallen women’. Until 2013, the Irish State denied involvement in the operation of the Magdalene Laundries, despite irrefutable evidence of government engagement in commercial laundry contracts with the religious orders. Furthermore, the Church received financial contributions from the State to ‘cater’ for women who transgressed social mores. The result? A collusive, mutualistic relationship was formed between Church and State, which engendered a society based on secrecy and conformity. The recently published 3,000-page report investigating the Mother and Baby Homes has sparked considerable controversy. Mary Lou McDonald TD expressed having “reservations” about the overall findings in the report and Catherine Connolly TD commented on the fact that the Commission drew “incorrect conclusions''. The report also contains several discrepancies, echoing the McAleese Report in 2013 which investigated State involvement in the Magdalene Laundries. Both reports claim women entered these institutions “freely”. However, according to Justice for Magdalenes Research, many survivors testified that they were detained in these institutions against their will. Similarly, the Mother and Baby Homes report inaccurately states that there is “no evidence that women were forced to enter
mother and baby homes by the church or State authorities”. This finding was published despite overwhelming witness testimony stating the contrary. In addition, several callers to RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne on January 14th denounced the stark contrast between the final published report and the transcripts of their testimonies given to the Commission. Nonetheless, the Taoiseach’s reaction to the findings mirrors the governmental response to the McAleese report in 2013. Both occasions saw a State apology issued by the Taoiseach, followed by a proposal to establish a restorative justice scheme. However, the State apology given by the Taoiseach on January 13th, placed considerable emphasis on the role that Irish society played in the perpetuation of these institutions, rather than taking full accountability for the involvement of the government in overseeing them. Minister Roderic O’Gorman has suggested that the restorative justice scheme will include an ex-gratia financial payment and the availability of medical cards to survivors, which will come into effect in April. This was also proposed by the government in 2013, however, many survivors of the Magdalene Laundries have still not benefited from this particular scheme. Approximately 10,000 women entered the Magdalene Laundries yet, only 802 survivors have received reparation dating from July 2020 according to the Department of Justice. The families of the victims of these institutions were also excluded from receiving financial assistance from the government on behalf of their deceased relative(s). Therefore, there is a danger that the government may commit past errors in its treatment of victims of institutional abuse. The Mother and Baby Homes report highlights State genuflection to the Church, with Irish society being equally submissive. However, this does not exculpate the role the State played in the operation of these institutions. The State disregarded the constitutional rights of women and children by failing to carry out regular state-inspections within these institutions and its failure to intervene to protect these individuals from harm. The State has an ongoing responsibility to the women and children who have since died and remaining survivors alive today. In 2021, almost two-and-a half decades since the doors of these institutions closed, the survivors and their families are still awaiting justice.
CURRENT AFFAIRS | 7
WHO’S ? AFRAID ? OF
AMERICAN FEMINISTS A M E R I C A N E Q U A L I T Y I N T H E P O S T-T R U M P E R A
CURRENT AFFAIRS EDITOR ALANA DALY MULLIGAN TALKS WITH ACTIVIST AMY RICHARDS ABOUT THE FIGHT FOR GENDER EQUALITY THROUGH FOUR YEARS OF THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY AND BEYOND.
n the face of the ire and fire of Donald Trump’s man-handling presidency, women in the United States have fought against political adversity with pussy riots, demands for equal pay, and bringing the names of ‘nasty women’ to ballot-boxes. The last four years have seen major roll-backs on protections for women and other minorities: heart-beat bills, funding-cuts, police brutality. Why does achieving equality appear to be such a sore-spot for Americans? As Amy Richards connects to our call, America’s political fumblings materialise in looming clouds of uncertainty torn by the New York skyline. Compacting Richards’ career as an activist into any short amount of words is challenging, but at the heart is her desire to connect with people, create communities, and support people-powered change. “I always say that if everybody did something, we wouldn't expect someone to do everything”, she muses as she reflects
on how community-led activism has had to reshape itself throughout the pandemic. By focusing on mobilising groups in various ways – helping the homebound elderly in NYC vote, working with students from minority groups and connecting them with supports to access college, organising grassroots activism training in women’s prisons – Richards highlights that feminist values are far-reaching and not even a pandemic should stop the work. Alarming spikes in intimate-partnerviolence (IPV) cases are of particular concern to activists like Richards who are finding the work to protect victims more difficult in the midst of a pandemic: “The level of violence is reflective of being in a violent culture.” Richards says. With nearly 20 people per minute being subject to some sort of IPV, The primary issue for activist groups is getting people to take IPV seriously: “I think we do it a disservice in some ways by calling it domestic
violence because there's a long history in America of what happens in your home is private and so you're not supposed to disclose that.” As the United States moves into a new era of leadership, change is on the horizon, one cannot be blamed for feeling sea-sick as both sides of the political aisle rock the boat in different directions. While the application of feminism could help American minds, Richards thinks America as a whole is still afraid of feminism: “People misunderstand feminism to be exclusively about equality; when they hear ‘feminism’, they hear women taking power away from them and I think that's very threatening. It challenges all of our assumptions about our roles in society as they have been scripted for most of modern times, to step outside of those roles is a challenge.” While people might appear open to the theory of feminism, belief doesn’t constitute the hard work needed, or address the ignominy towards the word itself. An acceptance of feminism and the change it promises threatens to topple the structures of control, further adding to the fear:
FEMINISM, A WORD THAT DESCRIBES A SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT FOR GENDER EQUITY AND HUMAN LIBERATION IS OFTEN TREATED AS THE OTHER F WORD… “WHAT IS FEMINISM?” MANIFESTA: YOUNG WOMEN, FEMINISM AND THE FUTURE. 8 | JANUARY 2021
Photo Credit: Soapbox
“As much as change is liberating, it's also very hard, it's very uncomfortable, and I think that people would rather not be in that place of discomfort. So they prefer to just maintain a status quo, because it's just an easier position to be in.” So what’s the feminist agenda for the next four years? “I'm gonna try to get people to feel like they don't feel complacent. I think I want people to feel as angry as they were when Trump was in office [...] I want to focus on moving past political apathy ” Richards tells me. Now more than ever, Americans cannot afford to stay quiet, and mobilising the
silent-majority of non-voters is crucial in remoulding the face of the United States. Virginia Woolf said “you cannot find peace by avoiding life”. The hard truth is that regressive change has happened the last four years. If America has any chance at achieving equality for all those who’ve suffered under the last administration, a community approach is necessary, a United State of Mind.
CURRENT AFFAIRS | 9
GIVE YOUR HEAD PEACE Northern Irish Mental Health Post-Brexit
CHARLIE POWER OF NORTH-SOUTH PERSPECTIVE TALKS ABOUT THE EFFECTS BREXIT IS HAVING ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF NORTHERN IRELAND.
was sat in the pub with my girlfriend, nursing a pint of Guinness and trying to avoid the constant glare of Sky News bulletins rolling in. The relentless white noise of washed-up has-beens sharing their thoughts on one of the most important political events in British history began to make my eyes and ears glaze over. We thought it best to finish our drinks and get a good night's sleep but not before we heard the results from Sunderland. Although most people believed that Sunderland would vote leave, the 22% gulf turned tepid-hope into stone-cold doubt. That doubt over Brexit has continued for the past four-and-a-half years and for those of us from the North, a more apt definition may be fear. The speculation over various scenarios that could transpire has dominated our political landscape this time: Will we lose jobs? Will we be poorer? Will this pave the way for a United Ireland? Will we return to violence? We may not know the answers to these questions, but there is little question that to have them looming over us has led to increased public anxiety, and in many cases, anger. With this imbalance of emotional equilibrium, there are serious implications for mental health, and questions will be raised around the North being well enough equipped to deal with the fallout of Brexit. The empty shelves in supermarkets don’t help either. Being told that your local Tesco is out of paracetamol and will be for a number of weeks is unnerving. If paracetamol is delayed, what could happen to other essential medications? The lack of clarity and knowledge held by our representatives about the process nears the top of the ‘worst-things-for-Northern-Irish-mental-health’ list. We are being fed muck off the back of a lorry and in the interests of “balance”, we suffer different viewpoints around sovereignty, free markets, customs unions and how important blue passports are. Like Sky News in 2016, we have been subject to neverending white noise. Over 300 people die of suicide every year in
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Northern Ireland. The worst in the UK and worse than Ireland. The terrors of the Troubles have left traumatised many thousands of the people who lived through them. Of course, any inclination that the last 23 years of relative peace could be disturbed by a process Northern Ireland never voted for would be enough to instill fear into the most stoic of people. But for those that lived through that time, the concern is for the future of them and their children. It is clear now that Brexit was, and is, a bad idea. Even Ian Paisley Jnr appears to have woken up to the fact that the DUP were sold magic beans instead of the unicorn they had so lovingly asked for. His party has a lot to answer for, but one of the biggest worries is how much they will have to answer for a year from now and further down the line. The next decade for NI will be characterised by Brexit, and many young people are not interested in hanging around to find out just how big the problems we face are. Northern Ireland already had problems holding on to its educated youth, Brexit has just put that problem on steroids. NI’s youth is increasingly intelligent, socially aware and are doing a great job at diluting the sectarianism that has flowed through “our wee country” for generations. But in these troubling times, they will do what is best for themselves, which may be somewhere beyond Belfast, Derry or Lisburn. Going down south to further your education was never talked about in my secondary school. The only one that was worthy of entertaining was Trinity, and that was only if you were looking to do History or Politics. Other than that, you were told to keep it local with Queen’s or Jordanstown, or to migrate across the water, likely to Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle or London. Brexit has changed all of that. Now, Ireland is a very viable option for us Nordies. You will begin to notice more and more funny voices in the likes of Galway, Limerick and Cork over the next few years as people look to fight their way out of the Brexit web that someone else spun for them. The truth is that it is going to be very hard to quantify how much of an impact Brexit will have on the mental health of Northern Irish people, but it certainly won’t improve it. Perhaps the best indicator of it will be the exodus of our young people, who could plainly be looking for a better, happier life.
EVIL INCARNATE The Problem of Evil in the Mother and Baby Homes ELLEN C. BYRNE LOOKS AT IDEAS OF EVIL AND THEIR INTERSECTION WITH THE RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS THAT OPERATED MOTHER AND BABY HOMES.
n a 2014 interview, Sister Sarto, former Mother Superior of Bessborough House, speaks softly. Her voice quivers. “I feel sad about it, that all of this has happened.” Without context, one might think she was remorseful. However, we do have context. At least 9,000 children died in Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland between 1922 and 1998. 923 died in Bessborough. Feeling sad is a gross understatement if one wished to express remorse. Sarto concludes: “We gave our lives to looking after the girls and we’re certainly not appreciated for doing it.” I re-watched the interview on January 12th 2021: the day the 3000-page report by the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was published. The “girls” that Sarto refers to are the 9,768 women who passed through Bessborough House in Cork between 1922 and 1998. My great-grandmother was one of them. Watching Sarto reminds me that the acts of brutality which took place in these homes were not perpetrated by some vague shadowy body – they were committed by real people. And no, Micheál Martin, not by all members of society equally but foremost by individuals who, in the name of Church or State, felt entitled to commit unimaginable acts of cruelty
and violence. The Church and State are accountable, but it was human hands that inflicted pain on their behalf. 56,000 mothers and 57,000 children passed through mother and baby homes in Ireland between 1922 and 1998. Thousands were separated, and thousands did not survive the experience. Those who did recall many kinds of abuse, from beatings to torture to paedophilia. For every instance of abuse, there was an abuser. I thought of Sarto’s soft voice and flagrant denial. This train of thought led me to Hannah Arendt, a political theorist who fled Germany just before World War II to escape Jewish persecution. In 1963, Arendt reported on the trial of Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker. Eichmann was a high-ranking Nazi official who had an executive role in devising the Holocaust. During the trial, Arendt observed his blatant mediocrity. Afterwards, she published Eichmann in Jerusalem, which describes Eichmann as the embodiment of “the banality of evil”. Though Eichmann was responsible for heinous atrocities, the man himself was unremarkable. Apart from his lacklustre intelligence and charisma, Arendt noted that he didn’t exhibit any particular hatred for the people whom he had inflicted genocide upon. He claimed that he had simply followed orders. In fact, Eichmann appeared primarily motivated by hope
of promotion. “Evil” is a word often used to describe what took place in Ireland’s institutions: Mother and Baby Homes, industrial schools, asylums and laundries. But should we consider every person involved as evil? Perhaps, but I am hesitant to accept this label. Not because the acts committed were not wicked enough, but because writing a person off as “evil” implies an innate tendency towards wrongdoing that could never have been avoided. This undermines the autonomy, and therefore, responsibility of the individual. We often use the word “evil” without any spiritual meaning. My point is that in our denouncements of the Mother and Baby Homes, and the Church and State’s role in facilitating them, it is important to recognise the full humanity of the abusers as well as the abused. We must be cognisant of the grim reality: thousands of ordinary people were part of this insidious system, not as blind agents of religiousdogma but conscious beings who chose to be cruel. It matters that we identify man’s inhumanity to man - or often in this case, woman’s inhumanity to woman - as the source of the abuse (and subsequent cover-ups) that took place in 20th century Ireland, to ensure that this dark history cannot repeat itself.
CURRENT AFFAIRS | 11
THE BREXIT DEAL
A solution to some, but not all problems. A NEW YEAR, A NEW DEAL, REGAINED BRITISH SOVEREIGNTY, BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE UK, NORTHERN IRELAND AND THE REPUBLIC. BY CONOR DALY
joint sigh of relief at the announcement of the agreed Brexit deal between the UK and the EU was possibly the first time both sides had the same reaction to a news headline for some time. This sigh was however, short lived. As the initial satisfaction and appeasement of fears subsided, the reality of Brexit became very real. Although Cork is somewhat detached from the situation, Brexit has been part of our daily lives since 2016 – including the daily streams of controversies and disagreements coming to the fore more often than we would care to remember. Seeing the ‘Union Jack’ being lowered from outside the European Parliament added a real sense of finality to it all, the realisation that even amidst the chaos of the pandemic, things would be different from now on. These past four-anda-half years have also taught us that the divide in Northern Ireland is part of our present, not just of our past. There are some issues which this deal hasn’t solved and would never have been expected to solve. If anything, it has exacerbated them. These are the long-standing divides in Northern Ireland and the tenuous pre-existing relationships on both sides of the Irish Sea. This whole process has reminded those of us who are far-removed from daily life in the North, that tension still remains. Hard work has been put in to ensure the harmonious coexistence of Unionists and Nationalists in the North, evident in the political progress of the region in the last two decades. These negotiations also reminded us that some members of parliament in Westminster failed, and continue to fail to acknowledge the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and the complexities of Northern Irish politics. In an interview on Claire Byrne Live in 2019, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage stated that "Ultimately, Ireland will leave the EU too”. Disregarding first of all how incredulous this statement is, it shows a complete lack of understanding of
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Irish history – one of many concerns that people on this island have had since Brexit talks began, and indeed before them. The fact that those negotiating on behalf of the UK and other MPs influencing those decisions had little knowledge of the significance of a hard border on the island of Ireland for example, was worrying at best. None more obvious than when Conservative politician Karen Bradley said she was unaware that in the North, Nationalists only voted for Nationalists and Unionists only voted for Unionists. This was in 2018 before she took up her role as Northern Ireland secretary. Northern Ireland was central to Brexit negotiations and the deal agreed upon avoided having a hard border which then complicated the deal in terms of customs and movement of goods. The result of this is that Northern Ireland, for all intents and purposes, will still be complying with many EU rules. There will be no physical border on this island and the agreement states that checks will not take place on the border between the North and the Republic. Consequently, there will be checks on goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, a part of the deal which has the potential to cause controversy. As of now, Britain is no longer part of the European Union and Northern Ireland remains a geopolitical middleground of sorts. The outcome is however far better than some feared. Few would disagree with the fact that no hard border is objectively positive. In saying this, fishermen in Scotland have openly opposed a deal that they believe is extremely harmful to their industry. So while the UK has now left the EU, the Brexit saga may continue as disagreements between the UK and the EU and within Britain itself are bound to unfold. One would have hoped that a deal would have brought relief and while it’s better than no deal at all, frustration at this trade agreement from many sides is clear to see. Despite all this, we can still hope that in 2021 some of the teething issues are resolved and that our societies can start to prepare for the future and move forward.
INDIRECT COMMUNICATION Ireland’s Awkward Conversation UCC UNIVERSITY OF SANCTUARY & FÁILTE REFUGEES STUDENT ACTIVIST MAIR KELLY DISCUSSES SOME OF THE COMPLEXITIES AROUND IRELAND’S LACK OF MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS AVAILABLE TO TO ETHINIC MINORITY COMMUNITIES. Ireland’s mental health services are seriously lacking, but for people of colour (POC) and ethnic minority communities, there are further barriers to accessing these ever-crucial services: the built-in biases of society, bolstered by institutionalisation. In the last thirty years, the island of Ireland has diversified, yet there appears still to be inadequate support in place for POC. A lack of awareness and open-mindedness towards different cultures continues to be a significant barrier. Cultural norms are different all over the world, in many communities traditional medicines and practices are valued as much as scientific or holistic approaches. Stigma around some practices can alienate people from the services they need. Language is another issue faced. Not everyone in Ireland speaks fluent English and a significant lack of interpreters and translated information obstructs people seeking help. Some might have to bring a family member to appointments, or occasionally their own child to translate. This can lead to situations where children are learning about the prognosis before their parents. Talking with Amano Miura, Racial And Ethnic Minority Rep for UCCSU, she described how important it is that the mental health services we provide can respond to the needs of the entire community, not just the few: “Representation for people of ethnic minorities and people of colour in these services is essential in ensuring people’s voices and lived experiences are better understood. There needs to be more education in working with different cultural and religious practices so that people can receive the help they need.” For over 6,000 people there is the barrier of Direct Provision (DP): Ireland's reception system for people seeking asylum, where they wait for results on their application. Originally launched as a temporary six-month measure in
2000, now in 2021 some people have lived in these centres for over a decade. By its very nature, people seeking asylum have often gone through traumatic situations before coming to Ireland and need appropriate support but are left to wait in a dehumanising and isolating prison that further exacerbates this trauma. Many centres are old B&Bs or hotels in isolated rural areas. With the majority of mental health services based in urban areas, those who most need the services are the furthest away from them and do not have the requisite supports to access them. People in DP live on a meagre €38.80 a week, the expense of transport to access services and the services themselves, followed by the issue of transport links, lack of child support in DP, timetabled meals among other barriers means people are left choosing which basic need they need to satisfy. MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) described how there were no supports for mental health in the centres, apart from prescribing antidepressants. “All the suicide deaths that happen in direct provision could be prevented if mental health care was taken seriously. Remember that direct provision is a depressing set-up on it's own.” MASI cites a lack of mental health support as the cause for loss of life in the last year, disheartenedly telling Motley that they “have been highlighting this for years, [and] nothing is being done.” Ireland’s mental health services need more support. There are a number of organisations that do offer some support, like Black Therapists Ireland and the Cork Migrant Centre who have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide help. But for a land that is proud of its Céad míle fáilte, we are falling short in terms of our humanity. It is essential that the Government supports the education and training sector to enable mental health services to address the outstanding issues of inclusivity and accessibility for every member of our community. SUPPORTS: Cork Migrant Centre: 086 824 6087 Migrant Rights Centre: 01 889 7570 MASI: 083 1713 166 MERJ: firstname.lastname@example.org Illustration by Ré Ní Fhloinn AkiDwA: 01 834 9851
STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH in a Challenging Year DEPUTY CURRENT AFFAIRS EDITOR STEPHEN MOYNIHAN LOOKS AT THE MENTAL STATE OF UCC ’S STUDENT BODY IN THIS MOST EXTRAORDINARY ACADEMIC YEAR AND SERVICES BEING PROVIDED TO HELP THEM COPE.
tudents are facing challenges this year like they never had before. COVID-19 has led to most of us being isolated from our friends, and the lockdown measures associated with it has made it increasingly difficult to make new ones. A raging pandemic means we are constantly worried for our health along with the health of those we love. A cycle of restrictions undulating between easing and tightening prevents us from having any real certainty about what is to come down the road. Then, to top this all off, we are faced with a completely new online learning experience and the stress of assessments, leading to a situation which only exacerbates anxiety, depression and other mental health issues which many students experience. As a result of these complications and increased clinical and non-clinical mental health issues among students, the nature of counselling and psychotherapy has also been altered by the pandemic. UCC’s counselling office is not alone in transitioning to an online- and phoneonly approach in offering appointments to those seeking help. While this is necessary due to the COVID-19 situation, it does not mean that its
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efficacy will be unaffected. UCC student Roland Baldwin, who attends counselling sessions outside of UCC, spoke to Motley about his experience with remote-counselling: “For most of last year my counselling moved to a phone appointment. I would set aside a time for my appointment and my counsellor rang me for a half-hour catchup. A lot of places were doing Zoom but my centre didn’t do that, opting to use phone calls instead. It was pretty much the same scenario [as pre-COVID]. The only difference was we weren’t in the same room. “This style of appointment ran till the centre reopened when we dropped to Level 2; new guidelines were introduced in the centre including temperature checks and an optional barrier could be put in front of the counsellor and the client. I didn’t like that and chose to not have the screen rolled out in front of me. I felt the connection would be lost if I had a barrier between myself and the counsellor which may seem like a contradiction to the phone counselling. That was an unavoidable barrier. In person we were well distanced and I trusted the centre to be stringent. This style of appointment ran until Christmas as the centre remained open during level 5, before returning to phone appointments this month. “I liked the in-person [sessions], but as this is the current option I’ll accept it”, he concluded. In a statement seen by Motley, Jamie Fraser, UCC Students’ Union’s Welfare Officer outlined his feelings
about COVID-19 and its impact on the mental health of students:. “COVID-19 has impacted the lives of young people significantly. Whilst we talk about waves of virus instances, we will soon be experiencing a fourth wave as it were; this being a rise in the instance of Mental Health issues in young people. “In Ireland, there has been huge progress in raising societal awareness of mental health in young people and decreasing the stigma around it, with an increase in support services online, and in the primary care sector. But, there has been no decrease in people presenting to A&E departments or needing specialist care. “In reference to this, it is absolutely essential we adapt to provide services to students they need and deserve. As a result, we have worked with the University Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing to launch UCCs New Mental Health Strategy. This strategy will allow for the hiring of an additional counsellor and most notably two Mental Nurses trained in DBT and CBT. “This will ensure there is greater access to effective evidencebased programmes for young people with more severe mental health issues, such as students with eating disorders, early psychosis, ADHD, and self-harm. “As a result, this will take the pressure off of our counselling services and ensure UCC Students will receive the right care, from the right person, at the right time which is key.”
Illustration by Cork based artist Ruth O'Connell Instagram: @ruthismessy
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PARANOIA AND PARTISAN PO
AS THE TSUNAMI THAT WAS THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BEGINS TO SUBSIDE, MOTLEY’S CONOR DALY LOOKS AT THE DEBRIS AND HOW THOSE IN POWER FACE THE UNRULY TASK OF REBUILDING BRIDGES.
oe Biden got the requisite 270 electoral votes and was named the 46th US President. Donald Trump refused to accept reality and created and amplified lies that serious fraud has penetrated the democratic process by votes being both selectively ‘found’ and ‘thrown out’. Ironically, his solution to this alleged despotic act was to stop counting votes and to disregard hundreds of thousands of apparently legal ballots. Depending on where you were watching your coverage of the election, Trump was either an aspiring totalitarian leader attempting to take away people’s democracy, or he was the very opposite, someone who was trying to save it. That was the problem with this election and with the country Biden has assumed control over, it's blatantly divided. People believe what they want to believe because in this age of information it’s nearly always possible to find a fact or the second cousin of a fact to back up your argument, no matter how outlandish it may be.
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Trump’s act of trying to undermine the voting process did not come as a surprise, indeed it was always his intention. Say what you want about him but the 45th US President planned it all to perfection. For months he expertly propagated the idea into the public consciousness that mail-in ballots offered a potential for fraud. He created an ideological divide between those voting in person and those who chose not to. It was not merely throwing a cat amongst the pigeons, it was a calculated political move to put this idea in people’s head so it didn’t seem completely incredulous and dystopian when he announced a fraud on the American people in the early hours of Wednesday the 4th of November. His ability to survive the past four years with everything that has been thrown his way has been based on his outward appearance of incompetence while remaining in control almost every step of the way. It all seems a bit surreal, even watching from afar with the comfort of thousands of miles of the Atlantic
as a buffer. But still we can empathise with American citizens sitting at home and watching a mob of thugs or patriots, again depending on where you watched this unfold, storm the Capitol and put democracy at risk. The lives lost and countless others put in danger seemed to be the destructive release of five years of false narratives, bigotry and a complete disregard for consequences. The backlash was fierce, as one would expect, and the message was clear, everyone has had enough. The numerous resignations and a second call for impeachment were enough to make Trump change his tune and (almost) admit defeat. But, for the families who lost loved ones and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who have a monumental task ahead of them, it really was a case of too little too late. At the moment, no matter where you are getting your news, the narrative of a country divided is the one that is most pertinent. That seems to be the only thing that people are in agreement about. However, the perpetuation of this discourse of division is merely exacerbating this. The preface to these last four years should have been “forget everything you think you know about politics”, and ironically, at the end of this horror show, you really feel as though
OLITICS IN THE UNITED STATES
you have. Not knowing who to trust is particularly difficult for people in this current political climate. How do you know that the place you get your news is giving a full and objective picture? The answer is you don’t, that's where trust comes in. Many people are trying to consume less news in order to preserve their mental health so it is vital that what is consumed is accurate, helpful and not just two sides of a debate shouting about impending civil war or the resurgence of communism. A recent in-depth study entitled “The Trust in News Project” by Reuters and Oxford, analysed the trust consumers had in news in general and the industry trends in relation to this. One of the key statistics presented was the clear desire for objective journalism and broadcasting. Out of a survey of over 1,700 Americans, 60% stated that they preferred to get news from a source that had no point of view. Additionally, only 27% of Americans felt they could, in general, trust the news. It seems that people have lost patience with fear-based narratives and sensational headlines. Particularly over the course of this past presidential campaign, voters became more aware
of the influence of the media and the importance of being a critical consumer. Some headlines and news stories are blatantly untrue and we can disregard them with ease, but it's in that grey-area of paranoia where false and potentially dangerous political narratives thrive. It seems like so long ago since we spent days glued to election coverage with our minds on a loop of permutations, close calls and genuine anxiety about the importance of the election. It feels as though the US has been a country on edge ever since. Despite the many weeks that had elapsed since the result was announced, it still seemed to be tempting fate to definitively say that the whole thing was wrapped up and we could all move on. As expected, Trump made it very difficult for Biden to have a smooth transition into the White House. A second passed vote on the impeachment of the 45th president and all 50 states on alert ahead of Biden’s inauguration was, in a warped way, exactly how you would have expected Trump’s term to end. He became the first US President to be impeached twice and despite the long-standing rivalry between the two major parties,
Trump became one of a small cohort of presidents who did not attend the inauguration of their successors. The 20th of January came and went, thankfully with no great disruption and you could almost feel a nation exhale as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths. The theme of the inauguration was pretty clear; the acknowledgement of divide and the pursuit of peace and unity. This was a truly historic inauguration with the swearing in of the first-ever female vice-president. The significance was also slightly more nuanced, as for many this was the emergence of hope after a period where such a virtue seemed so hard to find. Now, as we have heard so often, is a time for reconciliation and forward thinking. A time for accepting difference rather than being afraid of it. Young poet Amanda Gorman was at the forefront of the inauguration and her powerful words can hopefully inspire a nation to value character over political beliefs. As Gorman so eloquently concluded her piece, “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
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Guardians of Peace? GARDAÍ INADEQUACY TOWARDS THE DEATH OF GEORGE NKENCHO AFEEZ OLAYIWOLA SANNI EXAMINES THE RECENT KILLING OF GEORGE NKENCHO IN DUBLIN, AND THE LIGHT IT CASTS ON AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA’S APPROACH TO SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES OF COLOUR, ESPECIALLY WITH REGARDS TO MENTAL HEALTH. ix gunshots later, 27-year-old George Nkencho fell to the ground in front of his West Dublin family home. Earlier that day, he had assaulted a shop staff member, but efforts to apprehend him at the scene proved futile. On the way home, Mr. Nkencho had allegedly threatened members of An Garda Síochána with a knife and would not cooperate in dropping the weapon. Consequently, the Garda Armed Response Unit was called in, something that would be later viewed as a misjudgment by the public and reinforce public opinion that the use of force on Mr. Nkencho was excessive, especially in the light of his known psychiatric difficulties. On the evening of his shooting, several online news outlets had already named him a ‘thug’. Like a snowball effect, rumors began to spread across the country – how he had 36 past convictions, was on bail and had assaulted his girlfriend with a hammer – some of the choice allegations the internet assigned to Mr. Nkencho. Days later, the Gardaí decided to step in and debunk the lies using major national news outlets. The events that followed the death of Mr. Nkencho highlighted the animosity some faceless people felt towards the African community in Ireland as a whole. Relations between the African community and the Gardaí were at an all-time low, not helped by hateful comments that were dominant on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Although these comments do not speak for all Irish people, there was a clear voice that felt that he deserved to die. Mr. Nkencho’s actions were in no means acceptable, but the Gardaí could have done a better job which may have not led to his death. A little more patience and the
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presence of a mental health professional or social worker could have made a difference. Months prior to the shooting, a man in the same area had murdered his wife and child with a Samurai sword and was apprehended alive. A year before that, a man in South Dublin had hijacked cars using a gun and was apprehended alive. George on the other hand, had assaulted a shop staff member and threatened the Gardaí with a knife, but had to pay with his life. All the aforementioned in no way aim to justify George’s actions but to rather highlight the use of excessive force on him by shooting him to death instead of disarming him to arrest him. What about George was so threatening that the Gardaí thought the appropriate response was to kill? The answer is upsetting for many, as we dare question would Ireland be an echoing gunshot of America’s trigger-happy antics if our ‘Guardians of Peace’ carried weapons? All of this can be linked to the Black Lives Matter Movement in Ireland’s major cities last summer. When people took to the streets, many were uncomfortable and dismissive at the suggestion that Ireland and America were the same. Although migrant communities do not suffer from the same level of police brutality as in America, it’s not unfair to say that the Gardaí have issues dealing with Ireland’s increasingly diverse population. Further training on dealing with other nationalities and de-escalation strategies could be beneficial in healing this divide. The Gardaí have sent out diversity officers to restore calm in the community, but it is simply too late. Relations between the Gardaí and the young people within the African community in West Dublin have worsened in recent years, perhaps attributed mostly to an increase in the Gardaí exercising stopand-searches of young Black men. This in turn has led to the Gardaí being viewed as the enemy. All this said, George Nkencho needed mental health support but instead had his life taken. Although investigations continue, Ireland as a whole has a long way to go with building better relations as our multicultural communities expand.
Features & Opinions
P O P U L I S M I S BAD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH Here's Why GERARD O ’CONNOR GIVES MOTLEY HIS TAKE ON WHY POPULISM IS BAD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
ovid-19 and the experience of multiple lockdowns have brought the importance of looking after our mental health to the centre stage of 2020. In recent years our quality of mental health has been of growing concern, with the growth of social media being linked to declining standards of mental health. The deceiving bombardment of perfectly tailored posts and photos has damaged the self-esteem of countless people, particularly young people. We have never seen a generation feel as anxious, isolated or depressed as Generation Z. Furthermore, social media has facilitated the rapid spread of information with little to no fact-checking, contributing to the rise of a damaging discourse for modern mental health: populism. The definition of populism varies depending on the user of the term but generally refers to a method of conducting politics which appeals to ‘the people’ in opposition to the ‘establishment’. It is an ideology which can be found in political movements of both the left and the right across the world and the use of the term can be in relation to a variety of positions such as being anti-immigration, nationalist, socialist, anti-vaccination or anti-Semitic. The ‘us versus them’ narrative of populism has been damaging to mental health, regardless of the causes it has been used to advance. People’s mental wellbeing is the collateral of populist movements. Sinn Féin has been embraced by Irelands youth who understandably care more about the relevant issues to their lives such as housing and the cost of living than about a paramilitary conflict that occurred long before they were even born. I define them as populist not because of my own political biases but because they themselves have publicly identified as such. On the exterior, their growth may seem like a positive development. However, once we dig beneath the ‘change’ narrative we find that Sinn Féin has developed a division in Irish society that is damaging to our mental health.
The controversy surrounding Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley’s tweets relating to the Provisional IRA and homophobic remarks he made on the day that Ireland saw its first openly gay Taoiseach has exposed a culture of intimidation and misinformation within the party. A young woman left the party after a Sinn Féin member called to her home for tweeting criticism of Stanley’s actions, two TDs were found sharing 9/11 conspiracy theories and one of those TDs compared NATO to the Nazi SS. This culture of spreading fear about the ‘establishment’ has created the Shinnerbot phenomenon, where faceless social media accounts descend on journalists and members of other political parties for any commentary perceived as being unfavourable to Sinn Féin. This is an approach that develops as a result of populism. First, the world becomes divided between the ‘establishment’ and ‘the people’. Over time anger develops towards the perceived establishment to the extent that anyone who speaks approvingly of them or critically of Sinn Féin must have an agenda against the people. We are at a point where an entire generation is more anxious, isolated and depressed than ever before. This is a time when we need to support, listen to and respect each other. We cannot let populism continue to divide us to the extent that we will insult anyone we do not agree with. We need to listen to those we disagree with, acknowledge our differences and on many occasions agree to disagree. In Ireland, many young people fairly hold left-wing views. This does not mean that you must embrace the populism of Sinn Féin. By failing to move away from populism we will continue to see toxic behaviour between people of different political views online, attacking each other behind the safety of our keyboards and screens with no concern for the mental health of the person behind the account at the other end of the attack. For the sake of our generation’s mental health and that of generations to come, let us embrace a more respectful way of conducting politics.
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TOO HOT TO HANDLE But well able to handle herself
NICOLE O’BRIEN TALKS TO MOTLEY MAGAZINE
BY NIAMH BROWNE AND EMER WALSH IN APRIL 2020, MOST OF THE WORLD WAS LOCKED DOWN, LOCKED IN AND DESPERATELY SCOURING NETFLIX FOR SOMETHING TO WATCH. QUEUE ‘TOO HOT TO HANDLE’, THE SAUCY ESCAPIST REALITY TV SHOW WE ALL NEEDED, BUT THERE WAS A TWIST, THESE SEXY SINGLES WERE SWORN TO CHASTITY. ‘Every rag was so fun. In New Bar they would black out the windows with bin bags and then you’d have Pat Flynn playing and your Orchard thieves. It was just so funny’. Nicole makes us all that bit more nostalgic for the good old days of on-campus learning. Did the infamous commerce party lifestyle prepare her for her career as an influencer? ‘Oh definitely. Everyone was a party animal’ she says laughing. To meet a celebrity in real life is odd, to meet a celebrity over zoom is surreal. She is sitting on the bed of her hotel room in Dubai, a hotel room she shares with Chloe, yes ‘Too Hot To Handle’ Chloe, and David has a room on the floor below her. So were the connections from the show meaningful? ‘Do you know what? It really did help me. People think it’s just a show but no, it was a retreat. You only saw 6 hours and we were filming for 14 hours a day, every day, for 30 days ’. This was intriguing, we did only see a fraction of what was going on in the villa. So what outtakes should have made the cut? ‘There was a lot of stuff that went on that was not shown. I mean I had a date with David which was funny. I wish they showed that. I lost money with David - I kissed him’, myself and Emer Walsh exclaimed. Nicole nonchalantly replied ‘Yeah, there were a lot of scenes that I loved that weren’t shown’, I’m still reeling from that cash-losing shift but Nicole continues, ‘There was one at the very end where we wrote a little letter to our past selves, it was so emotional. Sharron was bawling crying, I was bawling crying. So were Chloe and Rhonda.’. Nicole says this disappointedly, but she reflects ‘We were all fuming in the group chat asking, why was that scene not shown? But look,’ she shrugs ‘There’s a reason they didn’t want to show everything. There weren’t enough episodes.’ We couldn’t agree more Nicole. ‘Myself and Chloe are best friends, we’re actually
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planning on moving in together’, she continues, ‘I have never had that strong a friendship with someone’. At least one meaningful relationship came out of THTH then. ‘It’s so funny when we came out we literally could not be separated. She came to live with me for two weeks after filming. Then when we went out, people would ask me who’s this? And I would say “Chloe, my best friend”, and they would ask how long have ye known each other? Oh, a month!’ Other relationships though? ‘Some of them were genuine,’ she says knowingly. You can say an awful lot without saying much it appears. The filming experience may look like paradise, but it by no means is. Contestants were not allowed to have their phones or even know what time of the day it was. ‘It was so annoying. The odd time they will tell you. So you wake up at 8 am. Lunch is at 1 and dinner is at 8. You can kind of work it out that way.’ She pauses, ‘But it’s nice not having your phone and taking a step back. My poor mother though, I was just like “Look mom I’m going on this show and I don’t know much about it, I don’t even know the name of it. I just know it’s for Netflix” and sure she was freaking out like “OK, I can’t contact you on the phone, you’re in Mexico and that’s all I know. Jesus”. Nicole O’Brien is an obvious candidate; a gorgeous, business savvy Cork woman with Leeside charm, but her candidness is disarming. She has no qualms in saying ‘I was obviously disheartened a lot of my scenes were cut, but it worked in my favour. I don’t know how. I think people saw how I am - I’m just chill. I am the mammy of the group.’ For someone who went on a reality tv show, she seems remarkably nonplussed, ‘I was not expecting the response, I was gaining 70,000 followers a day’. That skyrocket into the limelight can’t be easy, in an era where negativity and misinformation lurk on every corner. So what was the next venture? Lovd by Nicole. ‘After the show I was getting a lot of DMs from people struggling with mental health issues and wanted advice. I was thinking to myself “Oh my god this is so sad. I can’t just look through these messages every day and not do anything” so I said to my manager “is there anything we can do?”. I am obviously not qualified to give advice but I wanted to set up a platform with qualified specialists to do so’. This was the genesis of Lovd. ‘We interviewed
loads of different psychologists from all over the world in different fields. We have Sara from America and she helps you with confidence. Then we have Tim who does anxiety and he’s absolutely amazing. Finally, we have Tom who does perfectionism, and people wouldn’t think that being a perfectionist can mess with your head. But it does.’ Perfectionism seems to be a uniquely modern problem, ‘It is, it’s to do with social media. Everybody wants to be perfect looking. You just have to get yourself out of that mindset and train yourself to not care what others think’. Nicole continues ‘I have dealt with all three of those issues separately. Most of my DMs fell into one of those three categories. So we set it up.’ She says this as though it is the most natural thing in the world, but you have to admire her ability to be so solution orientated. “It’s 18 videos approximately in each course, about 20 minutes a video and it goes through different elements on each topic. It helped me so much. There’s so much information in each of these courses that would take you so long to find on the internet and it’s just been compacted into one place. The feedback that we have gotten has been amazing. It makes me so happy that we have been able to help all these different people. We’re bringing out more courses’. It’s hard to imagine O’Brien as anything other than the assured businesswoman on the other end of the zoom call. Are people less happy now because of the internet or are we just more aware of it because of the internet? Nicole exhales ‘I think people are less happy now. You see people on these editing apps using filters etc. I think everyone is comparing themselves to other people.’ For someone who makes their money from instagram
she has a remarkably sanguine approach: ‘Everyone seeks validation, and that is what it’s about. But don’t get wrapped up in it. Post whatever you want to post. You do you. It’s good to have a break now and again. I lost my phone for like a month in college. It was great.’ Not something you usually expect to hear from an influencer. O’Brien was almost in a different reality TV show, ‘I was meant to do Love Island when I was in second year. I decided not to do it a week before I went into the villa. Instead, I went on my J1. The notoriously toxic dating show has had 4 suicides linked to it. O’Brien considers herself very lucky. ‘None of the negative stuff had happened at that point, I was just thinking about how I was too young to do it. I definitely would have done something stupid. I thought “look, if they want me for a TV show, they’ll come back to me for it. I’ll finish my degree.” If I had done the show I wouldn’t have gone back to college.’ Is Nicole happy she completed her degree? ‘100 percent. I’m launching my own clothing brand this year,’ she continues ‘and if I didn’t have the commerce head on me, it would have been much more difficult. I am so happy I stayed and I studied commerce and didn’t give up on it’. Sure look, she got a few more nights out in Havana’s out of it. Life is different for O’Brien now, getting recognised in public is a new norm ‘I was out for dinner last week. Myself and Chloe were sat down. This girl comes up and says “Hey Nicole and Chloe” and we asked her what was her name. She said, “I’m just back from filming season 2 of Too Hot To Handle”’. Myself and Emer gasped.
FEATURES & OPINIONS | 21
A FINAL YEAR STUDENT WRITES A LAMENT FOR THE GOOD TIMES GONE.
A Love Letter to Precendented Times Dear University Experience, During our time together, I sustained good grades but also greatly enjoyed your social side– a good worklife balance you could say. Like many students, I had filled the months of 2020 with many ambitions and wishes – I planned to travel, to work, to spend time with friends, to attend numerous festivals and outdoor events, and to complete final year. You promised me a lot. The closure of Ireland in March came as a seismic shock – I felt scared and confused. The possible imposition of draconian measures, rumours of the enforcement of lockdown by the army, the shortage of toilet paper - there were threats on every corner. Thinking back, I wish I savoured that ‘last week of college’ more but there is nothing I nor anyone can do to change that. We are blessed to have social media in the time of a pandemic. Yet, no FaceTime or Zoom call can replace going for lunch with friends in Main Rest, or going on student nights out, or simply walking around Cork City. The summer job I was accepted for – out of business. The holidays and festivals I planned to attend – all cancelled. The customer care job I felt lucky to secure caused me to dread going into work due to the toxic environment, rude customers etc. I was never a frequent smoker, yet the stress and mental toll of the job caused me to smoke four-five times a week. Other personal issues demanded to be dealt with over the course of the year which filled me with much dread and unsettled me for weeks. I felt like I was slowly drowning, under pressure from my employment and my personal life. I confided in friends, but neither they nor I could not control the factors causing my mental health to deteriorate. Online learning became the status quo for you, university experience. Meaning that the final year of my degree would be spent at home, in my childhood bedroom, studying hours away from some of my closest friends in the world who made you the best years I could have wished for. I was devastated. I cried myself to sleep that night after hearing the announcement. At a hair appointment, I got my long dark locks chopped. A mention of university and the host city I became so fond of caused tears to well in my eyes. I struggled with the news and hoped after a few weeks I could visit friends in Cork – anything to look forward to. Lockdown 2.0 halted that idea before it even took flight. The lecturers seem to sympathise with students – online learning is far from the university experience they had. The pandemic has forced me to deal with the realisation that I need people. I loved you, precedented times - it was an omnisocial experience, and I basked in it. Without social interaction, I feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness and disillusionment. Ironically, I am not alone in my feeling alone. Online learning has collectively drained students of motivation and energy. Mental health supports have witnessed an exponential rise in demand for services owing to the pandemic. It is hard to envisage a world without COVID-19, of crowded nightclubs, of packed planes to Greece, of holiday visas for across the Atlantic. I am coping better now, having met with friends when restrictions eased. It has given me a sense of hope. The friends that supported me, guided me, and made me laugh at the darkest hour of the pandemic are ones I will forever cherish. Perhaps this pandemic has not been all that bad. It gave us a chance to take the foot off the gas, reevaluate ourselves, and focus on what is important. I still miss you, normal, drunken, spontaneous, stressful, packed Boole Lectures, College Road nights, University Experience. Yours, A Final Year Student
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IRELAND NEEDS POPULISM Here’s Why
DIONNE O ’MAHONY TAKES A LOOK AT THE RESOURCES PEOPLE HAVE WHEN DEMOCRACY SIMPLY ISN’T SERVING THEM.
opulism has always been framed as the big guy vs the underdog. It is ‘for the people’, rather than ‘elite’. While populism is neither good nor bad, it is merely a democratic tool, be it right or left. The tide of rising populism is the last resort of people who have exhausted all other channels. The last decade in Ireland has been tumultuous. Disease, recession, social inequality, have all ravaged the island. One thing that has remained constant in such times of uncertainty has been the same two parties in government, playing a tug-of-war over who has the majority of seats in the Dáil. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have held a cartel in the nation's house of parliament for many years, and what is a person to do if they want something different? The recession of 2008 led to the emigration of thousands, and marked the start of an increase in Irish people seeking help for mental health issues. There were record levels of anxiety and depression, due to loss of jobs, loss of homes, and loved ones emigrating, in the late noughties. Is our government serving us to the standard which we require? Opposition parties are consistently vying for increases in voter approval, and thus, mental health has become something we constantly hear being brought up by our representatives. However, this isn’t getting an awful lot done. Is this democratic process enough or do we need to seek another recourse? This is where populism can be to our benefit. Ireland’s leftist parties such as Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, and Solidarity-People-before-Profit provide a populist opposition to the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Greens coalition government. The more radical their opposition, the more change we get. The left’s use of populism could benefit Ireland’s mental health services. Opposition campaigns for more funding in education on prevention and facilities for treatment, have led to the parties in power scrambling to implement these ideas, so that they don’t lose their coveted seats in Dáil Éireann. This was seen most prevalently last year, when Micháel Martin ascended to the office of the Taoiseach, as leader of Fianna Fáil with Sinn Fein, headed by Mary Lou McDonald, narrowly missing out on the top spot. Ever since then, the left has been influencing Fianna Fáil policies. Unintentional or not, there has been mounting pressure on the cabinet to implement ‘populist’ motions. In September
2020, Eoin Ó Bróin, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman released his report titled ’Why Public Housing is the Answer.’ Sure enough, Fianna Fáil were quick to announce, on the 4th of September, that they will begin investing in a public housing scheme. While it’s not a good look for the Fianna Fáil brand, Irish people are benefiting. Similarly, in February 2020, Bríd Smith of People Before Profit announced her party would like to see a living wage of €15 an hour introduced to all minimum wage workers, as her and her party believe that €10.10 is not substantial enough to sustain a living. By December 2020, Micháel Martin announced that Fianna Fáil were considering implementing a living wage for all workers in an aim to tackle wage inequality. Money to put good food on the table, keep a warm house, and any other basic need would be achievable for all Irish workers. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a pyramid in sociology theory which maintains that unless our most basic needs are fulfilled we cannot even begin to be selfactualised and have good mental health. With so many Irish people either homeless, living with relatives or friends, living in accommodation that is outside their budget, or left to emigrate due to outrageous house prices, how could the many of us uncertain about our living arrangements have good self-esteem? Populism is good for mental health. In a country where centre-right politics has been the only way, this pressure from the left is proving fruitful for citizens of Ireland as we climb Maslow’s pyramid together.
CONFESSION As part of Motley’s examination of how populism affects your mental health, an anonymous contributor gives her account of how populism seemed to offer her a lifebuoy which then turned out to be a breezeblock
he Repeal the 8th movement was a pivotal shift in Irish political culture, something that even the most proudly apolitical could no longer ignore in the run-up to the 2018 referendum. Like most young girls, I was unapologetically pro-choice, an opinion of mine that only strengthed as the movement progressed. At the same time the Repeal movement was growing, the alternative pro-life movement, in an attempt to garner similar support, employed various strategies to accelerate their own cause, one of which was the spreading of pro-life propaganda from rightwing, conservative and often American so-called, “intellectuals.” When the media began documenting this trend, I felt compelled to see for myself what Ireland’s pro-life advocates had resorted to in order to defend their cause. I came across a video by one of America’s largest conservative commentators on Youtube that was doing the rounds on Irish Twitter, and I watched it. A month later, I had fallen down the alt-right pipeline. The initial video did little to phase me, but the more I watched, the more I wanted to understand this strange and seemingly underground subculture of political discourse. The most endangering aspect of the far-right pipeline is you don’t have to look for it because it's already looking for you. Prior to my fall from grace, I considered myself left-wing. I was pro-choice, pro LGBTQ+ rights, a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and an advocate of ending ‘End Direct Provision’. I was, however, struggling with my own mental health issues which manifested itself into a dangerously inferior sense of self, immensely low confidence levels, and a pitiful need for a sense of community. During this time, these “intellectuals'' extended their arms and I found comfort in that initial embrace. This comfort was, however, tremendously short-lived. Within a few months, I had abandoned everything that I thought I knew. I turned my back on the causes that I supported dearly, and I became a disgustingly cynical, intolerant and bigoted person. One of the key credentials of a far-right thinker is a deep hatred for feminist causes and women’s
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rights movements, which further deteriorated my sense of self and enriched my internal misogyny to a devastating extent, something I still struggle to deconstruct to this day. So I not only began to hate myself, I began to hate others. I disregarded pro-choice advocates as selfish and misinformed, I fell victim to the narrative that the BLM movement was a violent endeavour and I distanced myself from any and all conversation relating to female empowerment, which is, ironically, exactly what I needed in those very moments. The big question surrounding this entire ordeal is, of course, why didn’t I just stop engaging with it? To understand why, it is essential to understand how far-right thinkers speak. There is a very calculated yet charming choice of words that these thought leaders employ that manipulate the viewer into believing that they are part of a greater cause, something far superior to those not subscribed to the same political dogma. Examples of their phraseology include “this is what the media doesn’t want you to know,” or “this is what people on the left are not smart enough to comprehend.” It is a constant need for validation that is impossible to achieve, but it didn’t stop me from trying. Over two years later, I am thankful that I was able to pull myself out from this hazardous rabbit hole, and I am proud to say that the entire experience has only further strengthened my commitment to leftwing social and economic causes. Populism is a political strategy employed by those who want radical change. It is a catch-all term for everything significantly different from the status quo, meaning that any effort to equate mental wellbeing effects to this strategy will always fall short as it fails to account for the different types of populism. Speaking from my experience, however, right-wing populism is in and of itself a disease, which feeds on one’s underlying struggles with confidence and selfesteem. Protect yourself from it, remember that validation can only come from within and keep fighting the good fight.
POETRY MATTHEW MOYNIHAN
CURRICULUM VITAE PERSONAL DETAILS pain and lessons lead to growth eyes wide open, mind afloat nineteen ninety-three to now wisdom’s etch upon this plough EDUCATION warped and wiped by ethanol tried to stand, before the fall slugged and smashed that hopeless jug sun shone back, just needs a plug EXPERIENCE courage doesn’t always roar HB pencil, sketch the tour now there lies a golden prize IQ doesn’t make you wise REFEREES the IV drips that pierced my skin the fallen sky before the brim the light that melted ice and pain the time I spent, and peace I’ve gained
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A DARK SPECTRE OVER KOREAN ENTERTAINMENT
BY JACK COLEMAN Disclaimer: This content of this article includes mentions of bullying, suicide, and suicide attempts. The Korean entertainment industry is a cultural phenomenon. In no other nation’s respective industry have I witnessed such an intricate and symbiotic relationship between actors, comedians, performers, and musicians. The most prominent form of televised entertainment in South Korea, the variety show, brings all manner of public figures together for an hour of comedy and shenanigans. Korean dramas and Korean pop music have taken the world by storm, making South Korea one of the largest exporters of culture on the planet. While the industry is an interesting case study, and could certainly be considered successful by traditional metrics, there is also a dark spectre that hangs over it. Choi “Sulli” Jin-ri was an actress, singer and model best known for her time as a member of the SM Entertainment’s girl group f(x). Sulli was a “controversial” figure among online communities (called “netizens”) and the often unforgiving Korean public for simply speaking her mind. Sulli was particularly vocal about her dislike for wearing bras, often uploading pictures to social media without one. These posts never failed to generate mountains of comments, some supportive but most overwhelmingly negative. She explained her stance on bras on the JTBC show Night of Hate Comments: “Going braless is one’s freedom. Bras have wires; they are not good for health. Not wearing one is comfortable. That is something beautiful and natural. For me, a bra is like an accessory. Some outfits go with it, and others do not. That’s why sometimes I do not wear a bra. When I upload my photos without a bra, people talk about it a lot. I could have been scared. But I didn’t because I thought it would be nice if more people could discard their prejudices”. On October 14th 2019, Sulli, who was known for being outspoken in an industry where conformity is encouraged, was found dead in her home, aged 25, after being relentlessly cyberbullied. She was unable to do or say anything publicly without being harassed, and Sulli was never fully allowed back into the public’s good
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graces because she refused to compromise on the things she believed in, including her freedoms as a woman. Unfortunately, this isn’t a rare occurrence in Korean entertainment. Idols and actors who are perceived as doing something incorrect are often anonymously harassed online. As this month’s edition of Motley is themed around mental health, I believe this is an appropriate time to highlight this issue. This is not an isolated occurrence in Korean entertainment. Sulli herself attended the funeral of fellow singer and labelmate Kim Jonghyun in December 2017. Jonghyun was a member of the highly popular boy group SHINee. He was a pioneer musically as he was one of the first members of SM Entertainment to participate in the production, writing and composition of his music. Jonghyun’s older sister alerted police after her brother left troubling messages on social media such as “Last goodbye” and “I did well”. The singer was found by police in a state of cardiac arrest and rushed to a hospital, where he sadly passed away. Heartbreakingly, #YouDidWellJonghyun began to trend on social media following his passing. Though Jonghyun did not receive a significant amount of abuse as Sulli did, the pressures of the industry eventually took a toll on him. He wrote in a goodbye note: “The life of fame was not for me. They say it’s hard to bump up against the world and become famous. Why did I choose this life? It’s a funny thing. It’s a miracle I lasted this long”. Before his passing, Jonghyun often talked about mental health and the importance of giving others physical and emotional space. Unfortunately, space is hard to come by when you’re firmly in the public eye. Goo Hara was a member of the girl group KARA who, at the peak of their popularity in the early 2010s, were one of the most successful groups in Korea. In 2019, Hara entered into a legal dispute with her ex-boyfriend Choi Jong-bum. Prior to their breakup, the pair got into a physical altercation. They both claimed the other party was the aggressor and contested each other online by posting pictures of their respective injuries. Hara filed a lawsuit against Choi after he threatened to release a sex tape to damage her career. The public nature of the
dispute had severe consequences for Hara’s professional life as her label did not renew her contract as a result. She previously attempted to take her own life but was unsuccessful and apologised to her fans for worrying them. However, a short time later in November 2019, she was found dead in her home. This occurred just a month after the passing of her close friend Sulli. The constant unblinking eye of the public on the negative aspects of her personal life weighed heavily on Hara. She was pushed into admitting that she received minor cosmetic surgeries on her eyes after relentless accusations that she had turned her monolids into double eyelids. Under normal circumstances, you would expect a person to not be penalised professionally for pressing charges against a malicious party trying to blackmail them. However, the negative publicity attracted by her lawsuit is what caused her label to drop her. Similar to Jonghyun, fame was a great burden to Hara. Following her death, her brother Goo Ho-in began a campaign to change Korea’s inheritance law to prevent absentee parents from claiming inheritance from an estranged child. This was prompted by Hara’s estranged mother attempting to claim a portion of her inheritance. The “Goo Hara” Act officially passed in late 2020, preventing these situations from occurring in the future. In 2008, actress Choi Jin-sil was found dead in her apartment. She was an award winning actress and mother to two children. Choi was a close friend of Jeong
Sun-Hee, wife to the popular comedian Ahn Jae-hwan. Ahn took his own life as a result of mounting debt. After his death, a rumour was started online that Choi Jin-sil was a loan shark and had lent a large sum of money to Ahn Jae-hwan, making her complicit in his death. This groundless accusation caused the late actress a great deal of mental distress, likely contributing to her eventual suicide. Police recorded a temporary 70% increase in the number of suicides following Choi Jin-sil’s passing, as her death brought a depressive spell upon the nation. It is clear from these tragic events that “celebrity culture” in South Korea is particularly harsh and ruthless. Relentless harassment from online users has driven several people to their deaths. Legislators in South Korea have been considering a “Sulli Act” which will impose harsher punishments for libellous statements on the internet and may force users to register on websites with their social security numbers in order to take away their anonymity and the power it offers. A similar system has already been introduced into several online video games, allowing parents to impose parental locks to combat gaming addiction. Regardless of whether or not new legislation can fix these issues, I think an important takeaway from these tragedies is to simply remember to be kinder to people, even if you don’t know them personally. Hopefully, the high-profile nature of the recent deaths will go a long way to improving celebrity culture in Korean entertainment so these events won’t be repeated.
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“No ranch to roam inside
CMAT Chats to Motley
THIS INTERVIEW CONTAINS SO MUCH SWEARING THAT THE AI TRANSCRIBER CITED THE WORD ‘FUCKING ’ AS THE MAIN SUMMARY POINT – BE WARNED. ALANA DALY MULLIGAN TALKS MUSIC STYLE AND SUBSTANCE WITH SELF PROCLAIMED ‘GLOBAL SUPERSTAR ’ AND RECOGNISED LEGEND CMAT.
As CMAT prepared to swan through the musical saloon doors in March last year, the pandemic ( formally known as Miss ‘Rona) sat menacingly at the bar: “It was like, okay, should we hold off on releasing anything until this whole Coronavirus thing was blown over or, will we just release it at the start, while people are locked inside and have nothing else to do but worship me?” Of course, taking the road less travelled paid off. With four singles, mentions on “ones to watch” lists, and having her debut TV-appearance on The Den with “comedic and lyrical genius” (her words, not mine) Dustin the Turkey, CMAT has cemented herself among the most exciting new voices in the Irish music scene. Stylistically, CMAT’s sound and aesthetic pull from a wide array of material: think Dolly Parton’s aesthetic and Kasey Musgrave’s first two EPs, then add Irish humour with a shit-ton more glitter (if such things are possible). Standing out from those in the scene who mine their hearts for their music; CMAT excavates such truths with dynamic charisma, belief in the power of country music, and unique lyricism. In short, CMAT’s tunes slap. The songs’ honesty and storytelling owe their parentage to the country genre: “I love the ethos of country music songwriting in the sense that the song is always
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about a real thing. That’s kind of the core of my songwriting - it’s always about me, or the CMAT character, it usually always speaks to more people because it’s such a laser-focused narrative, that it’s easier to relate to. That’s how songs help people, by relating to them”. Her third single “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” deals with her experiences of urban isolation and fears of exploring the Wild-West-esque of a new city: “I want to be strong and brave and not get fucking murdered every time I wanna go for pints, like”. While there are indeed astute social commentaries interwoven through signs like “Cowboy”, sometimes there’s no need for explicit politics: “I don’t have to put a message into all of my songs because they’re already there. I’m just writing about myself, problems that I have, and a lot of the time, they have no political underlying… I do strongly believe that if you make honesty the core value of what you do in songwriting, politics will come out of it”. While she doesn’t call herself an activist, CMAT has been vocal about the state of Irish music broadcasting: genderbias, anglophone music and the “landed fucking gentry, excuse my language” that have
infiltrated the music scene: “I don’t care if I get radio play or not, it’s not where my career is… and I specifically don’t care because I don’t want my music to get played just because I am a woman… you should want to play my music because it’s class… I know it’s class, I know it’s deadly. So, don’t play me just to fill a quota, play it because it’s fucking class”. CMAT’s success has spread across the internet (people do indeed worship her) through her hilariously chaotic and charming Twitter-antics. With the world cooped-up online, I ask how it’s affecting her: “Part of me fucking hates it’” she tells me, “just to put it in perspective– so much bucket list stuff got ticked off in 2020...it's important I think to remember that...but nothing really good or important or special ever really happens online. It's just a communication tool to bridge the gap...it's great for right now but we have to remember the end goal is not being good online, the end goal is being good; reaching out to more people online to bring them into your real-life world.” Cheekily, I ask about when we can inject the next dose of CMAT into our ear canals (since COVID-vaccines don’t appear to be arriving anytime soon). “That would be telling...I couldn’t possibly!” she smirks, and cites the long roll-out between singles down to her passion for getting the music videos right: “I'm such a music video nerd, and in particular I'm a Music Television nerd...unfortunately it is all archived because RTÉ doesn't have any specific music programming that's year-round anymore because they're fucking shitehawks…” I fail to contain a giggle; “ Basically, I should have released another thing but because of Coronavirus rearing its uglyfucking-head yet again, I've been pushing a lot of things around... The next single will be an important song for me, arguably more important than ‘Cowboy’, just because it’s a very immediate song, it's a pop song. It's a banger. I mean, it's fucking belter like it's actually, it's actually so good.”
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Photo Credit: Sarah Doyle
Movies That Saved My Life BY KANE GEARY O'KEEFFE
inema offers a particular comfort for anybody seeking to escape from the troubles of reality. Trips into the many different stories and worlds that movies offer often carry with them a sense of nostalgia that audiences attach themselves to, often for life. We’ve all spent a rainy evening curled up with a comfort film and felt everything fade away for those few hours. Keeping with our theme of mental health, I’ve reached out to various UCC students in search of narratives of recovery involving film. Whether it be a film helping alleviate study stress or helping one change their worldview for the better. Movies have a universal capacity for making things suck just a little bit less. They often play an understated role in improving our mental health for the better during tough times. There are short recollections of “movies that saved my life”.
JACK COLEMAN - THE LORD OF THE RINGS The franchise The Lord of the Rings is synonymous with film. Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s work proved that high fantasy had a place on the big screen. For me, the Lord of the Rings movies have always been comfort films. With Fellowship, Two Towers and Return of the King combined the runtime is approximately twelve hours. One could literally spend a whole day watching the trilogy, and I have. I first watched the movies when I was younger with my siblings, and the themes of adventure, overcoming adversity and exploration really stuck with me. I often wonder if my love for the outdoors, travelling and adventure come from my time watching Frodo and Sam wandering Middle-Earth. In Fellowship, watching Frodo
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and Sam leave the lush green hills of The Shire to set out for the unforgiving barren lands of Mordor has always stuck with me in a profound manner. Back when I was repeating the Leaving Cert, I wouldn’t say I was particularly sad but my life had certainly stalled and I felt aimless for that year as I had dropped out of school to study from home. If I ever needed a break from all the self-discipline I needed to study, I could pop one of the Lord of The Rings movies and enjoy the journey all over again. Even if I was studying, I would often have a television show or film on in the background to make my room less quiet. Lord of the Rings was ideal as I already knew the plot so it didn’t distract me much, and I could zone out much of the dialogue (which, don’t get me wrong, is fantastic)
and tune in for the exciting scenes. They’re also nice and long so I wouldn’t have to break concentration to change the episode as I would with a television show. Even nowadays, Lord of the Rings, for me, is a holiday film. I, often unsuccessfully, attempt to gather my family for a marathon at Christmas. I can’t wait to show my own family this trilogy in the future as it has brought me great comfort and consistency throughout the years.
Kane Geary O’Keeffe - Blade Runner
Ilsa Flynn - Stand By Me
Eoin Shortiss - Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
A few years back, I had a major back operation which left me unable to walk. I was in a lot of pain constantly and could barely do anything for myself. It wasn’t fun. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was one of the first movies I watched post-op. It was a film that got me thinking about how one’s life gains meaning from our choosing to use the time that we have, however short that may be (many of the characters in the film have a lifespan of only 4 years). I watched the film again shortly after, and it inspired me to get up, learn to walk properly and get back to school. Blade Runner constantly reminds me that we never know how much time we have, and to always take the life that comes your way. I got back to school much earlier than expected, and I keep a Blade Runner tattoo on my arm as a reminder to always keep going and to never forget the importance of film to me.
The first time I ever watched Stand By Me was in my “religion class” with my teacher who prefered to stick on a decent movie rather than teaching us the ins and outs of Catholicism (with a side of world religions). I always had mixed feelings about the woman herself, but damn she had a good taste in film. Fourteen-year-old me was a vulnerable kid, and like pretty much everyone, I felt like no one understood me. However, for some reason, the week over which I watched this film (three 30 minute classes) I felt understood. The nostalgic soundtrack, organic cinematography, and genuinely the best ensemble cast of kids I’ve ever seen, just really clicked with me. Obviously, the situation was something I had never been in but the whole mood and wonderfully captured adolescent world that seems so distinct from childhood and adulthood was nailed perfectly. I watched that film on repeat for, I would say a year, and I definitely feel like it made those awkward and excruciating years more bearable.
In the middle of my sixth year of secondary school, my anxiety levels were at an all-time high, and my repetitive daily routine slowly made me grow to loath both school and my studies. One evening, to get away from my work, I whimsically decided to go see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it ended up being exactly what I needed. It was colourful, funny, action-packed, and had a narrative that completely immersed me. It gave me a chance to forget about everything that was going on in my life, if only for two hours, and finally gave me a chance to unwind. It really helped me through a particularly tough period.
Ruari Walsh - Grosse Pointe Blank Gross Pointe Blank is one of the first movies that my Dad ever showed me, and it started my love affair with John Cusack. It’s charming, funny, endlessly rewatchable, and it never fails to make me happy.
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Aokigahara Forest and Beyond SOCIAL MEDIA AND MENTAL HEALTH
BY REBECKAH MCCARTHY
ocial media influencers play a massive role in mental health advocacy, and over the years we have seen many influencers successfully promote healthy and open dialogues pertaining to mental health. Mental health and the way we as individuals approach it is very important, and if we do so in the wrong manner, we risk hurting people who struggled or continue to struggle with mental health problems. In 2017 I saw the first big scandal on YouTube regarding mental health and that was the Logan Paul vlog regarding Aokigahara forest, a Japanese forest known as the Sea of Trees, or, more recently, “The Suicide Forest.” The forest, which is historically known as a resting place for ghosts according to Japanese folklore, is a popular suicide site. YouTuber Logan Paul video blogged his trip in Japan, which featured his visit to the forest where he filmed the deceased body of a suicide victim. Logan is heard to make a few jokes about the scene after discovering the body, which caused a massive uproar throughout the world. Over the years, with social media growing more prominent in our daily lives and with influencers becoming popular celebrities, their opinions are being taken more seriously by the younger generation. Another example of influencers making comments about mental health is the controversial ItGalz “The Ick” podcast. One of the podcasts released throughout the month of December was focused on “the ick,” a recently coined internet term with a similar meaning to “turn off.” Jenny Claffey made a comment in which she said men who participate in the performative charity “Movemeber” give her “the ick.” In this episode, we can hear Lindsay Hamilton laugh at Jenny’s comment. Many people take this comment as the girls making a mockery of the charity itself, while others believe it was targeted at men who view the charity as a trend
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and an excuse to show off their moustaches, but haven’t actually done anything to meaningfully help the cause. The comments sparked massive outrage on Twitter and Instagram, but what spiked my interest was how many people who simultaneously advocated for mental health while also wishing death upon fans of the podcast and the two hosts online. Even as social media evolves, our grasp on how to deal with the impact it has on our collective mental health hasn’t really changed. There has been a link made between those who heavily use social media and those who struggle with depression, anxiety, loneliness, and self-harm. During these hard times please make sure you check in on your friends and family, It is very easy to end up isolating yourself during difficult times by scrolling too far on social media. CONNECT COUNSELLING Freephone 1800 477 477 Monday to Sunday from 6pm to 10pm. Samaritans Freephone 116 123 every day 24 hours a day Free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through mental health or emotional crisis. Text HELLO to 50808, anytime day or night. Pieta House Telephone and text-based support counselling for people who are suicidal or engaging in self-harm. Freephone 1800 247 247 every day 24 hours a day. Text HELP to 51444 - standard message rates apply. Visit pieta.ie
NOT ALL SMILES
The Problem of Mental Health in the Fashion Industry FASHION STAFF WRITER EMMA TREACY DELVES INTO THE DARK SIDE OF THE MODELLING INDUSTRY. Editor’s note: This article contains references to suicide and sexual harassment
hat is the world of fashion really like for the radiant faces of it’s industry? From runway models to Instagram influencers, there is a normalization of unattainable lifestyles and ideal body types. But is this impeccability and perfection a true reflection of each individual’s mental wellbeing? We would be naïve to mistake aspiration for reality. It is no secret that the modelling world can be a cruel and scrutinizing place. The fashion industry has been continually criticized for its weight and body shape restrictions. However, there is a growing body positivity movement which is demanding that these restrictions be relegated to the past. Body diversity is growing in prevalence across the industry and it seems inclusivity is finally on trend. With cultural diversity as well as body positivity, the fashion industry seems to be moving in the right direction. This new scope for diversity, I hope, will have a positive knock-on effect on some frightening statistics in the fashion industry that are starving for improvement. The fashion industry ranks in seventh place in the world suicide rates amongst occupations. This is hardly coincidental, and is surely a result of the high demands and exceeding pressures
that models and designers are under to appeal to our aesthetic tastes. Unfortunately, a high level of sexual harassment and abuse has been experienced by fashion models over the years. American model, Cameron Russell spoke out in 2017 and shed light on numerous stories of models who had encountered abusive situations at work. The ‘MeToo’ movement that followed shortly after, created a tsunami of people that spoke out about their experiences of sexual abuse, including many from the fashion industry. While this campaign and others like it have led to progress, the battle against sexual abuse in the industry is not yet triumphant. Professionals in the fashion industry are 25% more likely to experience mental illness than other professions. The tragic deaths of fashion icons such as Alexander McQueen and Kate Spade led to questions and investigations into the values and demands of the fashion industry. The Model Health Pledge is an online platform created in an attempt to combat misconduct within the fashion industry. Platforms such as this, and other organizations like the Kering Foundation work with the industry to eradicate violence against those working in fashion.
The social media sphere has added extra pressure on models in the industry. The ‘10k casting’ rule in modelling advertisements requires candidates to have a minimum Instagram following of ten thousand in order to be chosen for a job. This pressure leads to these social media influencers posting photographs that promote their image as flawless, however, using photoshop apps to edit their pictures. Popular apps such as Facetune or Airbrush are used by many famous social media influencers. This of course has led to an influx of social media users, mainly women and young girls, using these editing apps to hone the ‘perfect’ image before posting it. In recent years, there have been steps made towards debunking myths of perfection in the way models and influencers present themselves. Irish former model, fashion icon, cook, and lifestyle influencer Rozanna Purcell, is leading the change in more honest and true-to-life online presence. She compares posed images of herself with unposed ones in her #contentcontent posts that show her body without editing, cellulite and all! She is doing a rare and commendable thing by revealing her ‘behind the scenes’ of what it is like to be constantly in the limelight by posing her real self in front of the lens. While this is positive action, more can certainly be done to protect the mental health and wellbeing of people working in the fashion industry.
Political Threads Becoming More Than An Outfit
“ WHY IN THE NAME OF GOD IS THERE A MAN STANDING IN THE CHAMBERS OF THE US CAPITOL WEARING GOAT HORNS?” TO ANSWER THAT, I POSE ANOTHER QUESTION: “ WHY DOES AOC ALWAYS WEAR RED LIPSTICK?” FROM INSURRECTION TO LADY HALE’S ICONIC BROOCH, EMER O ’SULLIVAN WEIGHS IN ON THE GENDERED HYPOCRISY OF FASHION IN POLITICS. “Why in the name of God is there a man standing in the Chambers of the US Capitol wearing goat horns?” To answer that, I pose another question: “Why does AOC always wear red lipstick?” From insurrection to Lady Hale’s iconic brooch, Emer O’Sullivan weighs in on the gendered hypocrisy of fashion in politics. Back in semester one (cue the “which feels like a century ago” joke), I had the privilege of witnessing a holy Trinity of a UCC societies event. “Fashion in Politics'' was a collaboration online event organised by GovPol involving Fashion Soc and Fem Soc. Indeed, it was your conservative uncle’s worst nightmare. Fashion itself has become a hot topic as of late, what with sustainability becoming the new sexy. The average girlo began turning their heads away from stockings stitched in Sri Lanka to bucket hats found at the bottom of bargain bins in the local Barnados charity shop. 2020’s bigger and meaner sibling 2021 is already causing havoc. Last week I ordered a pair of Docs online and since then the capitol has been stormed, Ireland has (somehow?) topped the world figures for Covid, and Trump has once again found himself stuck in a peach. In the last few weeks we have witnessed a near civil war kick off. A familiar scene from November 2020 began to reappear in my kitchen and it looked like this: an infinite supply of coffee long past midnight and the pixelated faces of Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper on my television screen. In the aftermath I found myself asking, “why in the name of God is there a man standing in the Chambers of the US Capitol wearing goat horns?” To answer that, I pose another question: “Why does AOC always wear red lipstick?” The answer to both is to establish dominance. Dressing the left and dressing the right is a strange concept,
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there are differences and similarities between both. Both try to establish that their ideology is stable and trustworthy, one which supporters should follow. Contradictingly, each side copies and emulates the other in order to achieve superiority. For example, Hugo Boss supplied the uniform for Nazi soldiers during World War II with soldiers wearing haute couture to appeal to a German public’s fashion sense. However, what would appear original was merely taken from the British example of Burberry supplying soldiers with Trench coats during World War I. The liberal suffragette movement adopted a “pure” style by choosing colours such as cream and white to allow themselves to be distinguished by their followers (also because white was the most affordable colour of clothing) . On the other side, quasi-fascist Eoin O’ Duffy adopted a similar approach which was so effective it resulted in the very uniform becoming the nickname for the group, the Blueshirts. I would like to reinstate that these two groups have nothing in common politically, but the parallel of the pride invested into what they wore goes to prove the point, you are what you wear. Different sides wear different clothes to appeal to their supporters. Kamala Harris wears Converse, big whoop. AOC wears an expensive pantsuit and UK MP Tracy Barbin wears an off-the-shoulder blouse. Each of these women have been criticised and outfit-shamed by the press. This is depressing yet unsurprising. Female identifying politicians have often been faced with the “she is a politician, not a model” argument which is both unnecessary and unconstructive. The underlying issue here is that because female politicians have more variety in what they can (or apparently cannot) wear and this is often critiqued to their detriment. On the other side, there lies the reality that if a male politician ever wore something traditionally feminine, they would also face backlash. However, this just reinstates that any criticism against an expression or form of femininity in the politisphere is just a mask for the true conservative argument that femininity (qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women) has no place in politics. To stir the pot a little further, insinuating that women have no place in politics if they dare venture outside of the staple mismatched three-piece suit. To be clear, I am not suggesting that images of Stephen Donnelly wearing a leather mini-skirt two piece
paired with kitten heels (okay, but imagine) would solve all of the world’s political quandaries. Not even Steve wearing six inch Louboutin’s could do that. As Irish politician Lorna Bogue once phrased it, working class female politicians get the most criticism for dressing nice. AOC faced backlash for wearing a bougie jacket a few months ago and the number one criticism that emerges was: “she dresses well, therefore she no longer represents the working class.” This is absolute nonsense. What is the alternative? Ordering a fast-fashion pantsuit from Boohoo who are exploiting workers in England? Thrifting an outfit from a charity shop and taking away affordable ethical clothing from families who cannot afford anything else? A leftist politician being criticised in Congress for wearing a jacket she bought with her own paycheck by a rightist male journalist who wears expensive three piece suits everyday. Make it make sense. On the other side of the Atlantic a similar style of criticism was directed at No.10 Downing Street. I remember being 16 and reading in the Daily Mail about how Theresa May was far more assertive than her only other female predecessor, yes, Margaret Thatcher. What did the Daily Mail base this argument on? May’s choice of necklace? Another headline read: “Thrifty Theresa May wears the same £250 necklace 21 times,” what on earth? Never have I nor has anyone else ever seen a headline that reads “Boring Boris Johnson wears the same hairstyle 21 times”. It’s almost as if from the start of her political career, Theresa was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t, not based on how she ran her country but how she styled her outfits. Another figure who found themselves under public scrutiny was Lady Hale, or as my Google results call her, “Justice Spider Brooch”. In 2019 Lady Hale handed down the Supreme Court verdict that Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen that parliament should be prorogued for five weeks at the height of the Brexit crisis was unlawful. She did so with a smile that uttered “Deal with it, Johnson,” and
while donning an absolutely gorgeous brooch of a spider. The internet went into a meltdown. Respected international media outlets such as the Guardian suggested that Lady Hale chose that exact brooch for that exact judgement. Conspiracy theorists suggested that it was symbolism for Greek Goddess Athena, the drama! Except Lady Hale responded to questions concerning the brooch and revealed that she had thrown it on that morning without a second thought to the colossal reaction she would receive. She stated that “people comment on women’s appearance much more than they comment on men’s”. Lady Hale is a judge, not a politician, yet one cannot help but notice the precedent this has established. That the every-day outfit will be analysed by the media as if it were a poem written by Sylvia Plath in their Leaving Cert English Paper. The point is all of the women I have mentioned actually did not wear anything revolutionary yet still managed to end up on the front pages of magazines and hot topics in the media. It is plain misogyny. To do so little yet be talked about so much is mind-boggling. And what is truly terrifying is that the only other male figure in the politisphere that we have seen receiving so much media attention and criticism as females, is Jake Angeli, a.k.a, the man who wore the goat horns in the capitol last week.
Gladrags Motleyâ€™s Best Loved Clothing Items
resented here are a selection of our Motley staff members showcasing their most cherished wardrobe items. From badass platform boots to comfortable and reliable staple pieces, they tell us a little bit about what clothing means to them and how wearing their favourite outfit can help make them feel that bit better.
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Grace Claro, Fashion Editor These are my official gladrags. My Mango blazer, palazzo pants, and Jasper Conran square-toe stilettos pretty much sum up my style. Sadly, this ensemble would have been worn as my graduation outfit last October. However, I am keeping it pristine for future days out!
Niamh Browne, Features Editor Look at these boots: How could you not feel like a bad bitch in them? Niamh Browne, features and opinion editor of Motley presents her piece of clothing that makes her smile - and you got to hand it to her, they're pretty badass.
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Alana Daly Mulligan, Current Affairs Editor I easily commit a fashion faux-pas per day, but these trusty beaten-up Cherry Docs, (lovingly nicknamed â€œthe almighty shit-kickersâ€?) always seem to be the shit to get me into a shit-kicking mood, while avoiding a closet-catastrophe.
Emma Treacy, Fashion Staff Writer This black fluffy bucket hat can do no wrong on a dull day. It can be paired with absolutely anything, dressed up or down and for me it is happiness in a hat. Worn with this vibrant vintage jacket I picked up last year, this is my ultimate feel-good outfit.
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Diego Leon, Motley Photographer I got these Docs when I was still in school and they have carried me all the way through college. I wear them pretty much all the time: on walks and hikes, to labs and classes, on holiday trips... They are very comfortable, and I feel so confident and cool when I have them on.
Kaia Purcell, Deputy Fashion Editor This headpiece was made by amazing Irish milliner Cathy Troth and is definitely the most cheerful thing in my wardrobe. Itâ€™s almost impossible not to smile when I put it on, itâ€™s an immediate mood booster for me. A headpiece is such a game changer to add a little bit of personality and joy to an outfit and this piece definitely does that for me!
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A WEEK IN MY WARDROBE JANUARY EDITION
“ WORKING STYLISH, BRIGHT, AND FUN SEASONAL PIECES INTO MY YEAR-ROUND WARDROBE IS SOMETHING THAT I TRY REALLY HARD TO DO, NOT ONLY BECAUSE IT IS MORE SUSTAINABLE AND MEANS I GET MORE WEAR OUT OF MY CLOTHES, BUT ALSO BECAUSE IT BRINGS WITH IT A BIT OF SUMMER LIGHT AND JOY INTO DARK AND BORING DAYS.” DEPUTY FASHION EDITOR KAIA PURCELL GIVES US A LOOK INTO HER WARDROBE FOR A WEEK.
he idea of self care has never been more important nor more relevant than it is today. While there are many methods that we may try, the bottom line is that you need to do something that makes you feel great and brings a happiness that only you can give yourself. For me, this has been in the form of indulging in my greatest love, which of course is fashion. Losing the ability to socialise and go to work or college has obviously meant that like many people, I am now confined to my house. And so, I have now come to be an individual in the confines of my house that is dressed as if I’m waiting for a taxi to collect me and bring me somewhere glam, and the pure joy that the act of getting dressed has provided for me.
The beginning of a new week is always my favourite part, and outfit planning for the week ahead is something I always enjoy. Accepting the fact that the only excursion I will be able to have for the foreseeable are trips to the supermarket, I have decided to forget all about the reasonings for getting dressed and focus instead on the happiness I get from planning and wearing a gorgeous outfit that boosts my mood and makes me feel good. So on Monday, I could be found gracing the aisles in Aldi wearing this gorgeous playsuit from Irish store Secret Silhouette. I paired it with black tights, chunky heeled boots, and an oversized coat. Matching facemask in hand, the instant lift that I felt once I had topped off the outfit with a headband was amazing. So if you catch me breezing around the supermarket in this ensemble or dressed to go for brunch with the girls, don’t be surprised.
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For a zoom meeting on Tuesday, I finally felt like I had an apt reason (not that I needed one) to get a bit dressed up. I decided to pair a white shirt with a strappy summer dress that I had loved but didnâ€™t get much opportunity to wear last year. With a pair of tights and knee high boots, the look was completely transformed from a summer look into a wearable winter outfit. Working stylish, bright, and fun seasonal pieces into my year-round wardrobe is something that I try really hard to do, not only because it is more sustainable and means I get more wear out of my clothes, but also because it brings with it a bit of summer light and joy into dark and boring days.
While there was no business that permitted me to venture very far on Wednesday, I decided to take a break from assignments and glam up. By spending some time doing my makeup and popping on the cheeriest item in my wardrobe I added some colour to my day. This gorgeous headpiece by Cathy Troth always gives me a surge of instant confidence and joy, and the much needed boost was definitely welcomed in order to alleviate me from exam stress.
Another day completing assignments meant that the possibility of me leaving the house for any purpose was very much off the table. However, feelings of being most definitely burnt out meant that I afforded myself the luxury of a late start and spent the morning organising my wardrobe. I came across this gorgeous Paul Costello poncho that I bought from Middleton-based resale shop, Cameo Resale, and couldnâ€™t even think about folding it away to wait for a day out to wear it. With black tights, boots, and a tweed skirt (a serious wardrobe hero for me), the decision to get dressed up in an item I really love most definitely made me feel amazing and gave me the ability to power through an intensive day.
For the remainder of this strange time (however long that may be), I will be sure to keep looking after myself and keeping myself chirpy in the best way I know how - by getting up and being ridiculously overdressed. The process of choosing clothes to wear, pairing with accessories and getting dressed is almost like a ritual to me, and one which I was not prepared to give up when my daily routine changed. Finding something that improves your mood and gets you through your day with a smile on your face is essential, now more than ever - and for me, fashion and style are most definitely mine.
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THE PROFESSOR'S PEN DR. MIRANDA CORCORAN
Talk helps but comprehensive therapy can be better
n Christmas Eve morning, when the cafes and restaurants were still open, I met a close friend from secondary school for a hot chocolate. In the midst of general catching up (work, family, pets), my friend mentioned that she had just started taking an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). We’d chatted about this before, as my friend suffers from severe anxiety, and she had been considering medication for some time. I asked her which antidepressant she was taking, and she said that she couldn’t remember or pronounce the brand name. At that moment, I plucked my box of Escitalopram from my handbag and asked if that was her brand. She said it was, and I joked that I could never remember the name, usually calling it “escat-o-pram”, “escatel-pram” or “estal-o-pram”. I’m relaying this anecdote because I think there is something meaningful about the image of two fairly innocuous women in their thirties openly discussing antidepressants in a busy café, audibly comparing SSRI brands as if they were moisturisers or a new brand of mascara. Within that conversation, the taking of antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication was framed as a mundane part of our daily
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routines, like getting dressed, brushing teeth, washing hair or applying makeup. Although there is still much stigma attached to mental illness – with the degree and intensity of that stigma varying widely across age groups, communities and cultures – there has undoubtedly been an opening up of conversational space that has allowed for a greater honesty about mental health. Amongst Millennials and Generation Z, in particular, there is refreshing openness about mental health issues, how they impact our lives and the need to be gentle with our own psyches, and those of others. A friend of mine recently tweeted about how her antidepressants were interacting, in sometimes undesirable ways, with her birth control. That conflict can be imagined as a fight between Godzilla and King Kong. There’s an excellent US-based podcast called The Mental Illness Happy Hour where celebrities like Mara Wilson (Matilda!!), Tim Minchin, Paul F. Tompkins and Jameela Jamil talk about their mental health struggles. There are also some wonderful, alternately funny and heart-breaking TV shows that deal with mental illness. Maria Bamford’s semi-autobiographical series Lady Dynamite
(Netflix, 2016-2017) explores its creator’s experience of bipolar disorder (it also has talking pugs!), while Rachel Bloom’s incredible musical comedy series Crazy ExGirlfriend (2015-2019) deals with anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder (often through song). Not only are we talking more about mental illness, but we are doing so in surprising, funny and creative ways. This openness is certainly helpful. I’ve suffered from (often crippling) anxiety for much of my life. I would worry endlessly about anything that could be worried about. I was terrified of speaking to people throughout most of my youth. In college, if I had to speak in seminars or tutorials, my heart would race and I would shake, sometimes visibly. In work, I would obsessively and painstakingly doublecheck tasks I had already completed. My anxiety became even more pronounced after a trauma I suffered in my early twenties, and for a time that particular trauma flowered into other mental health problems that I’m probably still not capable of discussing objectively. When I started lecturing in 2017, my anxiety thrived on the uncertainty and insecurity that often accompany a
new job. I would regularly work from 6am-6pm each day, including weekends. I would torture myself about mistakes or perceived mistakes. In my very first lecture module, a student asked a question about the number of pages they should write for an exam. While stressing the importance of quality over quantity, I gave them a rough estimate, which I then began to worry was wrong. I spent the entire next day going through other lecturers’ folders on Blackboard (this was preCanvas) to see what advice they had given. It was not only a strange thing to do, but it was time-consuming and pointless. Back then, I didn’t see it that way. I was terrified that I had made a mistake and would “get in trouble”. Around the same time, I would repeatedly check that I had returned exams I was marking to my filing cabinet. I started taking SSRIs in early 2018. In many ways, the frank conversations people were having in the media and popular culture helped to demystify medication for me. As an anxious, occasionally depressed teenager, I devoured memoirs about women who had suffered from mental illness: Susanna Kaysen’s Girl Interrupted, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac
Nation. Although these books comforted me, they also equipped me with a distrust of psychiatry and medication. In all of these works, treatment for metal illness was oppressive, stifling, even cruel. Medication was frequently presented as something that dulled the senses and stripped individuals of their creativity or intellect. I avoided it assiduously, believing – like many young people – that my mental health issues made me more interesting, creative, special. The severity of my
anxiety certainly pushed me towards medication or at least encouraged me to try it. At the same time, though, I think the frank discussions taking place on podcasts, television and even social media helped strip away many of my preconceptions about SSRIs and allowed me to see them as ordinary, perhaps even routine, forms of healthcare. That being said, I’m not sure simply talking is enough. We need to look at our culture more closely and address some of the factors
that allow mental illness to thrive. While many sufferers are genetically predisposed to mental illness or suffer from low levels of serotonin, we also exist within a society that allows mental illness to go unchecked. We talk a lot about self-care, about the importance of sharing our struggles with others, but at a systemic level we do little to support or nourish mental health. It is still difficult for those without private health insurance to receive high quality psychological care.
We also do little to address the social inequities that produce and exacerbate certain mental illness. Workplaces advocate mindfulness amongst their staff, but this does little to help young people who are faced with an increasingly inhospitable economy, a lacklustre job market and an exploitative gig economy. I don’t have solutions to these problems, but I do know that while talking is good, it isn’t always enough.
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Photography by Holly Buckley
Mental Health has become a major keystone in international health discourse over the past twenty years, with stigma reducing and openness be...
Published on Jan 29, 2021
Mental Health has become a major keystone in international health discourse over the past twenty years, with stigma reducing and openness be...