Thursday 17 October 2019

Aleppo deaths spark empathy but can we do more to help others?

Rescue workers at the site of air strikes in eastern Aleppo.
Rescue workers at the site of air strikes in eastern Aleppo.

SOMETIMES you just have to take a deep breath and appreciate how lucky you are.

Caught up in a whirlwind of to do lists, deadlines, parental duties and let's be frank, entertainments, life can seem overwhelming and unreal even.

With the horrific events in Aleppo continuing unabated, as Syrian leaders live lives of luxury around the world while children are being killed, we have become distant bystanders to what is the Holocaust of our times.

I, for one, have not given the crisis in Aleppo enough attention. Former New Mexican Governor Gary Johnson cetainly hasn't as he recently admitted he had never even heard of the place.

With all of the information available to us today, literally at our fingertips, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and not in a good way.

The reaction can be to switch off and look away.

Lately, through some stories I have been working on and through speaking with a friend who is going through a personal crisis, I have become more aware of other people's struggles and as a result more empathetic. I am blessed with two healthy children who I get to see every day, from 7 a.m. when they slalom into my room half asleep, through to breakfast and in the evening time when I and The Good Woman tuck them into bed. Along the way I get to enjoy time with work colleagues and I get to speak to hundreds of people every month about their stories, big and small.

The highlight of my day is invariably a comment from my daughter or son, from a deflated: 'Ah no, we've excited all the funness out of us,' while traversing the twisting and bumpy byways of County Wexford recently Dukes of Hazard style with cousins in the back seat, to hearing my son rattle off his itinerary for the afternoon, which usually goes something like: 'fangwich, jellies, swings, slides, cousin's house, grannies,' presaged by a 'stop talking Daddy!'

Life is wonderful, but not for everyone is what I'm trying to say.

All around us there are people going through a lot. A friend of mine is currently in a situation where he doesn't get to see his children. He wakes up every morning desperate to see them but because the courts are involved and he may be facing jail, he cannot and worse still he doesn't know when he will get to see them again.

He is barely able to sleep an hour a night with stress and is crippled with debt. On very strong medication he cannot get a grip on his life, lumbering from day to day, hoping that everything will turn out okay.

He has heard advice from counsellors, family and friends and still he finds himself in trouble with the law. His self esteem is shattered and he feels isolated and alone all of the time.

Behind it all he is angry, angry at other people, but also angry at himself.

We all know people who are going through different problems and it is widely known that mental health disorders affect up to one in four of us at some stage during our lives.

Whether it is taking some time out to have a chat with them, calmly and supportively, or meeting them for a coffee, it means a lot. Sometimes people get stressed out and keep making bad decisions, always looking back. It becomes a vicious circle and it all comes back to one mistake, one mis-step, call it what you will. I've learned lately to take more time to think about other people as we're all in this together.

Wexford People