The medieval epic, ‘Sweeney Astray’*, is about a king who loses his reason and runs disorientated helter-skelter around Ireland and Britain. Not knowing where he is coming from or where he’s going, Sweeney is proverbially ungrounded. He believes himself to be a bird living in the trees.
Sweeney recovers his bearings, though reconnection with geography, community, and stories of place ( dindsenachas’ *)
Could this story be a useful guiding story in addressing things like the mental health epidemic Ireland, and post-colonial dislocation – Could it be the two are related? While we may be keen to disavow our colonial past as a footnote, there certainly are precedents linking this kind of cultural uprooting and disconnection with mental health issues.
Aware puts the number of people in Ireland dealing with depression at 300,000.
While there there is no one solution, conceptual metaphors in action might be useful, as long as they are see they seen as just that, images for thinking and action : Mental ill health is often described in terms of darkness and gloom. It is also sometimes described as an eclipse of meaning, a feeling of being lost, of being unable to situate oneself.
So, remembering that this is metaphor, the question is getting some light and of establishing centering points of gravity useful in illuminating our way individually and collectively.
While it’s great to get a broad sampling there’s always someone trying to convince you they’ve got the ‘important’ reference points, the right map, the right direction. My thinking on this is that every community, every individual is their own best cartographers of meaning
* Originally Buile Shuibhne (available in Seamus Heaney’s translation as Sweeney Astray)
* Dindseanchas (pronounced din.shanah.cas )natural or constructed reference points, stories and associations with specific places, the interaction of community and environment