It is a sad reflection on how mental health is perceived by the general population of Ireland when a man wearing a plastic bag on his head has a greater impact in engaging with students than the senators speaking on the issue in the Dail. On Thursday, March 23, Trinity welcomed Dave Chambers, otherwise known as Blindboy Boatclub of the Rubberbandits, to the MacNeil Theatre for a masterclass workshop on creativity wellness and mental health as part of the ongoing Mental Health Weel. For just three euro, students could avail of a unique opportunity to partake in a discussion with the Irish comedy rapper responsible for modern classics such as ‘Horse Outside’, ‘I Wanna Fight Your Father’ and ‘Spastic Hawk’.
Do not let music genre or unusual outward appearance of Blindboy fool you. He proves to be one of the most eloquent speakers on the matter of mental health Ireland has seen for quite some time. For a comedian known for his “gas cuntism”, Blindboy shed light onto another side of himself as he encouraged the many 250 audience members to show true emotion when discussing mental health, whether it be through anger, tears or humour.
Making the astute observation that this subject matter in particular is often shrouded in solemnity, Blindboy spoke of how we feel we must be completely serious when speaking about mental health. To him, this makes things worse. The pressure to conform to the societal norm of how one must act is exactly what makes the varying issues surrounding mental health even worse for those who are confused with what is going on.
The speaker certainly went against this notion as he sent the audience into rapturous laughter with his hilarious tale of becoming so induced by meditation that he experienced a “cosmic calm” by a riverbed, which in turn induced a feeling enormous empathy for a nearby nettle: “You wouldn’t need any fuckin’ yokes lads! Imagine describing yourself to a Garda – they wouldn’t know what the fuck to do with ya!”.
He went on to make apt use of a tennis metaphor to describe how we struggle to deal with contrasting emotions: ‘’I’m after getting myself emotionally bombarded by balls and I have no idea what the difference is between the red and the yellow fucker!’’ A figure that was once a product of radio pranks and bizarre Irish Hip-Hop clearly has a firm grasp on an issue we have continuously shied away from, but Blindboy’s clever metaphors and relatable quips proved he had much to share with the audience of students listening so intently to his talk.
Blindboy offered further mechanisms to cope with mental health difficulties, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which is made available by Trinity’s Student Counselling Service. He discussed how he himself used therapy alongside meditation app Headspace as tools to cope with the intense depression, anxiety, and anger he suffered throughout his late teens. He told of how awful he felt when at his worst, not being able to sit comfortably in public spaces in fear of ‘’throwing up [his] ring’’. Not only is Blindboy a living example of how one can overcome problems such as anxiety and depression, but what was particularly inspiring the impact of being in an environment where, despite the raw honesty on show, the entire cohort were smiling and laughing throughout.
In keeping with the aims of Trinity Mental Health Week, Blindboy’s presentation is another small step in encouraging Ireland to realise that it is okay not to be okay. In his conclusion, Blindboy offered us all a hopeful solution to the mental health epidemic we are undergoing: “We’ve got a collective sense of low self-esteem that we got from 800 years of oppression. We found ourselves using drink to medicate that. We can get rid of that in two generations if we are teaching, from the age of 3 years, emotional intelligence and CBT’’.
All proceeds of this event went towards the Student Counselling Service.