Written by Mairead Loughran-Ryan

To be yourself is to embrace and express one’s individuality from your flaws to your strengths. However, within our modern day it seems that this concept of ‘self’ has become overshadowed by external influences. The journey of finding one’s self can be tough, especially with onset of other things such as social pressure and barriers. Instead people return to this comfort zone which is the tendency to not express one’s self but to imitate what is deemed socially acceptable. As those who have come through this journey, it is our duty to guide those still battling it, as it can be a confusing path. At times you may fall, excel or simply just be coping therefore there is a need to let others know that they are not alone.

Regarding poverty and its interlinking with mental health we must take a step into the realities. Poverty as a word is abstract, one we associate with a stigma of inferiority. However, this is not the case as this is the concealed reality of many people in the NI. Up to 17% live in relative poverty; In 2013 the BBC news found that up to 43% of children living in West Belfast lived in poverty. This a staggering number which on the face of it, does not reveal the hardships faced by those within its statistic. As a member of the West Belfast community I myself have witnessed the stress both children and adults feel to reach the desired level of societal expectations in regards to the latest brands, gadget’s etc. I have witnessed the sacrifice entailed by parents to have the ability to offer their children their needs and wants.

However, this comes at a price, as the increase in social pressure only increases the demand to reach it. Poverty is still an issue that is concealed behind the faces not only of the adverts but behind many individuals within Northern Ireland.

However, although poverty would be a disadvantaging prospect to endure this has not stopped the success of many. The school which I attend is placed 1st in Northern Ireland although it is located within a deprived area, defeating the odds.  Through this achievement poverty has been overpowered by our ability to defeat its ‘stereotype.’ We do not need to settle for a life where we will always want more. It is possible to achieve what we want without being held back by constraints. We must battle the stigma, so we become comfortable with tackling the problem. Poverty is not only what we view on the television it may be your neighbour, your best friend or your pupil. It is not confined but widespread, we need to act and stop allowing it to still exist as a barrier, to our personal growth and opportunities.

NICCY's Child Poverty Campaign

The government can begin to eradicate child poverty. Join NICCY to tell your local decision-makers that they must make this a priority - find out more here.