Carina draws from experience to write about mental illness

Carina McEvoy from Gorey was not yet 17 when her depression and anxiety disorder began. The outburst of tears on the way to school soon developed into a dangerous addiction of self-inflicted pain.

Now a successful novelist and tutor, and happily married with two girls, Carina has spent years battling the depression, anxiety, social phobia and obsessive compulsive disorder that controlled her life since her late teens. Throughout the years, Carina has learned about her condition and fought back with writing, talk therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy and hypnotherapy.

‘My background is in secondary school education teaching geography and business in Dublin,’ said Carina. ‘I took a career break when my second child was born and resigned after the five years so I could stay home and care for them myself.’

Carina also has a Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy from the Institute of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy Ireland, a practitioners Certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and will have one in Neuro Linguistic Programming in two weeks times.

‘During the career break I wrote a women’s fictional novel entitled “To have, Not Hold”,’ said Carina. ‘I love writing and it has always been one of the ways I seem to be able to manage my own anxiety. Writing is a great therapy.’

Carina, who has two new books on the way later this month as well as a series of workshops for parents, has always had an interest in adolescent mental health which led her to be a teacher. However, she also developed an interest in children’s mental health well being in particular children’s anxiety when her own were born. She came to realise how prevalent it is.

‘I suffered with mental health issues as a teenager myself and my eldest daughter had quite bad anxiety,’ said Carina. ‘With the techniques and knowledge I have gained throughout my own experiences of poor mental health and through my studies, I managed to help my daughter Anna overcome her anxiety.’

Children’s mental health is becoming an increasing problem in this country, according to Carina. Within the past five years alone, Children and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS) has received a 50 per cent increase in referrals.

‘CAMHS is over stretched in terms of staff and resources,’ said Carina. ‘They are struggling to cope with the volume of children on their waiting lists, which received bad publicity of late.’

The fact Carina has heard of some parents waiting up to two years for an appointment and GPs having no other choice but to refer mental health issues for children to CAMHS because they are not trained to deal with mental health issues, has encouraged her to write children’s books and hold courses for parents.

‘I decided to write the children’s books and courses simply due to the amount of children I have heard of that are suffering from this epidemic,’ said Carina. ‘I feel there is no resources available for them and nothing seems to be coming down to these children.’

Carina believes the low level anxiety is manageable and also believes that if tackled now it will prevent any further serious mental health issues in the future.

‘If we are, as a country, not equipped to deal with issues now what will we be like in 10 or 20 years time?,’ added Carina.

Of the mental health issues among children, anxiety seems to be the major issue. Carina witnessed this as a secondary school teacher and then when she had her own children. ‘I could see anxiety was an issue beginning in children as early as four years,’ she added.

She fully believes from her studies and research that anxiety is a manageable issue and with some knowledge and low-level intervention it can be prevented from becoming a more serious complex mental health issue.

Mental Health Ireland reported that 80 per cent of adults who suffer with mental health issues today said they suffered with anxiety as a child.

‘That statistic alone should make us want to tackle the issue of children’s anxiety,’ said Carina. ‘Anxiety is part of life, it is a biologically pre-determined emotion that actually keeps us safe.

‘It is that over-protectiveness part of anxiety that we want to be able to manage. And it is something that can be controlled in a healthy and positive way.’

At the end of the month, Carina will be launching two books around the issue of anxiety in Gorey Library, on Tuesday, September 25, at 7 p.m.

The children’s anxiety books are entitled ‘Sometimes I worry…how about you?’ and the sister support book for adults ‘Sometimes my child worries…what do I do?’.

Plus, she will also be tutoring two separate adult courses in Gorey Adult Education Centre, beginning on Monday, September 24, at 7 p.m., and will run five-weeks and six-weeks consecutively. The first course is ‘An Introduction to Understanding Child Development and Children’s Anxiety’, and the second is an ‘Advanced Course to Understanding and Managing Children’s Anxiety’.

Both the courses and the books contain innovative and pro-active material based around cognitive behavioural therapy, neuro linguistic programming, mindfulness, mantra use and diaphragmatic breathing.

Carina said: ‘It is my vision that these aides and resources can be used by the parent and guardian in the home as pre-emptive way to dealing with children’s anxiety before it reaches a level where professional psychological help is needed.’

‘Going forward I think this could be a real game changer in aiding our young children develop and maintain a good foundation for mental well being,’ said William Arrigan, who is a tutor of child psychology and social care.

Minister Michael D’Arcy praised Carina on her next venture and said it is a very positive sign to see such an aide made available to parents and guardian who can work with their child in their own home.

Places on the courses are limited so booking is advised. Contact Gorey Adult Education Centre on 053 94 21791 to enrol.

‘I would love to campaign to the Government to put something in place in primary education to make sure children’s mental well being is being cared for,’ said Carina. ‘I suppose the course and books are a way the parent, guardian or even a teacher has some aides available to them as how to approach children’s anxiety. I am by no means saying they are a solution, they are an aide only but it has to be a start.’

Gorey Guardian