Top 5 Life Hacks for Students

The stresses of daily life are hard to bear sometimes, particularly if you have an assignment coming up, but frustration can reach new levels when it comes to the tiny annoyances that should be simple but aren’t. Here is a list of life hacks that can make your day easier:

1. How many times have you opened the microwave to be greeted with a spaghetti-crusted mess courtesy of the last person who used it? I’m sure it’s happened at least once, but if not, then the following advice will prepare you if (or when) it happens in the future. Stick a bowl of water in the dirty microwave for 3 minutes; this will cause steam to loosen up the particles and make cleaning much easier.

2. Laptops heating up is a bit of a pain in the ass (or in the lap), especially when you’re cosy in bed and don’t want to have to move during your Netflix marathon. Cooling units that strap on to the bottom of your laptop are relatively cheap, but if you don’t feel like splashing out on one there is a cheaper solution! Buying things in bulk is a smart idea for a cash-strapped student, so next time you’re at Tesco for the weekly shop, pick up a 24 pack of eggs. Spend the day making pancakes/ omelettes, eating the yolks Rocky-style and then place the empty egg pack under your laptop for a makeshift cooler. Simple!

3. There’s no disappointment quite like being told it’s your turn to bring the bins out. I don’t know about you, but random smelly juices have dripped on my shoes one too many times!  A great way to absorb food juices and act as a barrier is if you stick an old newspaper at the bottom of a new bag before anybody in your flat has a chance to throw rubbish away.

4. Trying to fill the kettle but there’s a sink full of dishes in the way? Get a dust pan, stick it under the water at the spade end and fill it that way. Alternatively, you could invest in a small plastic jug and use that to fill the kettle whenever you face obstructions. Anything for that cuppa!

5. There’s been many times when even the five alarms I set the night before can’t get me out of bed. Sometimes you just don’t hear it when you’re in the warm embrace of sleep! An easy way to amplify the sound of your alarm is to stick your phone in a glass and put it by your bed.

What are your best life hacks? Post them below!

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How To Know If You’re In The Friend Zone

From the wise words of Ryan Reynolds in that film nobody remembers the name of, you are in the friend zone “when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.”

It seems a bit harsh, but then again most true things are. Some guys are in the friend zone and don’t even know it, desperately clinging to the hope that he and that girl he’s had a crush on since forever will become an item.

To all those guys out there who don’t know whether they’re in the friend zone or not, there are a few signs to help you have that eye-opening moment when you realise. 

Photo captured by  epSos .de [Flickr]

Photo captured by epSos .de [Flickr]

1) You’re always told what a great boyfriend you’d be, for SOME LUCKY GIRL

This is the classic line. She could spend ages reassuring you that you’re the best guy she knows, that you’re a great listener and how attractive you are, but if you hint at a relationship between the two of you and she recoils in horror, it’s pretty obvious that you’re perfect, just not for her.

Photo captured by Mary-Frances Main [Flickr]

Photo captured by Mary-Frances Main [Flickr]

2) You participate in girly activities with her just to make her happy

I’m talking about things like letting her paint your nails, make pot pourri and gossip about what so-and-so did behind the bins with whomever. If you’re the kind of guy that likes that stuff then that’s fine, but if you’re not and you’re putting yourself through it just so she’s around you, then you have a bit of a problem.

Photo captured by Vic [Flickr]

Photo captured by Vic [Flickr]

3) She ignores you when you bluntly tell her your feelings

You could spontaneously go to her house with 12 dozen generic roses to surprise her or pull the moon with a lasso so that it sits just outside her window and it won’t matter. This girl will respond with “Oh who’s your friend?” if you dare to say, “I know someone that likes you…” You either get rejected by telling her your feelings, or you keep them hidden long enough to see yourself enter the friend zone.  

Photo captured by Holly Williams [Flickr]

Photo captured by Holly Williams [Flickr]

4) She says things like, “I love you like a brother”

Unless she’s into incest, you’re not going to have any luck with that one. If you don’t get that she isn’t into you after a line like that, then you need to allow a merciful friend of yours to slap some sense into you.

Photo captured by Magi Edos [Flickr]

Photo captured by Magi Edos [Flickr]

5) She talks about guys with you, and she is not doing it to make you jealous

By doing this, she is sending a clear message that she is interested in other men. The trouble is, you could be a great listener and you actively try to hear what she is saying in a bid to be ‘in the loop’ and work out what she’s thinking. But this could just reaffirm her notion of how much of a good friend you are. When you make other people’s feelings more important than yours then you’re accidentally letting people know that your feelings don’t matter. This could make it seem like you don’t have a high opinion of yourself, which is the opposite of confidence. And that’s just not sexy.

Photo captured by melabird [Flickr]

Photo captured by melabird [Flickr]

6) There’s no sexual tension

This is the crucial deal breaker. No matter how much you may look ideal on paper or how much you are crazy for her, if both of you don’t have chemistry then it’s never going to work. You should realise this now before getting so deep into the friend zone that you think something is wrong with you for not being accepted by her. Chances are there isn’t anything wrong with you (I’m going out on a limb with that!), it’s just that you’re not compatible and the sooner you accept that, the happier you will be.

Mental Health: Who doctors the Doctor?

In our fast paced society, with the tolls and troubles of work (or the lack of it) it is no wonder people experience depression in their life. According to Aware, an organisation that assists those directly affected by mental illness, it is estimated that at any one time 280,000 people in Ireland suffer from depression. Judging by this information, anti-depressants could become an ever more common thing to see in medicine cabinets.

What is mental health anyway? How do we define it? The HSE states that mental health describes how we think and feel about ourselves and others and how we interpret events and activities in everyday life. It relates to our ability to deal with change, important events and the stresses of life. It refers to the emotional resilience to be able to enjoy life and the ability to survive through adversary. It covers pain, disappointment, sadness and it involves the level of belief in your own and others’ worth.

There are many helpful websites for those seeking treatment for mental health issues and in most cases they are effective for those that are brave enough to begin to tackle the problem. However, there is a group of people in our lives who we visit yearly, people who we wouldn’t think twice about and those who, for some reason, are viewed to be in perfect health just because of their profession. This group of people are doctors.

For many doctors, there are some who take the dangerous route of self-diagnosis. The majority of those with depression either don’t recognise the symptoms to figure out what they have, or they don’t want to accept it.

Medical Independent writer Dr. Anthony O’Connor has said, “It’s really important to talk about mental health in general, but because of the culture of innocence, if you’re a doctor then you’re seen as a healer and you don’t want to be seen as weak.”

Junior hospital doctors, otherwise known as NCHDs, have claimed they are working under such pressure that it is affecting the quality of care for their patients. These professionals say they could have shifts as long as 36 hours and they sometimes work 71 hours a week or more.

Dr. O’Connor taught two undergraduate medical students who subsequently ended their lives. He said, “Suicide is rarely down to just one thing so I can’t say for definite what their reasons were. What I can say is that junior doctors in particular are not known for having good mental health. There are barriers to getting help for them as they could be working thirteen hours a day and wouldn’t have the time to go and see a GP for help. So I wouldn’t say that suicide is due to any one factor or work or stress that a person doesn’t see a way out of, it can be a number of factors. However, I don’t think the way that doctors work breeds good mental health, and it’s important to acknowledge that.”

The effects of these working conditions have been logged as stress, extreme exhaustion, depression and suicide. A 2004 EU directive said that workers in the EU should work ‘no more than 48 hours per week’. However there is evidence that this is largely being ignored.

NCHD Dr Niall Kelly said, “There’s been times I was driving home, felt fairly tired and had to pull in at the side of the road and nap so I didn’t crash, and this has happened a couple of times. I could even fall asleep before I get out to the hospital car park from just working flat out shifts.”

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has a role to represent doctors in Ireland and to provide them with all relevant services. It is committed to the development of a caring, efficient and effective Health Service.

Shirley Coulter, representing the IMO said, “The key objectives of the current junior doctors campaign, a campaign borne out of NCHD’s absolute despair at the soul destroying hours they are required to work to the detriment of patient care, are to limit the maximum shift length to 24 hours, limit the weekly average to EWTD compliant 48 hours while protecting training time and the removal of NCHD-inappropriate tasks.”

Trying to research mental health among doctors with a quick Google search is quite fruitless as there is very little information on it. This was surprising as there are so many facilities and organisations that promote mental health in teenagerssingle parents and the elderly. They are also easy to find. On the contrary, the lack of information on services for doctors could make it difficult for them to find help.

Although Ireland has only recently started to notice the problem, Canada was among the first to acknowledge the constraints that stop doctors from seeking help for themselves. They set up aconfidential help service in 1987 and in 1994 Norway invested $1.3 million in programmes to improve physicians’ health and working conditions. Hopefully Ireland is not far behind.

Mental health issues have never been more recognised than they are today. In the past, citizens with these problems could be forcibly admitted to psychiatric units and were generally stigmatised by their communities as people simply didn’t understand their condition.

The Sick Doctors Scheme is accessible to all doctors from any medical discipline who may have a problem or are concerned about a substance misuse issue. The SDS provides medical assessment, appropriate referral, on-going monitoring and general support in the event of a problem being diagnosed. This is one of the few schemes of its kind that has the sole aim of helping doctors.

According to consultant psychiatrist Dr. Tony Sharkey, “I’ve seen quite a few sick doctors over my time. Doctors are harder to manage than the general population as there is a great deal of denial. A lot of the time problems arise due to the stress of not being able to deal with death. Personally, I was a clinical director for some time and the most difficult part of my job was to actually manage the doctors who became unwell, to approach my colleagues and get them to understand that they’re not coping. That was the hardest part for me.”

Doctors have to deal with a lot of very difficult issues that arise on a daily basis. These can include stress, exhaustion and the inability to accept death and all can lead to mental health problems. The EU directive has made an improvement but it may be a long time yet before it is implemented correctly, and many doctors could suffer in the process.

Doctors can be as vulnerable as the rest of us, if not more so, in their difficult jobs. They are remarkable people but they are not invincible, and it is important that this is acknowledged.

Junior doctors protesting outside Mercy Hospital in Cork:

Are you feeling depressed? Call the Samaritans, the 24 hour listening service, to talk to someone now if there’s something on your mind. Call 1850 60 90 90.

The 5 Worst Reasons to Oppose Gay Marriage

Recently Rory O’Neill, otherwise known as ‘Panti’, was on RTÉ’s ‘The Saturday Night Show’ with Brendan O’Connor where they discussed homophobia. During this interview, O’Neill stated that he believed some people in Irish media were homophobic. This led to the interview being cut from RTE’s online archive, an apology by Brendan O’Connor on behalf of RTE and a massive cash payout to the ‘victims’ of defamation to the sum of €85000.

These people included John Waters, who once stated that gay marriage was “potentially destructive of the very fabric of Irish society”, Breda O’Brien, who insists a child needs both a mother and a father and the Iona Institute, who are known for actively campaigning against gay marriage. This shameless censorship and the upcoming gay marriage referendum that is set for 2015 prompted me to write a piece on the worst reasons for opposing gay marriage that I’ve heard over the years.

This is a video of Panti giving a powerful speech about oppression and homophobia at the Abbey Theatre:

1: “Being gay is not natural”

This is one of the more ridiculous arguments I’ve heard for denying rights to gay people. Some seem to think that if gay marriage is legalised (cue John Waters) then the fabric of society is going to be destroyed and morality will become a distant afterthought of a more ‘conservative’ time. Other ‘unnatural’ things that people are happily surrounded by in their day-to-day lives include processed food, buildings, blended fabrics, deodorant, make up, shoes, indoor lighting, air conditioning, radiators and glasses to name but a few.

If gay marriage was legalised everywhere tomorrow morning, not one thing would change in the lives of people who are not gay. Perhaps they’d be outraged that it happened, they may feel that society will indeed implode, but it will not affect the running of their lives. At all. It will, however, make a massive difference in the lives of gay people who wish to join together in marriage in front of their friends and family and have that relationship recognised by law.

2: “It’ll ruin the sanctity of marriage”

Like the way divorce has? And interracial marriage has? Or perhaps we should explore Britney Spears’ meaningful 55 hour marriage to a childhood friend or Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage to Kris Humphries.

According to Newt Gingrich, “It’s pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it’s a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism.” This was said by the same Newt Gingrich who divorced his first wife after bringing it up while she was recovering from cancer surgery, divorced his second wife who was a mistress during his first marriage, and is married to his current wife, with whom he requested an open marriage. Not exactly a shining example of the ‘sanctity’ of marriage is he?

3: “Gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed because it’ll open the floodgates for gay people being able to adopt children”

By denying gay people the right to have children, you are essentially choosing ’no parents’ over ‘parents’ for a child who will otherwise never have them. Somehow I don’t think they’d remotely care if they were raised by two women or two men if they could be part of a loving home.

Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts who researches gay and lesbian parenting, found that, on average, gay parents tend to be more motivated and more committed than heterosexual parents, due to the fact that they chose to be parents. Gay people rarely become parents by accident, in comparison to an almost 50% accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals. Research shows that children of gay parents may have the advantage of open-mindedness, tolerance and role models for equality. Not only that, but gay people are likely to provide homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system, particularly older children who are harder to find homes for, minority children and children with special needs.

This brings you to a page that contains a number of links on studies that conclusively prove that there is no difference between the benefits that children with heterosexual parents receive and children with homosexual parents receive.

4: “The bible says it’s wrong”

The bible does indeed have a few verses where it insinuates that homosexuality is wrong, but using a few verses that you then exploit for the rest of your life to force your own version of morality on another person does not a good Christian make. What happened to, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”?

The fact of the matter is, you cannot allow your own religious beliefs to influence the lives of other people, and you certainly can’t use the excuse ‘because the bible says it’s wrong’. There are lots of things that the bible bans, yet many people, including good Christians, go ahead and do them anyway. These include getting tattoos, round haircuts, fortune telling, using the rhythm method as birth control, wearing blended fabrics such as polyester, getting a divorce, wearing gold and eating shellfish.

5: “Gay people can just get a civil partnership”

This is a common one for people to say, but they do not understand the differences between a civil partnership and a civil marriage, and if they do, then it is probably because they accept that one status is inferior to the other.

‘Marriage’ does not belong to religious institutions, that is why there is a difference between ‘civil marriage’ and ‘holy matrimony’. There is no reason why gay people should be excluded from a ‘civil marriage’ ceremony. It is a unique legal status recognised by governments all around the world. It brings a host of rights and protections and it is an important cultural institution.

The Irish Government enacted the Civil Partnership Act 2010, with the first ceremonies taking place in the Spring of 2011.  By the end of 2012, civil partnerships had been registered by 965 couples, and had taken place in every county in Ireland. However, a civil partnership does not permit children to have a legally recognised relationship with their parents – only the biological one. This causes many problems for hundreds of families regarding schools, hospitals, guardianship, access and custody. “Loving, committed relationships between two consenting adults should be treated equally, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Same sex couples should be allowed to share the same responsibilities, obligations and respect that marriage provides.”

The children of gay parents are in legal limbo in Ireland. Under the Civil Partnership Act, there is no provision for adoption or guardianship of children who have gay parents. There are also no provisions for custody, access, or maintenance payments for children. Also, a child’s parent may not be treated as next of kin in a hospital or school situation, because they are not recognised as a legal parent – they are effectively strangers in law.

You are of course entitled to your own opinion when it comes to whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry, even if I and many others feel that denying them this right is bigoted and unfair. However, just like people who protested the de-segregation of black and white people and campaigned against interracial marriage, you will be on the wrong side of history, because in the future gay marriage won’t be called ‘gay marriage’, it will be called ‘marriage’.

Iona Institute’s anti-gay marriage video:

Parody response to the Iona Institute’s video:

Do you support gay people marrying? Why or why not?

Hidden Men: Male Victims of Domestic Abuse

Statistics show that men are victims of domestic abuse almost as often as women, yet there is a vast difference in support services in Ireland. 

Generally when one thinks of domestic abuse, it’s likely you’ll think of a woman being abused by a man. Through the use of national campaigns and influence by the media, the idea of a woman being a victim and a man being a perpetrator is ingrained in our society. Many reject the notion of a man being abused by a woman, reacting with dismissal and amusement instead of concern. However, domestic abuse affects all types of people in Irish society, but whereas women can easily find services that will help them, it is a different story for men who are abused.   

According to a survey by the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, when both minor and severe forms of domestic abuse are considered, 29% of women and 25% of men report experiencing domestic abuse.

There is evidence to suggest that people tend to judge the seriousness of the impact of domestic abuse differently depending on the gender of the perpetrator. For example, a 2001 Australian report stated that most respondents think that the effect of domestic abuse on men is minimal. Also, in 1983 C.S. Greenblat reported that men and women in the US are more accepting of women hitting men than men hitting women. He suggests this is because people view the vulnerability and possible harm to women and men as victims and perpetrators differently.

Niamh Farrell, manager of Amen, said, “Abuse against men is a big problem which is not taken seriously. We get calls from men who have been to Gardaí or social workers and they weren’t believed; Gardaí would laugh at them and social workers told them to go home, you’d hear a lot of that but it has gotten better in the last few years.” Amen is the only support service for men suffering from domestic abuse in Ireland.  “They experience a great deal of shame, embarrassment, denial that it happened and they don’t recognise the abuse so they don’t look for help or they think that maybe they’re at fault.” In 2012 there were 1250 new individuals contacting Amen. They started doing annual reports in 2009 and from 2009 – 2012 there was a 45% increase in the overall number of calls. A 2005 survey by the National Crime Council found that 13% of women and 13% of men suffered physical abuse.

“Money brings more awareness; we do a campaign every year and at this time we always get more people contacting us. Money and education will cause the most change. If you educate people that men can and are abused, you change society’s perception so that it’s okay to look for help.” Ms Farrell believes that there is a real need for a male shelter in the country, and says, “I have no doubt that if we could set up even a one day clinic it would be full, if you get talking about it you’re going to have more people contacting the service. Even if we were given access to a small pot of money we could put men in emergency care to start off with, to tide them over.” She believes that a brand new facility isn’t going to happen soon but clearly access to money would start that process off.

Eager to find out more about the issue, I spoke to a male victim of domestic abuse who requested anonymity, so for clarity’s sake I’ll call him Bob.

“I was a much bigger build than my ex-wife,” Bob said, “So I didn’t think it could happen and other men said the same to me. You just didn’t want to believe that your wife was abusing you.”

He explains how he heard of Amen on a local radio station and how social workers had contacted him long before that about his ex-wife hitting his children.

“I think there should be more funding for campaigns highlighting the abuse,” he said, “There needs to be other groups like Amen because there’s no other groups that I’m aware of; there’s a lot of men not even aware of Amen. Someone reported my ex-wife for hitting the children and that’s the first time the social workers came. I didn’t mention anything to her but she noticed and said that if I had any problems that I should call her. She was aware of what was happening and after the abuse escalated me and my four children were removed from the family home. Amen were very helpful, very supportive. They’ve been a great help to me for years; if I had any questions I’d just ring them up and they’d help. “

There seems to be a great deal more shame and embarrassment for male victims of abuse, and some who have gone to the Gardaí or doctors about it have been laughed out the door.

Bob faced similar stigma. “I felt ashamed to tell anyone in the beginning and even when I did tell they didn’t believe me, they said things like ‘there’s two sides to every story’. They didn’t think it could happen the other way around. People think the man is hurting the woman, sure I didn’t think it could happen myself even when it was happening to me. There’s an awful lot more men out there like me and we need more support.”

Eighteen shelters exist in Ireland, yet not a single one is available to men. Although many women have been turned away from shelters in this country, it still does not change the desperate need for a shelter for men. Niamh Farrell said, “Lots of men who are being abused end up sleeping rough or at friend’s houses because there isn’t anywhere for them to go. This then lowers their dignity and self esteem even further.”

“I had to leave the family home and I had nowhere to go,” Bob continued, “Only for my mother putting me up I didn’t know where I’d have gone; I had four children with me and we had nowhere to go but my mother’s house so there is a real need for a shelter for men in this country.”

One of the campaign pictures on Cosc's website

One of the campaign pictures on Cosc’s website

Cosc is the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. The organization was established in 2007 with its main responsibility to ensure a governmental response to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.  The organisation works with state and non-state organisations to protect both genders from domestic abuse. I called up Cosc to ask about shelters for men in Ireland. The person who answered the phone, who did not give his name, did not know how many shelters there were for men, and after several minutes of being put on hold, he came to tell me that there were none. I eventually managed to get in contact with a researcher at Cosc, Philip McCormack, who said, “We are the coordinating body around policy for domestic abuse services state and non-state across Ireland. We work with funders to ensure there are services available for victims of domestic abuse. Services are available on a pro-rata basis; it’s a question of the severity of abuse. The kind of support that men and women turn to might not necessarily be the same. In Ireland we have a history of the women’s movement which began in the late 1970s so they pushed for these services and they got these services and rightly so. We haven’t seen the same in the men’s movement; we haven’t as many men coming forward to push for refuges in the way the women’s organisations have.”

 Mr McCormack explained that there is very little research on domestic violence towards men, and stresses the importance of data collection. “Many have come forward to ask why there is no refuge for men in Ireland and we don’t have an answer for that.”

Cosc organises perpetrator intervention programmes of which there are three core groups. These are broken down into groups that are court mandated, where a man has been ordered to attend, and another where men have recognised their behavior and have sought out treatment. “The programmes are free to attend, and ultimately we’re protecting women and children. There are very few domestic violence intervention programmes aimed at women because the risk to men isn’t as high. This treatment happens on a one-to-one basis.”

Mr McCormack went on to explain in overwhelming detail how women have to deal with more severe abuse. His insistence on steering the conversation back to statistics on women’s abuse suggested a reluctance to address the questions I was posing. The fact of the matter is that men are abused as well as women, and the idea that men should have to ‘lobby’ for their own funding to get a refuge when only 1 in 20 even report it compared to 1 in 3 women is quite frankly a ridiculous excuse. Clearly there is a background problem at work on a cultural level, where men who are being abused are simply too ashamed to come forward and talk about it for fear of dismissal or humiliation. A quick Google search of ‘domestic violence Ireland’ will bring up ten results; nine of which are services directed at women and the final result being a gender-neutral research paper. With such a focus on female abuse, it could make it harder for a man to come forward and speak out.

Niamh Farrell was adamant that a shelter would be beneficial to the men who call the service, yet Cosc claims that they are not approached by anyone lobbying for one, which to me seems hard to believe. I am currently still waiting on a response from Amen about this. In conclusion, there seems to be no good reason as to why there are so few services for men in Ireland. However, societal attitudes first need to be tackled before real change can occur, and until abuse against men is highlighted, few things are likely to improve in this country in regards to support services for men.

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