A national mental health “gathering” for second level students, to include music and other events, is to be held as a celebration of positive mental health, on foot of a recommendation from the 2013 Dáil na nÓg.
Some 200 young people from across the State gathered in Dublin’s Croke Park today to discuss youth mental health as the most pressing issue for them.
Delegates to Dáil na nÓg are voted on by their local Comhairle na nÓg, which are youth councils around the State. There are 34 Comhairle na nÓg, one in each local authority area. They operate under the auspices of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and are designed to give people aged 12 to 17 a voice on the services, policies and issues that affect them.
The recommendation that there be a mental health gathering will now be followed up by the Comhairle na nOg national executive, working with the relevant Government departments. A Dáil na nÓg spokesmwoman said what exactly the “gathering” would be worked out by the young people on the Comhairle, supported by the relevant agencies.
Among those at the event was Felicity Heavin (17) from Co Westmeath, who spoke abourt the importance of friendships and extracurricular activities in protecting one’s mental well-being.
Conn McCarrick (18) from Dublin, spoke about the importance of guidance counsellors in schools for people to confide in when they were experiencing stress.
“We’d really ask the Government to hear us when we say guidance counsellors play a very important role in young people’s mental health.”
Other issues under discussion included Leaving Cert reform, exam pressure, bullying, cyber bullying, peer pressure, sex education and drug and alcohol abuse.
Some 20 recommendations were put forward, discussed and voted on. The fact that the holding of a national “gathering” on mental health came out on top could be seen as a decision to focus on the positive, according to the spokeswoman.
“It’s a really interesting, innovative recommendation, to help build confidence and self esteem in young people,” she said.
This article first appeared on ‘Irish Times’ on 15 November 2013.