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Becoming a part of the Jigsaw Offaly YAP

May 22nd 2018

Becoming a part of the Jigsaw Offaly YAP

I had just turned 16 when I first became part of the Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) for Jigsaw Offaly, it’s hard to believe that was over 3 years ago. Angela and a past member of the YAP delivered a talk to us transition years in school one day about Jigsaw Offaly and their services. They went on to tell us about the YAP, a panel for young volunteers aged 16-25, their role was to bridge the gap between the youth community in Offaly, and Jigsaw.

I felt apprehensive about signing up, despite my innate passion for the issues surrounding young people and their mental health. None of my circle of friends seemed interested and it appeared easier to go with the crowd and not bother. However, I decided to give it a go, what had I to lose? Absolutely nothing it turned out. In fact, I have gained so much from my experience as a YAP member, and I have never once looked back. 

I’ll never forget the butterflies in my stomach prior to my initial interview. This was a one on one interview with Angela just after I signed up for the YAP, and seeing as my only experience of interviews were those for a job, I was incredibly nervous. Mind you, my nerves were quickly settled when Angela warmly welcomed me into the kitchen, offered me a cup of tea and biscuit. It was more like a chat than an interview, and what I loved most about it was being asked what I thought about mental health and the stigma that surrounds it amongst young people. It was so unlike school, where I sat at a desk all day, taking down notes and listening to a teacher speak to a class of 30+ people. Here, I was an individual, and it was my own personal suggestions and opinions that were being considered, nothing I could have learned in the school yard. I left that day feeling inspired and motivated to strive to make a difference.

Every 4 weeks or so, the YAP meet in Jigsaw Offaly to discuss how they feel Jigsaw can maintain and improve its current services, in keeping with the ever-changing youth population. These meetings are always informal, and provide people with an opportunity to express their opinions as well as a place where we can chill out and catch up with our friends. These meetings would often include yummy pizza and treats for us to eat while we get down to business! 

One of the best things about the YAP is that it can appeal to anyone, regardless of their backgrounds, interests and hobbies. From sports events like Giro D’Jigsaw to mother-baby coffee mornings, there was something for everyone in the YAP to take part in. For me, my passion lies in creative writing, and when I was given the opportunity to write a monologue surrounding men’s mental health and mental illness, it was beyond my wildest dreams. I was terrified of course, given that this piece was going to be performed in front of an audience of young people just like me in both Birr and Portlaoise, alongside other fantastic monologues written by well-known amateur Irish writers. However, the emotions running through me as I saw my paper draft transformed into a stage production, those I will never forget for as long as I’ll live. 

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the YAP over the last 3 years. I have grown in confidence and gained some amazing new friends and I cannot thank Jigsaw enough for giving me the opportunity to play an active role in my local community in trying to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health.  

Written by Aly Scanlon
Aly is from Tullamore and was on our YAP from 2015 - 2017.
She is now 19 and now studying Occupational Therapy at Trinity College, past pupil of Sacred Heart Girls School Tullamore