250 teenage mental health workshops for post–primary teachers launched

September 20th 2013

Thursday September 19th 2013: Minister Ciarán Cannon, T.D., will officially launch a national initiative which involves post–primary school teachers nationwide in an awareness raising programme on the issue of teenage mental health.  Funded by One Foundation, this awareness initiative is facilitated and managed by the Association of Teachers’/ Education Centres in Ireland (ATECI) and supported by Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental HealthSPHE,   NEPS and HSE Health Promotion. Speaking about the launch, Dr. Eileen O’Connor, Chairperson, ATECI and Director, Drumcondra Education Centre said “The ATECI, comprising 30 Education Centres nationally, is delighted to work with Headstrong in the design, development and delivery of this timely and significant programme. This initiative will support all of our post-primary schools in the development of a whole-school approach to promoting positive mental health as outlined in the recent Department of Education and Skills (DES) publication ‘Well–being in Post-Primary Schools’”. Dr Gillian O’Brien, Director of Education and Training with Headstrong led out on the development of content for the Mental Health Awareness Initiative. In welcoming this nationwide programme she commented: “mental health is everyone’s business and these workshops give post-primary teachers practical tips and strategies they can use within the classroom to promote the well-being of their students. The whole process of developing and refining this programme was a genuine partnership.” Dr. O’Connor further commented: ‘In what can be described as a truly collaborative approach, Headstrong and the SPHE Support Service, in conjunction with National Educational Psychology Service (NEPS) and HSE Health Promotion have worked with the ATECI on the development of the content and delivery of the training of the ‘lead facilitators’which is currently being delivered in three Education Centre venues: Drumcondra, Portlaoise and Carrick-on-Shannon’. The initiative will be delivered using a ‘train the trainer’ cascade model. Initially each Education Centre recruited three teachers in the period May-July 2013 to up-skill as ‘lead facilitators’. Two days training and a one-day review is now being provided for those chosen. These newly trained lead facilitators will then promote and deliver an awarenessprogramme in out-of-school time for post-primary teachers (Mental Health Promoters) at their local Education Centre through a series of workshops (two sessions of three hours each) to be delivered during the remainder of 2013/early 2014. Both the Lead Facilitators and Mental Health Promoters are teachers or guidance counsellors who have been selected on the basis of their interest in and responsibility for mental health in their schools. The teachers were nominated based on prior training and evidence of a previous leadership role in student mental health and wellbeing. The cascade model adopted by the initiative allows for the transfer of information from the MHAI developers to Lead Facilitators to Mental Health Promoters and finally to Whole School Staffs. Dr Gillian O’Brien added that Headstrong’s ‘My World Survey’ research highlights how the presence of One Good Adult is a key protective factor in the mental health of young people: “Outside of family, teachers play a really important role in young people’s lives and this initiative equips teachers with a deeper understanding and know-how of appropriate support for their students’ mental health.” Dr. Tony Bates, Founding Director of Headstrong, said “we really welcome this historic collaboration between ATECI, SPHE, NEPS and HSE. If we are to effect any meaningful change in the mental health of secondary school students we have to collaborate and find creative ways to reach young people.”