The school setting
Adolescence is a time of significant change and a time when young people often acquire lifetime habits and attitudes (Naidoo & Wills, 2000). Schools are deemed a major setting for developing supportive environments conducive to the promotion of health (Tones and Green, 2006).
Clarke and Barry (2010) have shown that programmes which adopt a whole-school approach are particularly likely to lead to positive mental health, social and educational outcomes. Mental Health Ireland has been working with schools since the inception of the National Public Speaking Project in 1981. In 2013, 1,431 students participated in the Art and Photographic Projects from 83 post primary schools. Area Development Officers regularly deliver mental health promotion initiatives in schools and engaged 1,678 students in Mental Health Matters, 540 students in Exam Stress sessions and 644 in Peer Pressure sessions from January 2013-March 2014.
Training in Mental Health Matters, originally developed in consultation with the Transition Year Curriculum Support Services, is delivered to teachers, both nationally and locally and continues to be used by the Department of Education and Skills as a resource. Mental Health Ireland is currently reviewing and updating Mental Health Matters.
Mayo Mental Health Association brought together the school and sports settings in delivering an Easter Camp 2014, for U16 hurlers and footballers in partnership with the GAA. Building on a series of ‘Mental Health Promotion’ weeks delivered by the Area Development Officer in schools across the county, 90 young sportsmen and 13 coaches participated in a three day sports camp where their mental and physical health was addressed and discussed while their sporting skills were also honed and enhanced. The health and wellbeing themes included mental health, diabetes and substance misuse.
Mental Health Ireland will continue to engage with the school setting in the promotion of positive mental health and to develop new age appropriate initiatives.