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The All Party Group on Mental Health met this week to hear the seventh oral evidence session of its inquiry into mental health education and early intervention in schools. Theo Burton, Policy & Research Manager from mental health charity Pure Mental, and Martin Kelly, Senior Youth Worker with Northern Ireland Youth Forum, presented the members with evidence gathered from their organisations’ experience of working with young people in the community and schools.
Several themes emerged from the evidence of both participants, most interestingly the feedback from young people engaged with Northern Ireland Youth Forum’s ‘Elephant Coming Out of the Dark’ project demonstrated the comprehensive level of understanding that already exists amongst young people in Northern Ireland when it comes to gaps in the provision of mental health services and the impact any further delay in progressing the ten-year mental health strategy will have on them and other children.
Northern Ireland Youth Forum
Martin Kelly presented members with young people's experiences of dealing with mental health problems and the barriers they faced when seeking support. Martin reported that the young people engaging with their services feel ‘empty promises and lip service’ are paid to their concerns regarding the lack of early intervention, prevention, and mental health provision in schools.
Martin explained that young people wish to contribute to the improvement of mental health provision in schools and suggested to members of the All Party Group where improvements could be made. The Northern Ireland Youth Forum argued that mental health education should have the same status as physical education, that efforts should be made to give every teacher the opportunity to up-skill on a mental health awareness course, and that a counselling workforce should be embedded in our schools.
Theo Burton of Pure Mental provided members with several concrete asks that echoed the sentiments and concerns of the young people from the Northern Ireland Youth Forum. Pure Mental put the case to members that research into training teachers in mental health first aid should begin now, and that the primary school counselling service should be reintroduced. Theo pointed out to members that rarely is Northern Ireland leading in the provision of mental health yet following the introduction of the primary school counselling service in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland initiated its own pilot scheme.
MindWise extends its thanks to Martin, Theo, and the young people from the Elephant Coming Out of the Dark project for their time, expertise, and insight. Thanks also to each member for their attendance.
The next All Party Group on Mental Health meeting will hear evidence from
Paul Gilligan – CEO at Dublin-based St Patrick’s Mental Health Services.
Elisa Poskiparta – Senior advisor, Department of Teacher Education at the University of Turku in Finland (TBC)
Jason Pollard - Chair, Strategic Reference Group on a Whole School Approach to Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing at Welsh Government
The session will be held virtually via Zoom on 04 Oct 2023 at 12:30pm If you'd like to attend please contact us at: email@example.com