Young people have their say on mental health
Young people from all over County Wexford gathered with local authority, youth service and education officials at the Comhairle na nÓg annual general meeting to talk about mental health.
The meeting held in the County Council chamber in Carricklawn was attended by officials from Wexford County Council, representatives of the Ferns Diocesan Youth Service, the Waterford Wexford Education and Training Board and the HSE.
Teenagers and teams of youth workers discussed relevant issues, with an emphasis on the mental health needs of the younger population.
Over 100 young people from diverse backgrounds, schools and youth projects spoke passionately about their experience of growing up in County Wexford.
The theme of this year's Comhairle na nÓg AGM was suicide and self-harm prevention which was selected as a working topic at last year's annual meeting of the statutory youth council.
One of the issues identified by Comhairle members was a lack of after-hours supports for teenagers experiencing mental health difficulties when schools close for the weekend.
In response, the Ferns Diocesan Youth Service (FDYS) set up Tea and Talk, a safe, supportive space for young people which is open every Saturday from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at Enniscorthy and Gorey FDYS, with a view to extending it further around the county.
Comprehensive information was presented to delegates on the range of mental health support services that exist for young people around the county, where they can seek help and advice.
A number of young people talked about the sense of belonging that they get from being involved in Comhairle na nÓg and youth groups and services.
FDYS Comhairle na nÓg coordinator Paula Kelly commended the young delegates on their valuable input into the AGM and stressed the importance of giving a direct voice to the youth of the county.
Artwork entries in a calendar competition inspired by a Comhairle na nÓg mental health hashtag campaign and based on the days of the week - Mindfulness Monday, Tranquil Tuesday, Well-being Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, Feel Good Friday, Social Saturday and Self-Care Sunday - were displayed at the Comhairle AGM and 12 pieces were selected in a voting process for a 2020 calendar that will be published before Christmas with the help of funding from the Suicide Prevention Office of the HSE.
Leanne Ryan Culleton of the Suicide Prevention Office was a guest speaker at the AGM. Ms Kelly thanked the Suicide Prevention Office for its support and also Kieran Donohoe of the FDYS for enabling the Tea and Talk project. It is hoped that the findings of the AGM will be used in the planning of activities and policies affecting the lives of the younger population of the county.