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O’Dowd supports positive mental health in schools

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, tonight participated in a discussion panel with representatives from the Children’s Law Centre at the MAC Theatre in Belfast.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Earlier in the evening, Minister O’Dowd watched a drama called ‘Opening Doors’ which highlighted the increasing numbers of young people experiencing poor mental health, depression and self-harm. Following the performance, the Minister engaged in a discussion on the issues raised by the drama with a view to informing future cross-departmental policies and plans for sustaining and developing essential mental health support systems for young people in schools.

Speaking following the visit, the Minister said: “I welcome the opportunity to be here tonight and meet with representatives of the Children’s Law Centre. The emotional health and wellbeing of our young people in schools is of huge importance. Since 2007 my Department has funded an independent counselling service for post-primary pupils which provides professional help and support to young people in our schools who are experiencing stress or emotional problems. Counselling can assist such people during difficult and vulnerable periods in their lives and can help address the barriers to learning, improving educational outcomes of all our pupils.”

In addition to the professional counselling service, the Department has also produced a series of posters, leaflets and diary inserts under the theme ‘i-Matter’. These resources are aimed at helping pupils deal with a variety of issues such as alcohol and bullying.

Continuing, the Minister said: “There are many different kinds of problems faced by the youth of today which can have an impact on their mental health. Bullying, for example, is damaging to individuals, their mental health and to their education. That is why my Department provides funding to support the Anti-Bullying Forum, which helps schools and organisations working with young people to prevent and deal with bullying behaviours.”

In conclusion, the Minister encouraged young people who are experiencing poor mental health to seek help. He said: “I understand there may be barriers to young people accessing mental health services and I am keen to remove those obstacles. The Counselling Service and other resources are there to help and I encourage young people to speak to a friend, family member or a teacher and seek the help they need.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Youth@clc is a youth advisory group based within the Children’s Law Centre that informs the work of the centre on an ongoing basis. They are a group of young people aged from 14-21 who meet once per fortnight to discuss current children’s rights issues which impact on the lives of young people.
  2. The Department of Education has launched a new ‘Education Works’ advertising campaign. The campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. Watch out for the ads on television, radio and outdoor locations. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect website for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
  3. View photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
  4. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.