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Schools counselling has huge impact on young people’s mental health – O’Dowd

Counselling in school can have a significant positive impact on young people’s mental wellbeing.
Wednesday, 26 June 2013

That was the message from Education Minister, John O’Dowd, as he launched a report by Children’s Law Centre advisory group youth@clc into young people’s views on counselling in schools.

Speaking during a launch event in Parliament Buildings, the Minister said: “Professional counselling can be a massive support to a young person in distress. I have received many comments to this effect from pupils and staff during school visits and I know there is research available to back up this view too. This new report from youth@clc provides further evidence from those who are directly affected by school counselling – the young people themselves – and I welcome the opportunity to launch it.

“We as educationalists all face the challenge of encouraging young people to firstly recognise when they have a problem and, secondly, to seek help. There can be a stigma attached to seeking such help but I hope that the work of youth@clc, including this report, is helping to reduce any such concerns among young people. The key message to young people is that there is no shame in asking for help and that no one has to face their problems alone.

“I was struck, too, by the live performance of ‘Opening Doors’ that I attended recently at the MAC. This profound and affecting play staged by youth@clc is, I hope, helping change the attitudes of young people towards mental health.

“Over 900 counselling sessions are already provided every week by the Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS). Although from one point of view this is indicative of a worrying level of distress among pupils here, I am encouraged at the uptake of the help that is available, which serves to further underline the importance of what the ICSS does.”

The Minister continued: “The youth@clc report makes six key recommendations and I plan to give them all consideration when shaping the future delivery of counselling in schools here. I commend everyone at youth@clc for the hard work and expertise they have put into compiling the report and thank them for this opportunity to launch the report’s findings.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Children’s Law Centre (CLC) works to promote the rights of children. It is the only local children’s legal charity. CLC provides free legal information, advice and representation including a free phone legal advice line for children, CHALKY. CLC also offers training and research on children’s rights, and makes submissions on law, policy and practice affecting children and young people. youth@clc is CLC’s youth advisory group.
  2. Between June and November 2012, youth@clc carried out a survey of the views of Year 11 pupils on the counselling service offered by their school. The survey was conducted in 13 schools (955 pupils), across the Belfast Education and Library Board and South Eastern Education and Library Board areas. The survey was funded by the Big Lottery – Awards for All project.
  3. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. 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.
  4. View photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
  5. 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.