New research highlighting children and young people’s mental health needs within school has been launched by the Cross Party Oireachtas Group on Mental Health.
Co-convenors Deputy Dara Calleary (FF), Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF), Deputy Simon Harris (FG), Senator Susan O’Keeffe (L) and Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan (Technical Group) asked the Oireachtas Library to conduct the research, Well-being: promoting mental health in schools, which examines the crucial role schools can play in protecting young people’s mental health.
Launching the document, Deputy Harris said: “This research from the Oireachtas Library shows mental health promotion is most effective when it takes place early in a person’s life. The need for mental health promotion to be reflected across every element of the school’s approach to education must be recognised. This requires partnership between pupils, teachers, parents and the wider community.”
Deputy O’Sullivan added: “Young people are under pressure not just academically, but socially too, which can lead to serious stress. Mental health wellness must be firmly on the agenda within schools so young people feel safe to talk about their mental health. There is a huge risk if we allow a stigma to exist in relation to mental health at this young age of creating a future generation ill-equipped to mind their mental health.”
Deputy Ó Caoláin said: “The mental health spend as a proportion of the overall health budget has fallen massively in recent years. Yet the cost to our economy of mental health has been put at €3b annually, or two per cent of our GNP. Our long-term financial recovery demands that we invest in mental health, and focusing on young people makes the most economic sense.”
Senator O’Keeffe added: “The research shows that we need to change the way we approach mental health among our school children. Such a cultural shift is key and it will require joined up thinking on behalf of the Departments of Education, Children and Health to ensure that schools can focus on the mental health of their pupils.”
Deputy Calleary said: “There are commendable projects taking place in Ireland today, but they are piecemeal. We must learn from the successes of programmes in place internationally and ensure mental health is mainstreamed in schools.”