As school children emerge from what has been an incredibly challenging and uncertain time, and with research last year showing that almost 20 percent of parents of primary school aged children have sought some form of mental health support for their child over the past two years, the National Parents Council Primary and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services are issuing a timely call for the development and introduction of additional primary schools-based mental health supports.
Through the introduction of schools-based mental health supports at primary level, there is an opportunity to strengthen and protect the mental wellbeing of children, while also supporting their parents and teachers. The introduction of primary schools-based mental health supports could also see a reduction in the number of children requiring specialist mental health treatment.
The call from the National Parents Council Primary and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, which is supported by other organisations including the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, the Irish Primary Principals’ Network and Mental Health Reform, aligns with the commitment, outlined in Government’s mental health policy, Sharing the Vision, for schools and centres of education in Ireland to have initiated a Wellbeing Promotion Process by 2023.
“Research, conducted by the National Parents Council Primary and Walk in My Shoes last year, demonstrates the need for mental health supports for children of primary school age, with 20 percent of parents of primary school children surveyed having sought support for their children’s mental health during the pandemic,” Áine Lynch, CEO, National Parents Council Primary, said.
“Young people have shown incredible resilience over the past two years as they have adapted to the public health emergency, however, as evidenced across multiple research studies, there remains a significant requirement for additional mental health supports for this cohort.
“As we emerge from the pandemic restrictions, with a heightened focus on the mental health of our young people, it is timely to explore the different mechanisms by which we can further support, protect and enhance children’s mental health at a community level.
“We know, from the high levels of interaction and engagement with our flagship Walk in My Shoes campaign, that teachers and schools are dedicated to promoting positive mental health among their students, and there is a significant demand for mental health supports and resources. The development and introduction of a school-based mental health service presents a real and significant opportunity to support schools, teachers and parents in the promotion and protection of young people’s mental health,” Paul Gilligan, CEO, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, added.
The call for additional mental health supports has also been welcomed by a number of other organisations in the mental health and education sectors:
“The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation warmly welcomes the call from the National Parents’ Council Primary and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services. The proposed pilot Mental Health Support Team initiative is a practical and timely proposal, and an important initial step towards establishing a much-needed national primary schools mental health service,” John Boyle, General Secretary, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, concluded.
“The Irish Primary Principals’ Network, through its work with the Wellbeing For All group (WFA ), is supportive of the recommendation to provide therapeutic services in schools for children and the supports for their parents and school staff. This initiative could make a real difference to wellness in school communities and address the difficulty of accessing essential and timely intervention for children at the earliest possible opportunity.” - Pairic Clerkin, CEO, Irish Primary Principals’ Network
“Mental Health Reform welcomes this call for additional primary schools-based mental health supports. This initiative highlights the importance of investing in youth mental health to enhance mental health outcomes for children and young people. Given the increasing demand for primary and secondary mental health services, it is critical that community and school-based care for children is adequately resourced. Sharing the Vision recommends a cross-departmental approach, therefore the Department of Education will have an essential role to play in the delivery of mental health supports in educational settings.” – Fiona Coyle, CEO, Mental Health Reform
For more information about today’s event and to view the speaker line-up, please visit the Events page of the St Patrick’s website. If you would like to attend, please email [email protected] to receive a link.