The 2020 Cycle Against Suicide Annual Student Leaders’ Congress took place last Friday, January 17, at the Citywest Convention Centre in Dublin, welcoming more than 4,000 students and young people.
Created to discuss and raise awareness of mental health and wellness issues faced by young people in Ireland today, pupils from more than 150 schools across the country attended the one-day conference.
Pupils from St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Castlebar, Holly McHugh, Sarah Fallon, Seren Jones and Roisin Lally were in attendance and had the chance to hear from inspirational speakers, including Former Munster and Ireland rugby player, Alan Quinlan, and Annette Kelly from Little Penny Thoughts. Chasing Abbey, the Tullamore band, also performed for the 4,000 strong crowd at the event which was created to highlight the importance of building resilience and developing coping mechanisms for young people.
A devoted advocate of mental health awareness who has openly talked about his own mental health struggles in the past, Alan Quinlan addressed the crowd of young people. During his address, Mr. Quinlan talked about his own experiences with mental health issues and gave advice to attendees on allowing themselves to be open and honest with others when they are feeling down.
Other speakers at the Congress touched on a variety of important topics including mental health difficulties, social anxiety, body image issues, issues affecting those in the LGBTQ+ community, consent and respect, trolling and how to offer hope and build resilience in young people. The event also hosted talks and workshops from a number of experts in the field of mental health and wellbeing.
Now in its fifth year, the Student Leaders’ Congress is organised by suicide awareness and prevention charity, Cycle Against Suicide. Ireland has the fourth highest suicide rate in the 15-19 age group across 31 European countries with statistics from the National Self Harm Registry (NSHR ) showing some worrisome trends.
In 2018 according to the NSHR the national rate of self-harm among males in Ireland was 193 per 100,000, 7% higher than 2017. Among females, the rate was 229 per 100,000 in 2018, 5% higher than 2017. Cycle Against Suicide is working to reverse this trend of suicide and self-harm in Ireland and offer hope to those who may be battling mental health issues.
Speaking at the event, CEO of Cycle Against Suicide, Caroline Lafferty, said: "Cycle Against Suicide is honoured to have hosted another successful Student Leaders’ Congress event today and we’d like to say a huge thank you to all of our speakers for sharing their expertise and experiences with students from across Ireland.
"Educating the public on mental health and wellbeing is more important now than ever before, particularly for young people who are facing many more challenges to their mental health today than previous generations. Through events like our Student Leaders’ Congress, we aim to provide young people with the tools they need to build resilience and coping mechanisms that will help them to overcome these challenges.”
Cycle Against Suicide’s main campaign for raising awareness into communities is its Annual Cycle. The route, which changes yearly, passes through towns across the country, raising awareness of the help and support networks that are available to people across Ireland that are battling depression, self-harming, at risk of suicide or have been bereaved by suicide.
The 2020 Cycle Against Suicide is taking place from Saturday April 25 to Sunday, May 3, cyclists can register and find out further information by visiting www.cycleagainstsuicide.com