Strong demand for greater professional supports in schools

One in five students experience cyberbullying while 40 per cent are aware of mental health issues among fellow students

Minister for Mental Health Helen McEntee and Clive Byrne, Director of the NAPD, with 5th year students (from left, Lisa Hamilton, Angelika McDermott and Megan Brodie) in Eureka Girls Secondary school in Kells. Photograph: Maxwells

Minister for Mental Health Helen McEntee and Clive Byrne, Director of the NAPD, with 5th year students (from left, Lisa Hamilton, Angelika McDermott and Megan Brodie) in Eureka Girls Secondary school in Kells. Photograph: Maxwells

 

A majority of senior-cycle students who participated in a nationwide survey on mental health in adolescents would like to see the availability of greater professional supports in the country’s schools for students with mental health and other issues.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), found high levels of happiness among students but also recorded a strong demand for greater professional supports.

One-in-five students still experience cyberbullying, while 40 per cent are aware of mental health issues amongst fellow students, the survey found.

The majority (65 per cent) said they supported having a school counsellor or psychologist available to students available on a daily basis in their school to help students deal with mental health issues and stress and anxiety.

Some 86 per cent of all students reported being generally happy overall, with almost half (47 per cent) reporting being happy at least most of the time.

Over 300 students (319) across a variety of socio-economic backgrounds participated in the research which was conducted by Amárach Research on behalf of NAPD, the representative body for secondary school principals in Ireland.

The survey was administered to school students in transition year, fifth year and sixth year. Students were aged between 15 and 19 years of age.

A majority of those surveyed (58 per cent) said they do not believe that there are sufficient supports in Ireland’s schools for students with mental health problems.

Just over 60 per cent (61 per cent) said they supported the introduction of additional curriculum time or dedicated classes to help students deal with mental health issues.

Students indicated a good awareness of the benefits of healthy diet and exercise. While 80 per cent said they take at least 30 minutes exercise per day, the results indicated a socio-economic difference with those from lower income backgrounds being less likely (81 per cent against 71 per cent) to take 30 minutes of exercise per day.

“In recent years, a strong emphasis has been placed on high profile campaigns focused on the improving the mental health of our young people. The results of our survey indicates that these public campaigns are having an impact,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne.

“Teenage and adolescent years can be challenging for all young people but it is encouraging to know that a significant majority of pupils surveyed are generally happy, and more importantly they also recognise the need to talk about their problems”.

Mr Byrne said some areas must continue to be addressed.

All stakeholders should “urgently examine to ensure that increased resources are available to students who are struggling with mental health issues,” he said.

Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee said the report represents “an important snapshot into the mental health and well-being of our students”.

She added that it also highlighted “the areas where we must do more such as continuing to tackle cyberbullying and investing in increased resources and supports at all levels of education system”.

“It’s so vital that we listen directly to the opinions of those most affected by mental health issues and equally how they believe we can improve the services currently available. The challenge for all is to ensure that we respond appropriately to what they are telling us,” she added.