Mental health is a major issue for young people today. Recently myself and colleagues from Young Fine Gael met with Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee to propose new policies for mental health.
We want to create a mandatory online course around mental health for every student in Ireland from sixth class to final year of third level.
One in five young people today in Ireland suffers from a mental disorder. We believe a compulsory online course would effect positive change. The course would be visually focused with audio output and a quiz at the end of each module to ensure retention of knowledge. It would not take away from classroom time but would be analogous to “homework” done in the student’s own time.
It would cover the issues brought up already by the websites of archive.headstrong.ie/help/, mentalhealthireland.ie/ and yourmentalhealth.ie/ .
This is information we need to make sure is in the hands of all our young people. The majority may not need it but it will be accessed by those in vulnerable situations to improve their mental health and that of others when the time is right.
Two suicides happened in my year in school and it affected a lot of people. Rural areas, especially in the west of Ireland, are more affected by mental health issues. A young person may find it hard to open up to a tight-knit community and there are fewer local services. If an online course was available it would help people change their minds about mental health and help them get the help they needed as well as involving classmates in helping their treatment.
Technology levels the playing field so everyone has an opportunity to improve their mental health, regardless of location, income level or background. Young people spend on average 27 hours a week online so this is where the resources are needed – people interact in a new way and we must adapt to it so they get the message.
We need to take action to make this happen. We need to establish a group to bring this proposal to a reality. Ideally a cross-section of youth interest groups and political parties would discuss the content further.
We need a cost analysis of the online course development from an IT consultancy.
We need agreement between the Departments of Health and Education for this to be in place for the start of the academic year in September 2017
Funding is vital to create the course, the communication to schools and teachers to inform them of this rollout and a small social media marketing campaign.
Conor Mulloy is an Irish Times reader. @MulloyTheMerry email@example.com