External Counsellors should be brought into schools to speak to students in confidence

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, has today (Thursday) praised the work of Dáil na nÓg, the National Youth Parliament of Ireland, which appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education on Tuesday to give the Committee an insight into the types of issues facing young people today.

“This young group of teenagers gave an insightful presentation regarding a number of issues facing young people in Ireland today. Mental health and body issues were raised as particular issues of concern. They suggested that each school should have a counsellor employed from outside the existing teaching staff, so that students would not have to face the counsellor as a teacher in the classroom.

“These teenagers also spoke about the stigma associated with mental health issues and said that it is imperative that a bigger effort is made to tackle this problem. Dáil na nÓg recently conducted a survey of each member of Comhairle na nÓg, to explore the issues which affect young people’s body image, in an attempt to promote healthy attitudes.

“I was very encouraged to see such a proactive stance by the youth of our country. They have identified a significant problem among their peers and intend to tackle the issue head on.

“This Government has made a number of positive steps towards expanding our mental health services. One such step has been to ringfence €35 million from the annual health budget to develop community mental health services. In terms of self harm awareness, a training programme is being developed which will be rolled out nationally, beginning in 2012. A pilot programme is also underway in the Cork Hospital Group whereby all appropriate clinical staff are being trained in self harm and suicide management.

“We all need to follow the lead of Dáil na nÓg and make mental health problems our number one priority. Mental health is a plight on Irish society which needs to be openly discussed and effectively dealt with as a community problem.”