Ballymahon school lifts stigma on mental health

Rani Joy, Peter Newman, Conor Whyte, Roseleen Lennon, Tara Sweeney, Lisa Nolan, Aisling Cahill, Eoin Connell, Patrick Flanagan, Melissa Gilmore and Katie Lee taking part in Mental Health Week.
Mental health is a term that is very much in the minds of the public these days.

Mental health is a term that is very much in the minds of the public these days.

Though it’s referred to on a regular basis, it is rarely understood, and often referred to in a negative manner. However, active steps are being made in trying to get rid of the stigma around mental health.

One school in Longford are doing just that, by showing that every single person has mental health.

Mercy Secondary School Ballymahon are currently working towards their Amber Flag, which shows that they are promoting positive mental health.

Guidance Counsellor in Mercy Secondary School Siobhan O’Neill explains that the school had already hosted a number of events before deciding to apply for the amber flag.

Mental Health week saw students and teachers alike get involved with a number of events. Students were invited to choose positive music, which was then played throughout the school at break and lunch times during the week. There were also seminars and talks on mental health, and a fundraising event called “Walk in my Shoes”. The fundraising event saw pupils and teachers wear bizarre socks and shoes (from wellies to slippers) to school, raising just under €1,000 for Suicide Aware.

At the beginning of the week, Siobhan explains, the students were asked to list words associated with mental health. At that stage, all suggestions were negative but as the week went on, the students realised that everyone has mental health and that it can either be good or poor. Siobhan explains that the aim of the week was to “encourage people to reduce the stigma”.

The school hope to receive their Amber Flag in the future, and will continue to promote positive mental health through the mental health module in SPHE and the promotion of the “5-a-day” - be active, give, connect, get involved and take notice.

One of the most important lessons the students took away, Siobhan explains, was that no-one is defined either by mental illness or mental health. “We can all have it but we’re not defined by it”