Looking after your mental health was the topic of discussion at the Longford Arms Hotel last week as Transition Year Students from eight of Longford's nine secondary schools gathered to celebrate the launch of their collaborative book of photography, 'Connections'.
There was a hive of activity in the hotel's function room as the young people from across the county mingled and posed for photographs before the launch of the book officially got underway.
There were a number of speakers on the day, including Finola Colgan from Mental Health Ireland, musician Charles James Walker and John Connell, author of the highly acclaimed number one bestseller, 'The Cow Book'.
“It is so impressive to see students of this age being able to discuss and explore the issue of Mental Health in such a mature and informed way and express their thoughts on the subject creatively and executing their concepts through art photography,” said Shelley Corcoran, Coordinator of the Student Photography Programme, to the Longford Leader last week.
A number of students from the different schools stood up during the event and talked about what they have learned about looking after their mental health and looking out for their friends during their Transition Year programme.
There were also opportunities for the students to show off their musical talents as they performed uplifting songs about looking out for one another, prompting their classmates and other TY classes to join in.
Longford musician, Charles James Walker spoke about his own experiences with mental health issues.
He told the story of how he tried to take his own life and how he picked himself up and turned his life around with music.
“I had an undiagnosed personality disorder, which basically meant that I couldn't deal with stress very well,” he explained.
“Then last year, the woman who raised me died and I fell apart.
“I knew all the drink and drugs I was doing were making it worse and I got to a point where I thought I was just a negative force and people would be better off if I was gone.”
He went on to describe how he felt on the day he tried to take his own life before explaining that his song, 'Get In', and it's accompanying video, was all about that difficult day in his life before performing the song for the watching students.
Special guest, John Connell was on hand to officially launch the book.
Fresh from his success with his novel, 'The Cow Book', John was thrilled to be able to stand in front of the crowd to commend them on their joint efforts to get this book finished.
“This book wouldn't be possible without all of you, and your willingness to talk about this and engage with it,” he said.
“When I was young, we never talked about this stuff; we never talked about mental health; we never talked about negative thoughts. But today Ireland is a completely different place.
“Mental health is a little bit like brushing your teeth because you have to work at it every day. If you don't brush your teeth, your teeth will go rotten.
“Mental health is exactly the same. You have to work at it every day. You have to keep it clean.”
He went on to thank everyone involved for producing such a “vibrant, fun” book, before passing on some more words of wisdom:
“The most important person in your life is yourself. If you don't have a good relationship with you, you won't have a good relationship with anyone else.”
The book is available for purchase from Finola Colgan at Mental Health Longford, or through the Schools Photography Programme, or students themselves, who will be selling the book at various events around Longford.
Contact Shelley Corcoran for more details on 0868320052.