The young people’s parliament, Dáil na nÓg, has voted for a national mental health gathering for second-level students.

Around 200 delegates, aged 12 to 17 years, met at Croke Park in Dublin yesterday to discuss mental health and related topics that included bullying; peer pressure; sex education; and drug and alcohol abuse.

The mental health gathering, with music and events to improve attitudes towards mental health, was selected from 20 recommendations and delegates took part in three rounds of voting to reach a final conclusion.

The recommendation will be followed up over the next two years by the Comhairle na nÓg National Executive.

The executive is comprised of one young person from each of the 34 Comhairlí na nÓg.

Opening the event, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she was impressed by the openness with which so many young people talked about mental health. “The adult world has much to learn from this approach,” she said.

Many of the young people have already undertaken mental health initiatives in their local comhairle.

During the day there was a question-and-answer session with a panel of experts which included the director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention, Gerry Raleigh; and the director of Headstrong, Dr Tony Bates.

Ms Fitzgerald also launched the new Comhairle na nÓg website — www., which has improved social media functions to strengthen the appeal of the site to young people and promote the work of the councils.

Delegates are elected to Dáil na nÓg — an initiative of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs — by their local Comhairle na nÓg.

There are child and youth councils in the 34 local authority areas of the country, giving children and young people a voice in the development of local services and policies.

Meanwhile, the Children’s Rights Alliance assembled a group of young people aged 15 to 18 to make a short film about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The young people, who came together in March and made the film over the summer, said bullying, poverty and lack of recreational space were problems faced on a daily basis. Among the solutions suggested by the young people were student representatives to deal with bullying, and tougher sanctions for cyberbullying.


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