Mental health programme could improve classroom behaviour

A MENTAL health programme for primary schools, similar to one successfully working in Scotland, could improve behaviour in the classroom, a conference heard at the weekend.

The programme in the Fife area, called Being Cool in School, has been acclaimed for assisting teachers in dealing with bad behaviour.

Mike Ciesla, development co-ordinator of the programme, said it had been road tested and evaluated and had significant and positive outcomes.

“It is having a positive impact on pupils’ social skills and confidence, both in the classroom and the playground. It is also having a positive impact on whole class behaviour,” he said.

Speaking at the Mental Health Ireland annual conference, the programme empowered children to cope with challenging situations they encountered in their daily lives in schools.

As well as discipline, it also focussed on pro-social behaviour, good citizenship, emotional literacy, mental health and wellbeing, Mr Ciesla said.

“Its relevance, by bringing life challenges to the classroom, is perceived by pupils to be very high and it is extremely engaging as a consequence,” he told 200 delegates at the conference in the Brehon Hotel, Killarney.

MHI already has a positive mental health promotion programme for secondary schools in Ireland, in which 800 teachers have been trained, and now wants to explore bringing some form of positive mental health education to primary level.

Tina Kelly from the Co Wexford Partnership gave a presentation to delegates on a Meitheal programme which trains 220 senior secondary school students to be mentors to first-year students, helping them overcome problems that may arise for them.

Also at the conference, Dr Rachel Perkins said people with mental health problems could take more control of their own recovery, which should not all be in the hands of professionals.

She said more people with mental health problems could be employed in running the health services.

“People who are rebuilding themselves have a lot to offer people facing the same challenges,” she said.

With the right kind of help, 60% of people with serious mental health difficulties could successfully get and hold jobs, Dr Perkins told the conference.


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