More than 5,000 people have signed a petition, prompted by a spike in Cork City’s suicide rates, calling for the introduction of mandatory mental health classes in secondary schools.
The petition, launched by University College Cork graduate Daragh Fleming, 22, has been replicated by other communities across the country. His petition will be presented to Health Minister Simon Harris early in the new year, with Cork’s Lord Mayor Des Cahill pledging to support it.
Daragh’s best friend, Erbie Underwood, died by suicide five years ago, aged just 17.
Daragh said he felt compelled to act after the teenage sister of a player on a city basketball team he coaches also took her own life in recent weeks. “When I went to her removal, and saw so many devastated kids, it was all so familiar,” he said.
“Since Erbie died, I’ve always been open about suicide and about feeling bad. But I felt I had to do something, because it was the same thing again, five years later, and nothing had changed.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Nicholas O’Keeffe invited Daragh to attend a city council meeting last week where his petition was endorsed by councillors. Mr Cahill then invited him to address the multi-agency taskforce in City Hall yesterday.
Daragh told the meeting mental health awareness needs to be part of the second-level curriculum.
“Most people aren’t learning about mental health unless someone dies, or you do a particular course in college. People are growing up fearing mental illness because we don’t know about it,” he said.
But he said the stigma associated with mental illness can be reduced through education. And he said introducing such classes could help those suffering from depression, as well as those who don’t, by teaching them how to spot the signs, and by teaching them to be better listeners.
You can sign his petition by searching for Daragh Fleming on change.org.
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